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Open Chord Voicings On The Piano

Make simple chords sound beautiful

Lisa Witt - May 14, 2019

I’m going to show you how to take simple piano chords, and turn them into something beautiful.

 

We’ll do this by using "Open Chord" voicings. This is something that I’ve been playing around with only recently, and I am absolutely loving it!

 

The concept is simple. You take a normal chord and re-shape it between the left and right hands. So all the notes are still the same, they are just being played in different positions than we normally play them.

 

Making Open Chords

 

The best way to understand this is to look a chord and see the difference between normal and open voicings.

 

We’ll use C because it’s the easiest!

 

Here is a regular C chord.

 

 

As you can see, I’m playing all the notes of the C chord with both hands. C-E-G in the left, and C-E-G in the right.

 

There’s nothing wrong with this. It sounds great. But I can use the same three notes, C-E-G to make a completely different sounding chord.

 

This is a C chord with open voicing:

 

 

I’m playing the same three notes, but I’ve re-ordered them between my hands. So I’m playing E and C in my left hand, and G and E in my right.

 

And I think this sounds incredible. It’s a completely different sound and feeling than the closed C chord.

 

How To Use Open Chords

 

So now we know how to make an open chord. What are we supposed to do with them? Well, we can simply substitute them in for normal chords to create a different sound. Here are three examples:

 

First, we could play the root and the 5th in our left hand (C and G), and simply play the 3rd in our right (E).

 

OR we can play the root and 5th in the left hand (C and G), and play the 3rd and 8th in the right (E and top C)

 

Finally, we are going to use the 3rd as our bottom note. So this might be new for some people, but by doing this we can create some really beautiful harmonies.

 

So for C, our left hand will play E and C (3 and 8). And our right hand will play G and top C (5 and 8)

 

It’s still a C chord! All the notes from the C chord are here, but it has such a different sound.

 

Time To Experiment

 

So now I’d encourage you to try some of these voicings out in different chord progressions, and in different keys.

 

If you play piano or keyboard as part of a band, like in church for example, then open chord voicings can really help to create a much ‘fuller’ sound because the notes are more spread out, and the other instruments can help fill in the gaps.

 

So try it out!

 

Happy practicing!

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Hi, I'm Lisa Witt

Lisa has taught in a variety of settings from beginners just getting started to recording artists preparing their songs for the road. While her background is classical, she loves helping students play the music they love by ear and is excited to be a part of YOUR journey.