Left Hand Rootless Voicings - Part 4

In Part 2 we discussed how the minor II-V-I progression presents the player with a lot of different options and opportunities to be creative with voicings and chord choices. In this lesson we will look at a few methods of creating variety and build our options for minor II-V-I chord voicings. 

First, let’s first look at a few characteristics of the minor II-V-I which don’t change, assuming the chord progression is strictly a minor II-V-I without any substitutions or alterations. 

  1. The II chord will be a minor 7th with a b5
  2. The V chord will be a dominant 7th chord, which has a major 3rd and minor 7th
  3. The I chord will have a minor 3rd, and will function as a minor type chord 

There are several characteristics which can change and are up to the player to decide.

  1. The II chord is often played rootless, with an added 11th (example 1 below) 
  2. The V chord often has an altered 9th (flat or sharp 9th) 
  3. The I chord is frequently played without a 7th. Though the 7th is fine to play on the I chord, the type of 7th (major, minor, or diminished/6th) is variable and up to the player in the moment (listen to the melody)
  4. Often, notes are omitted (examples 3 and 4 below) to thin out the texture and retain the character of the progression.  

In the top examples, the 11th is replacing the root in the II chord, and the V chord uses a b13th, which are both different from our II-V-I pattern from Part 2. Notice the raise in dissonance level on the II chord in this version of the progression.

The bottom example uses 3-note voicings for a thinner texture. This is an excellent strategy which allows for some contrary motion in the outer voices. The V chord in these examples uses the #9th, which is a great choice in some situations. Remember to take the melody into account when choosing your left hand voicings.