As someone who plays both guitar and keyboards, I’ve been
able to explore the idiosyncrasies of both instruments. Perhaps the
biggest difference between guitar and keyboards is that on the guitar,
you can play the same note in many different places on the instrument.
Because of this, you can create unconventional voicings that you might
not otherwise stumble upon. Exploiting the open strings of the guitar is
one way to find unusual voicing structures. Here are five of my
favorite guitar voicings transposed to the keyboard, as well as an
example of them in action.
1. Fmaj13 #11
Ex. 1 is a very “guitaristic” chord in that it features three open “strings” and sounds a lot darker than
it might if a keyboardist simply played a voicing based on seeing the chord symbol alone.
2. F#7 add4
Ex. 2 is a wonderful voicing that sounds both
suspended and not suspended at the same time. This is achieved easily
with the guitar by lifting up a finger to utilize an open string. Adding
the fourth to a major chord is not usually something that comes to the
mind of a keyboardist. It’s more of a guitar thing, and it yields
surprising sonic results!
3. Bb6 #11
Ex. 3 illustrates a simple voicing which sounds
very complex. The beauty of the guitar is that you can take a simple
triadic chord shape and drop in extra notes around it by playing open
strings that are not being used. Here we have a simple Bb triad with the open G and E string added to give a sixth and a sharp 11th.
4. D add4 add9
Ex. 4 adds a 4th to the major chord like Ex. 2, but with this voicing we are adding it in a different octave, (as opposed to right next to the 3rd) and as such, we create a more open sounding voicing.
Ex. 5 is a somber and bittersweet sounding voicing
with not much filling up the middle and a minor second between the top
two notes. On the guitar, this voicing would incorporate the open high
and Low E strings.
6. Voicings in Action (click thumbnails for larger images)
Ex. 6 demonstrates these structures in action with a
piece I wrote that implements all of the above voicings. The first half
of the piece uses the chords in a more block kind of way, and the
second half uses the chords in a more rolling way. Practice this
exercise slow at first and then work your way up to about 80 bpm. The
objective isn’t to learn the piece itself but to make these voicings a
permanent part of your chord vocabulary.