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Topic Options
#1050948 - 10/29/06 03:52 PM block chords
indianboy Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/29/06
Posts: 24
hi,
can ne1 here tell me exactly what block chords are and how they are played?Also pls let me know of ne online lessons for block chords.I know that there is this block chord style of "george shearing" but i dont know how to play it.Are there block chord styles of other pianists as well
thanks

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#1050949 - 10/29/06 03:58 PM Re: block chords
Van Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 1215
Loc: S. California
I'm afraid ne1 isn't registered here. Perhaps you should learn to spell properly before trying to learn about block chords.
_________________________

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#1050950 - 10/29/06 04:04 PM Re: block chords
Euan Morrison Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/01/05
Posts: 1588
Loc: Edinburgh
Hi indianboy,

I checked out the wiki page, its got some pretty good information about the block chords. It mentions the shearing method:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Block_chords

Can't help you personally as I don't know enough theory.

Euan.

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#1050951 - 10/29/06 04:18 PM Re: block chords
indianboy Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/29/06
Posts: 24
hi,thanks checked it out personally.cudn't really follow

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#1050952 - 10/29/06 04:21 PM Re: block chords
Euan Morrison Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/01/05
Posts: 1588
Loc: Edinburgh
Yeah, it is quite theory-intensive.

Just keep looking around the internet, there will be an easier guide. And there will probably be some answers here as well.

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#1050953 - 10/29/06 04:23 PM Re: block chords
Euan Morrison Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/01/05
Posts: 1588
Loc: Edinburgh
Also, it might be an idea to post your question in the 'Non-classical' forum.

Some people there have a good understanding of chord theory and will be able to give you help on this.

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#1050954 - 10/29/06 06:30 PM Re: block chords
Seaside_Lee Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/19/04
Posts: 2160
Loc: Blackpool, UK
Hi indianboy \:\)

the way I think it is this...

A block chord is a chord where all the notes are played at once

a simple block chord would be say a three note triad as in

C Chord ...(C E G) played all at once or maybe its first inversion E G C or its 2nd G C E

or for a four note chord say a C6 Chord (C E G A)

the block chord notes can be played close together and that is called a closed voicing or can be spread out between both hands but still played all at the same time (block chord) these are known as open voicings

An open voicing could be played (for example lets say root and fifth in the left hand) so for a C6 chord (C and G) and the (E and the A) would be played higher up the keyboard with the right hand

If a chord is not played all at once (block chord) it is broken up and that is called an arpeggiated chord or arpeggio

regards


Lee
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#1050955 - 10/29/06 07:38 PM Re: block chords
signa Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/04
Posts: 8482
Loc: Ohio, USA
a block chord by definition is a group of notes selected and ordered by harmonic association, not a random group of notes though. say you play a C major piece, and want to make LH accompaniment using chords, then the first thing you need to know is what chords or the major chords are associated with C major scale? it comes down to 3 major chords: tonic, dominant and subdominant, but what they are and how they are formed? to answer that, you need to know these:

for C major, tonic note is C, dominant is G and subdominant note is F. to build the major chords over those notes, you need to make each of those note as 'root' note, i.e. the lowest note within the chord, after that, you pick a major third note E (from C) and place it on top of C, then you got a triad (tonic), and then place a perfect 5th note G (from C) on top of E to complete the formation of tonic chord of C, i.e. CEG (played together). do the similar tricks to dominant or subdominant, you will get dominant and subdominant chords of C major: GBD, FAC. any of these chords could be rearranged (from root to 5th) to get to the inversion of the same chord to achieve different sound coloring, e.g. CEG's 1st inversion is GCE and 2nd inversion is EGC.

a chord formation is all about intervals between notes, and details on how to form each chord over a particular key signature can be found in any theory book or wikipedia.

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#1050956 - 10/30/06 05:00 AM Re: block chords
mahlzeit Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/24/06
Posts: 1910
Loc: Netherlands
What the Wikipedia page talks about is simply playing the chord in closed voicing but with the melody tone on top. That means you may have to play inversions of the chord. "Shearing" style plays the melody line in the left hand as well, as bass tones.

For example: if the melody is f, a, c and the chord is F, then you could play: F (1st inversion: a-c-f), F (2nd inv: c-f-a), F (root position: f-a-c).

Actually, I think you're supposed to play 4-tone chords (7ths), and you have to apply all kinds of chord variations to keep it interesting, but this should get you started.

A decent book on this is "Play Piano by Ear" by Simon Schott.
_________________________
No idea what chords you are playing? Reverse Chord Finder Pro will tell you!

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#1050957 - 10/30/06 07:24 AM Re: block chords
indianboy Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/29/06
Posts: 24
hey,I came up with this question after viewing this video from duane shinn's http://www.playpiano.com/101-tips/98-block-chord-styles.htm
the problem is that he says that play the melody in both hands but with the right hand play the chord as well.Now which chord is he talking about.I mean will any chord that has the melody note in it will do or is he referring to the chord one would have otherwise played maybe based on the lead sheet or the sheet music

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#1050958 - 10/30/06 07:25 AM Re: block chords
indianboy Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/29/06
Posts: 24
hey,I came up with this question after viewing this video from duane shinn's http://www.playpiano.com/101-tips/98-block-chord-styles.htm
the problem is that he says that play the melody in both hands but with the right hand play the chord as well.Now which chord is he talking about.I mean will any chord that has the melody note in it will do or is he referring to the chord one would have otherwise played maybe based on the lead sheet or the sheet music

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#1050959 - 10/30/06 08:58 AM Re: block chords
Ragnhild Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/22/06
Posts: 1117
Loc: Norway
I really hope that correct spelling at all time is not required at this forum, because than I should have been excluded a long time ago !

Indianboy, the video is quite advanced and I am not very advanced when it comes to chord playing, but I looks like something I try to do when I play a song without singing.

With LH I play only the key note (C if its a -major chord, F in a F major.....) very often I play the octave (two Cs or Fs).
With my RH I play a chord with the melody note on top (so if the meldy has E and the chord is Cmajor I play G-C-E with RH).
Very often some of the melody notes does not belong to a chord and I just play them single between the chords.

If I don't have the sheet music I choose the chords myself, If I have melody line with chords I play the suggested chords but very often simplify a bit ;\)

(This was very difficult to explain in English, I am not sure it is understandable.. sorry )

Ragnhild
_________________________
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#1050960 - 10/30/06 11:22 AM Re: block chords
Karyn Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/09/06
Posts: 89
Loc: Ireland
 Quote:
Originally posted by sid:
Perhaps you should learn to spell properly before trying to learn about block chords. [/b]
Ouch. That's a bit harsh. \:o Do people usually spell perfectly when posing on a message board or sending a phone text? Not the usual welcoming attitude I've seen on these boards. \:\(

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#1050961 - 10/30/06 01:39 PM Re: block chords
Van Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 1215
Loc: S. California
It's not unintended mispelling I object to, just the unwillingness to take half a second to write out the damn word, if he's going to ask people to take time to help, perhaps he should show a modicum of respect in return and put in just the that little bit of effort.
_________________________

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#1050962 - 10/30/06 01:47 PM Re: block chords
Rodney Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/28/04
Posts: 735
Loc: Caledon ON, Canada
Indianboy,

There is a little confusion here as block chords actually means a couple of different things. The term "Block Chord" is often used interchangeably with Close Voiced Chord which simply means play the chord in one hand in any inversion. Block Chord Style is different in that it describes a method of playing where the each (and every) melody note is played as the highest note of the harmonic (guitar part on a lead sheet) chord. Variations on this style see the bass note as either a copy of the melody note (double melody) or as the root of the chord.

I personally am not that fond of the Block Chord style but rather play a variation where only the first note of a bar or at a chord change actually includes the full chord. The remaining notes from the melody will either be individual notes, or pairs which include the melody note and one of the notes from the chord. The left hand can either play roots, roots in octaves, pedal tones, or a pattern/arp (think walking bass line for example).

I've written a pretty comprehensive chord voicing/theory thread which you might find useful.

http://www.pianoworld.com/ubb/ubb/ultimatebb.php?/topic/32/1258.html

Hope this helps,

Rodney

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#1050963 - 10/30/06 02:31 PM Re: block chords
Alene Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/03/05
Posts: 78
Loc: Oregon
Hi Indianboy: Mahlzeit is correct in the information that he gave you. Duane Shinn is usually talking about the Shearing style when talking about block chords. Yes, you play the melody note in both the right and left hands and fill in underneath the right hand with notes of the chord from either the lead sheet or whatever you decide is the proper chord to be playing. You ALWAYS make the left hand melody note stand out over the other notes by playing it slightly louder. Also, other notes can be added in the left hand if the melody is not moving for a while, such as arps, rolls, etc.

Alene

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#1050964 - 10/30/06 05:00 PM Re: block chords
indianboy Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/29/06
Posts: 24
hey,
thank you guys.so that was what duane meant when he said let the left hand stand out.

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#1050965 - 10/30/06 05:15 PM Re: block chords
indianboy Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/29/06
Posts: 24
http://jazzlessons.blogspot.com/2005/12/block-chords.html
I found this article earlier but couldn't really follow.thanks to you people now I understand what the author is trying to say.
also duane talks about varying the chords even for the same melody for variation.Now he goes 1-5-1-5-1 if one listens carefully.what does he exactly mean?
Also Rodney I checked out the other thread,how about putting it all on video with your own song examples once you get on another row.I mean it.take care

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#1050966 - 10/31/06 12:14 PM Re: block chords
rockpeter Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/08/05
Posts: 607
Loc: Montreal Canada
Base we have Sid on target. Waiting for go to proceed with bombing...Over.


:rolleyes:

Peter
_________________________
Ok..Ok... If you don't want your Steinway give it to me !!!!

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#1050967 - 10/31/06 05:05 PM Re: block chords
Mr.Joshua Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/06/06
Posts: 86
Loc: Plano, TX
Sid has officially woken up on the wrong side of the bed today...
_________________________
Having children makes you no more a parent than having a piano makes you a pianist.

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#1050968 - 10/31/06 07:07 PM Re: block chords
Van Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 1215
Loc: S. California
enough said.
_________________________

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#1050969 - 11/01/06 05:53 AM Re: block chords
indianboy Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/29/06
Posts: 24
hey,
I think Sid has an opinion and one should respect that.The only reason people are remarking on what you said Sid is that they are trying to emphasise that in some cases you say much more by saying nothing at all."Tolerance is the key".Mahatma Gandhi was a great follower of this theory.If someone slaps you on one cheek offer him the other cheek with a smile.Similarly,here friend you could have first posted your comments on the subject and on the side politely could have had put up your point.When you say something in anger people pay more attention to the anger in the words than the words itself.But when you say something politely and nicely people really tend to focus on what you said and the voice kind of echoes inside in a happy fashion.
I apologise for using wrong intentional spellings and will make sure that I don't repeat the same
thanks

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#1050970 - 11/01/06 08:10 PM Re: block chords
Van Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 1215
Loc: S. California
Indianboy, sorry I snapped at you, I just find intentional misspelling extremely annoying, disrespectful to the reader, unnecessary and not at all conducive to good communication (not to mention detrimental for children and others still learning the language); just a pet peeve of mine, nothing personal.

Welcome to the forum,

Sid
_________________________

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#1050971 - 11/04/06 12:14 AM Re: block chords
btb Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 4261
Loc: Pretoria South Africa
Indianboy,
Sorry about the instant raspberry reception.
It is one of the norms on this Forum that we never criticise mis-spelling ... the lingua franca happens to be English but spare a thought for the vast number of posters from all over the globe who have the courage to communicate their
musical thoughts in a foreign language.

I’m wondering how I’d manage putting together a perfect post in Spanish, Croatian, Norwegian, French or Japanese.

Your specific mention of George Shearing (one of my favourites) might have something to do with your quandary. Perhaps it is the effect of his blindness that has made his piquant piano
interpretations so “close harmony” (compact LH and RH roles).

Most music has a clear separation of hand roles ... but George brings the note patterns so close that they often touch and even at times overlap.

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#1050972 - 11/04/06 11:33 AM Re: block chords
pianokeys1000 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/18/05
Posts: 83
Loc: Upstate NY
sid said:
 Quote:

I'm afraid ne1 isn't registered here. Perhaps you should learn to spell properly before trying to learn about block chords.
 Quote:

It's not unintended mispelling I object to, just the unwillingness to take half a second to write out the damn word, if he's going to ask people to take time to help, perhaps he should show a modicum of respect in return and put in just the that little bit of effort.
 Quote:

Indianboy, sorry I snapped at you, I just find intentional misspelling extremely annoying, disrespectful to the reader, unnecessary and not at all conducive to good communication (not to mention detrimental for children and others still learning the language); just a pet peeve of mine, nothing personal.
I feel compelled to jump in. What a pompous a$$. This guy takes himself way to seriously. Sid, I notice you didn't offer any productive advice on the subject matter of the post. If you don't have anything positive to say - shut up.

Now, about Block Chords...

I did some research and found the following information out on the web:

Block Chords

You've most likely heard block chords used by masters such as George Shearing and Bill Evans, as a method for playing a chord melody or possibly even chordal improvisation (such as in Evans' famous all-block-chord-solo on Green Dolphin Street). If, like me, you heard these voicings and thought "It will take years to learn how to do that" then you'll be pleasantly surprised!

While technically in the intermediate-to-advanced category, and requiring quite a bit of theoretical knowledge, block chords in themselves are not so difficult to play. As long as you have enough theoretical knowledge to play normal "vanilla" voicings you should be able to start playing block chords immediately, adding lush harmony to melodies and improvisation alike.

The basic theory behind chordal accompaniment to a melody is that the notes thatstand out melodically are generally the highest and lowest notes of the chord. Of course there are inner movements that do not involve the highest and lowest note of the voiced chord, but for the sake of this lesson, we will be looking at how these two notes interact with the melody.

With conventional voicings, the highest note is considered the melody note, and the lowest is usually the root. So, if you wanted to add chordal accompaniment to a melody, you would always play the melody note as the highest note in the voicing, and play the root of the chord as the lowest note. Often it would look like this:


Left hand: 1 7
Right hand: 3 and melody note

That's a very simple way to use conventional voicings to accompany a chord. Note that these are "root" voicings, rather than the rootless voicings which we often find with block chords. (Block chords can be either root or rootless voicings but statistically most of them end up being rootless.)

Conventional voicings are useful and definitely worth learning, but they usually span 2+ octaves and the root in the left hand often makes for clunky voice leading. On the other hand, block chords always have smooth voice leading. Read on to find out why.

Block chords are built by placing the melody note on the top of the chord and doubling it an octave lower, with all other notes voiced in between. So, a block-chord C6 with C as the melody note is voiced as follows:


C-E-G-A-C


Note that I didn't say which hand to use for what notes; You can play the top note in the right hand with the rest of the notes in the left, or vice versa, or any combination thereof. It's entirely up to you.

Here's another example, a C6 chord voiced with D as the melody note (technically C6/9):


D-E-G-A-D


Notice that I didn't voice the C, making this a rootless voicing. The reason is because the C would add too many close intervals. The G-A already makes a major 2nd interval, and the C-D would make another, giving it a muddy sound.

Block chords don't sound especially good when taken seperate from a melody, but when played as chordal accompaniment (or a chordal improvisation), their construction makes for inherently good voice leading.

Thanks,
Ryan

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#1050973 - 11/04/06 11:35 AM Re: block chords
pianokeys1000 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/18/05
Posts: 83
Loc: Upstate NY
I also found this short article on Red Garland Blocks:

Red Garland’s block chords are arguably his most famous stylistic contribution to jazz piano. While overuse tends to make you sound a bit on the loungy side of things and can make you sound like a Garland wannabe (for better or worse), judicious use of this trick can come in handy in a number of band configurations. It obviously sounds great on the Workin/Cookin/Steamin/Relaxin session where Garland's understated playing provides contrast to the Horn solos and offers space to let the Philly Joe and Paul Chambers push. On a practical level, this particular block chord style is relatively easy to implement and can get you a big sound without banging when you are on a lousy upright and feel like you are fading into the curtains.

Here is the recipe:
Right Hand: Octaves with 'locked 5ths' above bottom note. (Maintain a perfect fith from the bottom note of the octave at all times)
Left Hand: Rootless voicings (see this entry) sounding on every note that the right hand plays.

This produces some weird dissonances at times (see the fifth above the third on the C7 in the simple example) but don’t let that stop you. It is part of the style.

Thanks,
Ryan

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#1050974 - 11/04/06 11:40 AM Re: block chords
pianokeys1000 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/18/05
Posts: 83
Loc: Upstate NY
indian boy,

If you have Mark Levine's Jazz Piano Book, Chapter 19 also covers many different types of Block Chords.

Thanks,
Ryan

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