Sometimes a little jazz flavor is just what a chord progression needs. It doesn’t have to be over the top, just something tasteful and clean.
Not that I invented it (because I definitely did not), but this chord shape has been one of my secrets for a long time. It’s very versatile, well-voiced, and you can hardly go wrong using it.
To play this jazz shape, simply choose a note (we’ll get to that in a moment), play it with your pinky, then play a note a fourth (five half-steps) below, then a another a fourth below that. You’ll soon get a feel for playing this chord shape.
Then, it’s just a matter of knowing where to place it. Here are four ideas.
1. Major chord – pinky on the root
The major chords in any key are built on the 1st, 4th, and 5th scale notes, so we call them the 1-, 4-, and 5-chords. In C Major, these chords are C, F, and G. Simply play the root of those chords with your pinky and build the chord down from there (see image 1).
2. Minor chord – pinky on the third of the chord
Minor chords are founded on the 2nd, 3rd, and 6th scale notes. To get a characteristic minor sound, we can’t build this chord shape on their root notes. Instead, we build it on the middle note – or the “third” – of the minor chord. For a D minor chord, this means we’ll base our chord shape with pinky on an F(see image 2).
3. Major chord – pinky of the fifth of the chord
This method produces a more colorful sound, with a character that may be more or less desirable at different times. For a C major chord, you would base the chord shape on the chord’s “fifth” – in this case, G (see image 3). Try it out and decide for yourself when or if it can work for you!
(I didn’t say this in the video, but you could also try this one with minor chords with your pinky on the chord’s seventh. For example, on a D minor chord, you could build the chord shape down from a C.)
4. First two methods up a step
Whether you are playing a major or a minor chord, choose the first or second method and suspend the whole shape up a full step (image 4). This will lend some melodic coloring and a lot of jazz quality to the progression.
Don’t overthink it
This chord shape doesn’t require a thorough understanding of why it works. Simply test it out in a number of different ways and decide for yourself which methods you like.
If you are interested in developing your piano chords further, check out the Fluent Piano Chords video course.
Grace and peace!