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Piano Power: Open Position and Voicing of Chords
By Richard Prokop, Greenacres Press, Inc.
(more articles from this author)
2001-07-09
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Hopefully, you have mastered reading, recognizing and playing the triads presented in the previous article, "Triads-Part 2". Each of the triads in that article—whether in root position, first inversion, or second inversion—are written in what is termed closed position. Closed position implies that the notes of the triad are as close together as possible. Open position triads, on the other hand, leave spaces between the individual notes of the triad that also contain notes indigenous to that triad. In the examples below, we begin with a root postion F Major triad and drop the root an octave. This leaves a space of a tenth between the lowered root and the third of the triad.

The example below shows the notes of F major that are contained within the space:

You may be wondering, "Why use an open position triad"? Open position allows the player or composer to use the whole range of the instrument to achieve a more balanced sound. Certain positions or voicings of a triad produce, in some instances, a more colorful and powerful sound.

When notes of a triad are doubled so that there are four or more notes, the resulting structure is referred to as a chord. The example below is an open-position F Major chord with the root "F" doubled:

Since the root "F" is also in the bass, we would consider this open-position chord to be in root position.

The next example of an open position chord is also in root position even though there is a closed position first-inversion triad in the treble.

In our next example, the open position F major chord is in first inversion because the third "A" is in the bass. Additionally, the fifth "C" is doubled in the treble.

The next example of an open position F Major chord has a closed root position chord in the treble with the fifth "C" in the bass. Therefore, the entire structure is a second inversion F Major chord in open position.

Here are some examples of open chord voicings in major keys. After you become familiar with them, rewrite and play them as minor chords by lowering the third of each chord one-half step. When rewriting the minors, make sure to keep the same note name when lowering the note. For example, the top F in the Db major chord below should be rewritten as an Fb.

Root Position Major
(Lower the top note in the treble a half-step to make the chord minor)

First Inversion Major
(Lower the bottom note in the bass a half-step to make the chord minor)

Second Inversion Major
(Lower the second to bottom note in the bass a half-step to make the chord minor)

Be creative! Experiment with voicings of your own in root position, first and second inversions. Write them down chromatically, as above, in all keys and become familiar with how they sound and how the feel.


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