Chords and Harmony

A lead sheetImage via Wikipedia
Today we hear a more open sound in keyboard voicings than in the past and a new type of shorthand has developed to express it. You've seen these new symbols before in sheet music and chord charts: F/A

Many years ago I would look at lead sheets and they seemed so complex. "Extensions" were used to add color to seventh chords. By extensions I mean adding the 9, 11, 13 and alterations like b9, #9, b5, and #5. I still use these beautiful chords today. I've learned not to cluster them all in my left hand. An easy way to learn thirteenth chord patterns is to spot the Major and Minor triads.

Today chords have a wider spread and greater openness to their sound, especially in jazz and pop music. I experienced Slash chords when I began playing music with other band members and was given chord charts to play instead of sheet music.

The easiest way to understand a slash chord is by taking a two handed approach and reading it as:
right hand chord// left hand root

So, for example, F/A means an F triad in the right hand over an A root in the left hand. I find that slash chords lead to fresh sounds and modern progressions. Listen for these sounds in contemporary music. You'll hear them everywhere.

Remember the song Blue Christmas? It was written in 1949 and a revival of this song took place in the 60's by Elvis Presley and the Beach Boys. A chord chart to this song with slash chords would look like this:

F F/A C7/6 C7/E F Am7-5 D7 Gm G7 C7 Bb/D D#m C7/E

Now's the time to practice and start becoming familiar with
slash chords and harmony. Spend time at your piano or keyboard experimenting with the sounds of triads over root chords. There's no need to restrict the slash chords to single notes in the left hand because the left hand can play a voiced chord as well as the right. For example:

D/ C7 or another way to look at it, DF#A/ CEGBb

You'll see that the above chord is the same as C13#11
Happy practicing!

Warmest Regards,
~ D.
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