Two Note Voicings

The quality of any chord can be defined by its 3rd and the 7th, and consequently the simplest way to voice any chord would be to use two-note voicings consisting of these two particular chord tones.

Applying this concept to a II-V-I progression in the key of C result in elegant voice-leading between chords:

II-V-I

An obvious variation is to use the inversions of these intervals:

II-V-I b

Two-note voicings are the foundation of piano voicing, and on many occasions, are the most suitable voicings to use. For example, the simplicity of two-note voicings can help to avoid clutter when there are other accompanying instruments. They can also be easily played by the left hand during right hand soloing. As a guideline, the typical range for left hand voicings on the piano is between C3 and F4, as it doesn’t get too low and collide with the bass player, or too high and collide with the right hand playing area.

Practice two-note voicings in all keys descending by tones as shown below. In order to go through all 12 keys, descend following the two complimentary whole tone scales. As you become familiar with these voicings, also try to mix up the use of their inversions:

Descending II-V-I's by Tones from C to D

Descending II-V-I's by Tones from B to Db

The same concept can be applied to minor II-V-I progressions:

Minor II-V-I

However this approach doesn’t highlight any color tones of the minor II-V’s, making them ambiguous. To help establish them as minor II-V’s, a useful variation is to play the root and the flat 5th on II chords instead of the 3rd and the 7th:

Minor II-V-I Variant

For this particular key of C minor there are three possible variations within the typical left hand voicing range based on inversions of the two-note voicings:

Minor II-V-I Variant Inversions

Once again, practice the two-note voicings in all keys descending by tones as shown below. In order to go through all 12 keys, descend following the two complimentary whole tone scales. As you become familiar with these voicings, also try to mix up the use of their inversions:

Descending Minor II-V-I's by Tones from Cm to Dm

Descending Minor II-V-I's by Tones from Bm to Dbm

The next step would be to play through some tunes using this concept. Play two-note voicings in the left hand while playing the melody in the right hand, then repeat for other keys following the cycle of fourths.

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