Learn Jazz Piano Chords in 4ths

In today’s jazz piano lesson we’re going to learn how to play some very cool jazz piano chords built in 4ths.

These types of chords using quartal harmony can really add a more modern sound into your jazz playing.

New To Jazz Piano Chords in 4ths?

Why not take 4 minutes and watch the video below.

In the youtube lesson below I teach you how to play and build  every chord and I also demonstrate how the chords sound in a rhythm section with drums and bass accompaniment.

Notation For The Jazz Piano Chords in 4ths

jazz piano chords 4ths

(Click the chords to view them larger in a new window. You can print them from your browser if you’d like.
Feel free to share the chords. The only thing I ask is that you credit freejazzlessons.com. Thanks! )

11 Additional Tips To Help You Learn

Before we quickly go over these helpful tips please remember that is essential in jazz to listen.

You can’t get all the information from just reading the notation above. Watch and listen quickly to the video. It will help you learn!

You can also hear me use them with bass and drums at 3:25 in the vid. :)

Rootless Voicings Tips

1. These chords are rootless voicings. This means that the root is either not played in the chord or is omitted from the bottom of the chord.

2. Rootless voicings work because the harmony is still defined by having the 3rd and 7th of a chord. You don’t have to always have to have a root inside a chord.

3. In the case of the major 6/9 chord above the 6th is substituted for the 7th. So, the chord’s harmony is defined by the 3rd and the 6th.

4. If you want to learn more about rootless voicings you can check out this jazz piano chords 2 handed comping lesson and this jazz piano chords left hand voicings lesson.

5. The G7 voicing used in this lesson could also be used as a Dminor 6th chord. We explore an interesting variation of this chord in the Diana Krall section of the Jazz Masters Method DVD.

Chord Progression Tips

6. I’m playing a II-V-I chord progression in the example above. The II-V-I chord progression is the single most popular and important chord progression in all of jazz music.

7. If you want to learn some more ways of playing this chord progression check out this lesson on solo piano II-V-I chords.

jazz piano chords 4thsWhere You Can Use These Chords

8. In the video above I use the chords in a comping situation. So, you can could definitely use them while playing behind another soloist.

9. Even though they sound great in a comping situation you could also just as easily use them as part of a solo piano arrangement.

When I’m playing solo piano I’ll mix all kinds of different voicings into the arrangement and of These voicings could be used in solo piano too!

The only requirement is to make sure that the top note of your chords fit the melody of the tune. You can see how I mix together a lot of different types of voicings in this solo jazz piano performance.

The main idea is to be creative with using these chords.

Do you have ideas where else you can use these chords? Please leave a comment below and share.

Bonus Tips

10. You’ll notice that I’m playing a few additional passing chords in the video above. I’m using a technique called ‘planing’.

The simple summary of this concept is to play the same chord voicing either up or down a half step and then resolving into your target chord.

So, if I’m trying to get to Cmaj7 I may quickly play a Bmaj7 before hand (which is down a half step) and then resolve up in the Cmaj7.

If you guys are interested in this type of concept I’ll do a lesson on this in the future. Please let me know in the comments below.

11. I’m a big fan of learning everything in all 12 keys. I know this takes time but I promise you it’s worth it! :)

You don’t have to learn every key right away though if you feel like it’s too much.

Try throwing them into some tunes you already know. It’s definitely the quickest way to get comfortable with these chords and start making music right away.

Once you do that you can go back and try to slowly learn some more keys.

Final Thoughts

I hope you enjoyed this lesson! Remember to seize the day and keep working on trying to improve your musical skills a little bit everyday. These chords are a great place to start!

If you enjoyed this lesson or have some cool suggestions for using these chords please leave a comment below. Let’s get a discussion going!

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Steve Nixon is the proud owner of Freejazzlessons.com. He is a world touring jazz and blues keyboard player and educator.

Steve is the author of Premium Jazz Lessons Elite Membership (A comprehensive all-in-one online jazz piano course.)

He is also the author of the The Jazz Masters Method DVD (A study of 9 legendary jazz piano players).

If you are a blues piano fan you can also check out his popular Learn Blues Piano DVD Course.

His brand new course \”The Christmas Jazz Piano Super System\” will be released on Monday November 3rd, 2014.


  • Jerald

    I love the way these chords sound. I feel like these chords could be used in an R&B band on a vamp. This is a great lesson. Thanks Steve.

    • http://www.freejazzlessons.com/ Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons)

      Yeah I completely agree. They would be perfect in an R&B setting. Especially if you incorporated planing in the right way rhythmically speaking.

  • Diana

    Thanks for the motivation Steve. I always feel inspired when I read your stuff :)

    • http://www.freejazzlessons.com/ Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons)

      Diana that’s music to my ears! Literally. It feels great to motivate.

  • Cody

    Great lesson! In fact, all of the lessons here are. They’ve helped inspire me to try new things in my own music. Thank you for all these wonderful lessons!
    Does going down to the Bmaj7 work because they’re all a half step away from the root, including the leading tone of B on top of the chord? I remember from music theory that the highest voice is more often than not part of the melody, is that why you placed the root on top too?

    • http://www.freejazzlessons.com/ Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons)

      Hey Cody. Good question. The Bmaj7 works because of a concept called constant structure and planing. Simply put they Bmaj7 wants to resolve and pull back up to the Cmaj7.

      When I’m comping I’m always trying to think melodically so top note is very important. One of these days I’ll do a whole lesson on melodic comping.

  • Curtis

    thats awesome Steve. I have a play-along to “So What”, which has the great Miles Davis in the lead of course. I was thinking of practicing some comping behind him. :)

    • http://www.freejazzlessons.com/ Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons)

      Yeah the minor and dominant chords would fit right in on So What. Just move them up a half step for the bridge