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Creative Keyboard Presents: Jazz Piano Chords

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This is an excellent Jazz piano chord glossary as they go.
Keyboard chord glossaries containing dozens of notated chord voicings are a rather common entry on the music publishing market, but this edition by Misha Stefanuk for Mel Bay's Creative Keyboard series happens to be one of the better examples.

A soft-bound, 8 1/2 by 12 book that has easy to turn pages (a rare thing indeed.), this book lays out both the essentials of chord formation (close,open, root and seventh, etc.) and has a large main glosssary of the fundamental chords (Major, Minor, Dominant, Diminished, Suspended) by key.

Within a key chords ascend by the number of the uppermost extension. The full range of chords used in jazz is represented (going up to 13th extension) , and there are at least 3 voicing examples for each chord. It is really quite thorough, and yet the notation is very easy to read and the chords are grouped such that one starts with the most basic chords (major, minor) and works up to extension chords and the like.

There are two subsections which follow the general glossary of chord voicings. One is a harmonizing index that organizes a plethora of chordal voicings (major, minor, dominant, diminished, suspended) according to how they would be harmonized to a specific key on the top of the voicing. For example, how one might harmonize an A9sus chord to an D melody note on top or an Emin7 to an F melody note. This therefore presents the issue of chord inversions in a more strictly applied context, as opposed to simply showing all of the inversions of any one chord in one place, which is what many chord glossaries tend to do. This is a much better way to absorb inversions rather than practicing them in a vacuum.

The other subsection is a chord glossary devoted exclusively to quartal (chords based on fourths) voicings. The author evidently perceives the importance of any modern jazz pianist having a real command of these voicings (as popularized by McCoy Tyner, Bill Evans and Chick Corea) and saw it fit to give them a space of their own. Many other piano chord glossaries treat these voicings as an afterthought or something merely novel, but here they are given no shortage of attention, with chord voicings by key and grouped according to Major, Minor, or Dominant structure.

This is an excellent Jazz piano chord glossary as they go. For those just beginning to study jazz piano or, for other musicians- harmony as voiced by the piano, this should aid one's studies of keyboard harmony quite well. As a final note though, the word "aid" should be emphasized as it would be wise to supplant a glossary like this with a more substantial tutorial on jazz piano harmony, such as Mark Levine's The Jazz Piano book or Phil DeGreg's Jazz Keyboard Harmony book. The thing is, there is a tendency to view chord dictionaries as a quick fix for learning jazz chords, and while they are a valuable resource for laying chords out more clearly than elsewhere, it is most important to learn not only the "what" of chords but the "why." The fact is, if one learns chords only by rote there will be a point at which one is called on to form an unfamiliar chord and will be handicapped from doing so. This book describes the basic principles of chord formation, but again- a larger manual on jazz piano will do so with more depth and as such, is important to study along with a chord glossary like this one.


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