The Distinguished Sounds Of Jazz
One of the things that distinguishes jazz piano from classical piano, blues piano, or any other style is its chords. The Jazz piano chord move beyond the typical 3-note triad to a four-note combination (as well as extended chords) — making them an interesting “filler” of sorts. And since they’re pretty heavy on the major and minor 7th chords, shifting to this style should be fairly simple if you’re already familiar with the dominant 7th chord.
Learning The Major And Minor 7th Chords
Remember the dominant 7th chords? Dominant 7th chords are created by playing triads with the B note between the A and C notes of the C major scale: C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C. Accomplishing a major 7th chord follows an almost exact procedure, except unlike with dominant 7th chords, the B note isn’t flat. So a major 7th chord in C would look like: C, E, G, and B.
When you play this chord and listen to its unique harmony, you’ll notice that it’s quite different from the typical C Major chord in classical music. By simply adding a fourth note to the traditional C major chord, you can completely change the dynamics of your music. Try out these Major 7th root chords to see what we mean:
A, C#, E, G#
Ab, C, Eb, G
B, D#, F#, A#
Bb, D, F, A
C, E, G, B
D, F#, A, C#
Db, F, Ab, C
E, G#, B, D#,
Eb, G, Bb, D
F, A, C, E
F#, A#, C#, E#
G, B, D, F#
7th Chord Inversions
Inverting these chords is almost as simple as adding a fourth finger into the mix because they follow an easy-to-remember pattern. And since we’re now working with four notes, the chords can be played four ways — three of them inverted. To invert any one of the chords above, just begin each one with its second, third, or fourth note and play remaining notes of the chord in order. As an example, look at the first major 7th chord above in its root form: A, C#, E, G#.
Inverting this chord by C# would create: C#, E, G#, A.
Inverting this chord by E would create: E, G#, A, C#
Inverting this chord by G# would create: G#, A, C#, E
See the pattern?
Playing minor 7th chords follows the same principle, only they’re played with minor chords.
Familiarity Breeds Appreciation
This is of course the basic principle behind the jazz piano chord because as you’ve probably heard in the music that you hear, they can get much more intricate than what’s introduced above. That’s because every key can create seven extended chords of some kind.
Just remember that each chord is built from a scale and although the jazz presents tremendous opportunity to improvise, creating new music from a familiar structure ensures that your audience can relate the to message that you’re trying to convey.