Piano Chord Patterns: 5 Easy Ways To Sound Hip

piano chord patternsWanto to learn some simple yet sophisticated piano chord patterns?

In the lesson below, I’m going to demonstrate 5 piano chord patterns.

You can use these chord voicings for many jazz tunes. They are also good for pianists with small hands.

Let’s get started.

How To Use Simple Chord Shapes To Play A Hip ii-V-I

piano chord patternsThis first piano chord pattern is a great example of “lazy” piano playing.

Why do I call this “lazy”? It’s because you’re using just one chord shape to play 3 chords.

This is one of the simplest piano hand position exercises you can work on.

Check out the video below as I demonstrate it in the key of C:

For Dm7 and G7, my right hand only plays F, A, and E.

Technically speaking, I’m only playing a stack of a major 3rd and a perfect 5th.

Those are already 2 chords for a single chord voicing. This will make you efficient at playing chords.

For the Cmaj7 chord, I simply shift my hand down to play E, G, and D. This is a stack of a minor 3rd and a perfect 5th.

My left hand plays only the root and the 7th or the root and the 3rd.

piano chord patternsHere are the notes that I play:

Dm7 = D and C (minor 7th)

G7 = G and B (major 3rd)

Cmaj7 = C and B (major 7th)

Notice how efficient the left hand is as well. In this case, I’m only playing shell voicings for my left hand.

With only a few movements, you can play a ii-V-I, extensions included.

What if you want it to sound a bit tenser and exciting? Check out the next pattern below:

Why Simple Shifts In Piano Chord Patterns Can Add A Dramatic Twist

Our next piano chord pattern utilizes just a slight change from the first one. Check it out in the video below:

In this pattern, all you have to do is shift the perfect 5th in the right hand down a half step when playing the G7 chord.

This shift will give you a G7 chord with a b13 and b9. In case you’re wondering, this will give you an altered chord in an instant.

The b13 in this chord also turns your stock dominant chord into an augmented chord.

With a simple change, you can successfully raise your level of harmonic sophistication.

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Now that you’ve explored altering a chord, let’s try another pattern below.

How To Mix Stock Triads And Quartal Voicings For Optimal Results

piano chord patternsKnowledge of basic triads and their inversions can be used for sophisticated chord voicings.

It’s just a matter of understanding how to place them and knowing the function of each note.

Check out the example below:

In the above demo, I play the following notes for each chord in this ii – V – I in C:

  • Dm7 (11,9) – LH: D and F, RH: C, E, and G
  • G7 (13,9) – LH: G and F, RH: B, E, and A
  • Cmaj7 (13,9) – LH: C and E, RH: B, D and A

Here are the piano chord patterns you can gather from this example:

  • Right hand for the Dm7 chord is a major triad with the triad’s root note a whole step below the root note of the functioning chord (C,E, and G). Left hand uses a root-and-3rd shell voicing (D, F)
  • Right hand for the G7 chord uses quartal harmony (B, E, and A). Left hand uses a root-and-7th shell voicing (G and F)
  • Right hand voicing for the Cmaj7 chord is a stack of a minor 3rd (B and D) and a perfect 5th (D and A). Left hand plays a root plus 3rd shell voicing (C and E).

The question is how do you learn how to use these chords in any tune?

Start by transposing and learning them in different keys.

Another Important Piano Chord Pattern

Let’s take this a step further. You can alter the G7 chord in a similar way. Check out the video below:

In the example above, you see that the right-hand notes for G7sus4 are C, Eb, and Ab (sus4, b13, b9). In this case, you have another altered chord voicing.

It’s also interesting to note here that YOU have another important piano chord shape that emerged.

piano chord patternsYou can think of a major triad, whose root is a half step above the functioning chord’s root, as a sus4 altered dominant 7th chord voicing.

What I showed earlier was a G7sus4(b13,b9) chord with G and F for the left hand and an Ab triad in the right hand.

If you realize this, it becomes easy to transpose the chord into all 12 keys.

For instance, if I used the same pattern to play an F7sus4 (b13,b9) chord, I would use an F7 shell voicing for the left hand then a Gb triad for the right.

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If you want to have a more-rounded arsenal of piano chord patterns, you need to learn a minor chord progression. You can learn one below.

Hip Minor Piano Chord Patterns Are Simpler Than You Think

piano chord patternsWith some simple shapes that voice leads nicely, you can have a sophisticated minor chord progression.

Check out this minor ii(b5) – V – I chord progression in the video below:

Let’s break down the chords I played:

  • Bm7(b5)(b9) – B minor shell voicing (B and D) on the left hand; F major triad, 1st inversion on the right hand (A, C, and F)
  • E7(b13,b9) – E dominant 7th shell voicing (E and D) on the left hand; F minor triad, 1st inversion on the right hand (Ab, C, and F)
  • Am7(9) – A minor shell voicing (A and C) on the left hand; E minor triad, 1st inversion on the right hand (G, B, and E)

As you can see in the examples provided, you can use these basic piano chord patterns to create hip chord voicings:

  • Shell voicings for the left hand.
  • Major and/or minor triads for the right hand.

Combinations of these two basic piano chord patterns can unlock a wealth of harmonic possibilities and interest in your playing.

However, there’s still a whole other level to get to with your music. Lets talk about how to get there now.

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I hope that you enjoyed this lesson on piano chord patterns.

If you want to share your insights, suggestions, or have ideas for new lessons, feel free to leave a comment below.

Now that you’re done with the lesson, it’s time to start practicing and making music.

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Mark A. Galang, OTRP, MAM-MT(c)

Mark Galang is one of our contributors at FreeJazzLessons.com. He loves teaching all styles of music especially jazz, blues, rock, classical, and Christian music. Mark is also a licensed occupational therapist in the Philippines that combines music therapy intervention with occupational therapy.