"Bill Evans"-Style Rootless close voicings for guitar — II V I

Here is a set of rootless voicings for guitar that I adapted from the stock "Bill Evans" style left-hand voicings.  I show them in a II V I context to illustrate the voice leading, but they can of course be adapted to fit any chord progression.

Close voicings tend to be difficult on the guitar, as they contain smaller intervals.  Many of these involve challenging, but not impractical stretches: they should be usable by most guitarists, unless you have rather small hands.  When practicing these, make sure you are warmed up first, well-hydrated, and take frequent breaks, as it is easy to overdo it when practicing these kinds of stretches and you want to avoid injury.

For those unfamiliar with the principles of the "Bill Evans" style voicings, here are the main principles:
 

    • They are generally voiced with either the 3rd or 7th on the bottom
    • The basic structures are 3715 or 7135—note that the chord can contain the root, they are just "rootless" in the sense that the root is not in the bass
    • On m7 chords, the root may be replaced with the 9th, and the 5th may be replaced with the 11th
    • On 7 chords, the root may be replaced with the 9th, and the 5th may be replaced with the 13th or #11 if appropriate
    • On Maj7 chords, the root may be replaced with the 9th, the 5th or 7th may be replaced with the 6th
    • One m(maj7) chords, the root may be replaced by the 9th, the 5th or 7th may be replaced with the 6th
    • In circle of 5ths motion, alternating voicings with 3 and 7 on the bottom will create smooth voice leading.


Here are the resulting possible combinations (not voicings, just note choices):

m7 (1 3 5 7), m9 (9 3 5 7), m11 (1 3 4 7), m11 (9 3 4 7)
7 (1 3 5 7), 9 (9 3 5 7), 13 (1 3 6 7), 13 (9 3 6 7),  #11 (1 3 #4 7), #11 (9 3 #4 7)
Maj7 (1 3 5 7), Maj9 (9 3 5 7), Maj13 (1 3 6 7), Maj 13 (9 3 6 7)
6 (1 3 5 6), 6/9 (9 3 5 6)
m6 (1 3 5 6), m6/9 (9 3 5 6)
m(maj7) (1 3 5 7), m9(maj7) (9 3 5 7), m13(maj7) (1 3 6 7), m13(maj7) (9 3 6 7)

Of course, the 9ths on the 7 chords can be altered as well, and #11s can replace 5ths in the maj7 chords also when appropriate. I also bent the "rules" in a couple of cases because of guitar limitations.


On the following pages, the chords are presented in columns.  Any chord in the II column can lead to any chord in the V column, which can in turn lead to any chord in the I column.

This isn't to say that all combinations work equally well or in all cases. 
For example, using a m13(maj7) chord when the chord in the tune is Maj7 will probably not work so great (but don't let me stop you!).

Here are the voicings where the II chord has the 3rd on the bottom.  Because of the 2nd between 7-1 and 9-3 that occurs on the II and I chord when you start with the 7th on the bottom, there are not many practical voicings on guitar that way.  There are some, however, and I'll post them soon along with the drop-2 versions of the chords and some tips on how to get creative with them while comping.

 

 

Jazz Guitar Chords - Rootless Close Voicings (Bill Evans)

 

 

 

Rootless close chord voicings for jazz guitar - Bill Evans style

 

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