8 Awesome Types Of 3-Note Chord Voicings And How To Use Them

You probably see Jazz Chords as chord voicings with lots of notes, alterations and extensions which makes them big and difficult to play. But actually most of the time when I am comping or playing chord melody I am using 3-note chord voicings, and it is amazing how rich and diverse you can still sound just using 3 notes, and most of those are pretty easy to play.

In this video I am going to go over 8 types of 3-note voicings including different ways to use Shell-voicings, Upper-structure Triads, Quartal Voicings, Sus chords and different types of Cluster-like Interval Structures.

The Voicing types I cover in this lesson is:

  • Shell Voicings (137)
  • Triads
  • Quartal Harmony
  • Shell Voicings (157)
  • Sus4 Triads
  • Triad Derived Cluster Voicings #1
  • Triad Derived Cluster Voicings #2
  • Shell Derived Cluster Voicing

This is a lot of material but going from one type of 3 note voicing to another is surprisingly easy as you will see in the main example.

The Practical Approach: Solar Chords

The way I have chosen to approach this is to make an example chorus of comping on the song Solar. I will break down the chorus and while going over the chord voicings also talk about what type of voicing it is also give you an overview of a set of Diatonic Chords using this type of voicing.

Basic Shell Voicings and Triads – “The Power Chords”

The first part of the chorus on Solar is shown here below. For the first three voicings I am using Shell voicings and then from the middle of the Gm bar there are two triad voicings.

The first Shell voicing is a CmMaj7 Shell voicing. You probably know the shell-voicings as the basic chord voicings that are used for Freddie Green comping or as a basic building block to create voicings with extensions.

In this case I am using the shell-voicings both as basic chords and as upper-structures with extensions and colors.

To Practice shell voicings you can do this exercise of the diatonic shells in C minor melodic:

The CmMaj voicing in bar 2 is a B7 shell voicing. This is not the diatonic chord that is found on the B. This is constructed in a different way but is a chord that you can find in C melodic minor. You just need to be a little creative.

The B7 voicings is great for CmMaj as it contains the Maj7th, b3 and 6th.

The voicing on the Gm7 is a Bbmaj7 shell voicing which works as a Gm7 without the 7th.

Triads as Jazz Chords

The second half of the Gm bar is covered with a Bb major triad. The Bb major triad is a Gm7 without a G: G Bb D F

On the C7 the chord is a Bb dim triad. This set of notes is Bb Db E so it works as a C7b9.

A way to go over the triads is to play them through the scale, but think of them as the chords that you would use them. This is shown in the example below.

Triad inversions: An easy set of extra chords

A bonus from working with triad voicings is that they are easy and practical to invert. If you take the C7(b9) chord as an example then we have these possible chord voicings that all work:

Quartal voicings and 157 Shells

The voicing is a triad voicing for the Fmaj. An Am triad. Again the triad found on the 3rd of the chord.

From there the next three voicings are quartal voicings, two on F and one on Fm7.

3-part Quartal chords

Quartal voicings are hard to really tie to only one type of chord, so instead of assigning them to a specific chord I have written them out without a chord name.

The way the chords are moving in Solar example is a good example of how quartal voicings are used moving in a step-wise manner.

157 Shell-Voicings

The second chord in the Fm7 bar is another type of Shell voicing. I am using an Ab 157 shell voicing which is Ab Eb G. This spells out an Fm7(9). 

The Bb7alt voicing is an Abm7(b5) 157 Shell-voicing, moving on to a BmMaj7 137 Shell voicing.

Moving the 157 Shell-voicings through a scale you get this exercise:

Sus4 Triads as Chord Voicings

The last 4 bars of the example is introducing quite a few voicings.

First a sus4 triad for the Ebmaj7 and then three types of cluster voicings that I will go over.

Sus4 triads – Extra colors

The Ebmaj7 voicing is a Gsus4 triad. This spells out an Ebmaj7(13): G(3) C(13) D(7).

Using the sus4 triads like this is a really useful way to add colors to a chord. Taking this chord through an Eb major scale like this yields these voicings.

Especially the Bb7(13) is a nice sound here, and some to the b13 voicings can be a bit hard to put to use.

Triad based Cluster Chords #1

One way to get a 2nd interval in a triad is to substitute the root with the 9th. This is similar to how you add extensions to a drop2 chord.

Below is shown how the Ebm7 voicing is constructed. Strictly speaking this is an Ebm(add9) voicing since it does not have a b7.

Taking these voicings through the sale yields these voicings:

The Ab7 is an AmMaj7 shell voicing working as an incomplete Ab7(b9) voicing.

Triad based Cluster Chords #2

On the Dbmaj7 I am using another triad derived voicing. This is a the set of notes C Eb F which is derived from a Bbm triad. Here the Bb is replaced with C and the Db with an Eb.

Taking this through the scale gives us these voicings:

Shell Voicing Derived Cluster Voicing

The final voicing type is create from a 137 shell voicing where the 3 is replaced with a 2 or 9. As shown here below:

This chord voicings through the scale yields these chords. My notation software is unable to turn these voicings into chord diagrams.

Taking 3-note Jazz Chords further

If you want to check out more examples of how I use these types of chord voicings on a standard then check out this WebStore Lesson:

Get A Free Book!

If you want to download a Free E-book of 15 II Valt I licks then subscribe to my newsletter:

Get The PDF

Download the PDF to check out the exercises away from the article:

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for topics then please let me know. Leave a comment on the video or  send me an e-mail. That is the best way for me to improve my lessons and make them fit what you are searching for.

Please subscribe to my YouTube channel and feel free to connect with me via Instagram,Twitter Google+ or Facebook to keep up to date with new lessons, concerts and releases.

Liked it? Take a second to support Me on Patreon!