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JGT Lesson: 4 Part Inside Voicings

Bill Farrish

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The majority of the questions I get after gigs and also from students have to do with how I voice chords. 

This lesson deals with where I started after dealing with the barre chords we’re all very familiar with. What got me into this was listening to Bill Evans and guitarists like Ed Bickert. I’ve tried to include in this lesson a little something for everyone regardless of playing level.

Over the years I’ve heard these voicings referred to as drop voicings and many other names depending on who you may have studied with. For myself, I’ve always referred to them as inside 4 part voicings. When I use the term inside I’m referring to the inside 4 strings of the guitar.  As far as drop 2 or 3 voicings are concerned, the only time I ever think in those terms is if I’m writing for a horn section.

You’ll notice that I’ve written each chord symbol as a slash chord showing the bottom note. It’s important to understand that unless it’s specifically noted in the chart most jazz musicians pay little attention to the bottom note of the chord being played, that’s the bassist job. So if I play a CMaj7/E and the bassist plays a C the resulting sound that everyone hears is still a root position Cmaj7 chord. The slashes were used in the last example to help you understand the voicings. Where the inversion does come into play has to do with voice leading, meaning how you’re moving to the next chord by changing as few notes as possible.

Each of the chords in this study are moveable, just like all voicing on the guitar that do not use open strings. 

The best advice I can give for learning these is to take one chord at a time and run it through it’s inversions as shown. After you are comfortable with that then begin practicing the II-7 V7 IMaj7 progression as shown. Be sure to take your time and run all of the studies through every key.

Finally, I’ve included a study showing the application of the voicings and a few others you might be familiar with on the chords changes to common standard in the jazz repertoire.  (On a side note, the chord symbols notated below the stave are alternate names for the voicings used that you might be more familiar with)Feel free to use any of the II-7 V7 progressions from the study in your own playing. You’ll also notice chord symbols under the stave in a few spots. This was done to show you other uses for voicings you may already know.

Take your time with these as some of the stretches will take getting used to and remember the bottom note of every chord used in this lesson is on the 5th (A) string. 

When voice lead properly these voicings sound great on the guitar and really fill things out as long as you voice lead into the chord.

Lastly, once you are comfortable with these and have them under your fingers apply them to other chord qualities, -7(b5), 7(#5), 7(b5), Maj.7(#5), etc.

In future lessons, I’ll show other uses for these voicings, and more.

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