Shell Voicings

Shell voicings were very popular with the early pianists and then bebop pianists too. When starting to learn jazz piano chords, a good way to begin is to learn shell voicings. A shell voicing is a chord which contains only the root, third, and seventh. Players will often only use two notes, the root and third, or the root and seventh.

Because the fifth of a chord is not significant in differentiating minor or major chord, it is omitted in a shell voicing chord. It is the third and seventh that determine what type of chord is being played and those are called the guide tones.

These chords are great for laying down simple and basic harmonic information in your left hand while your right hand plays the faster and more complex harmony. Voice Leading shell voicings is relatively simple. Here is a common II V I progression in the key of C:

shell voicings, jazz, piano, chords

or with both guide tones..

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Maybe you should brush up on your basic music theory or perhaps you think you are ready for 4 note voicings