Bits & Pieces 1 – An Easy Way To Play Four Note Chords


For this guide we need to be able to:

  • Play major, minor, diminished and augmented triads (C,Cm,Co,C+)
  • Play the inversions (Root position, 1st, 2nd inversion) of the triads

Four note chords can be confusing to learn but luckily there is a very easy way to learn to play them by just using the regular triads (major, minor, diminished and augmented).

Instructions:

  • Play the root of the chord with your left hand (in octaves if possible)
  • (Over dominant 7th chords add a b7 to the root in your left hand)
  • Play a specific triad in the right hand
  • The triad depends on the quality (type) of chord in question
  • When changing chords find the inversion of the triad that has the least amount of movement (avoid “jumping” between chords)
  • Practice moving the triads both upwards and downwards (use your ears to stay in the right register)
  • Practice the method over common chord pairs and progressions

Below is a table showing all the common four note chords (Cmaj7, Cmin7, C7, Cø7, Co7, CmMaj7, C7b9, C7alt, C7sus) and how they are voiced using this method. All examples are in C major and are to be transposed in the keys needed.

(Note: The only chord this method does not work well on is the 6/9 chord (C6/9 / Cm6/9). For now you can use the voicing for Cmaj7 and Cm7/CmMaj7 for those. Also the dominant chords (C7,C7b9,C7alt,C7sus) would sound better if a b7 (Bb) is added in the left hand along with the root. The C7#9 chord is not part of this method but can be played as an upper structure which is a similar but still different approach. LH: C-E-Bb RH: Eb major (1st inversion) triad. I have not added this to the table since it is a different approach.)

ChordRootTriad Based OnTriad
Cmaj7C3Em
Cmin7Cb3Eb
C7C (+Bb)3Eo
Cø7Cb3Ebm
Co7Cb3Ebo
CmMaj7Cb3Eb+
C7b9C (+Bb)5Go
C7altC (+Bb)b6/b13Ab+
C7susC (+Bb)b7Bb



(c) 2019 Sibil Yanev