Shell Voicing in Jazz Piano

Berklee professor
Paul Schmeling explains how to master the toughest jazz standard with
ease and improve your left hand technique by utilizing shell voicings
to represent chords in the left hand.
Frankly, this is the first time I heard about shell voicing. What’s shell voicing?
Does it sound like the voice you hear when you speak into a shell?

Image: blow the shell to hear the natural shell voicing

After some googling, oh .. this is what shell voicing is all about:

A shell voicing is a chord which contains only the root, third, and seventh.
Often players will only use two notes, the root and third, or the root and seventh.

Because the fifth of a chord is not significant in differentiating minor or major chord, it is omitted in a shell voicing chord.

According to Brian Oates

The pianist Bill Evans often used these “third and seventh only” chords in
his left hand comps. Many guitar players (Emily Remler, Jim Hall, John
Stowell, John Abercrombie, Mike Stern, Alan DeMause, etc.) use shell voicings
in solo, duo, and trio situations where they want to add the harmonies “like
a pianist” behind their melodies or solos. Joe Pass (among others) used the
R,3,and 7 form often to make walking bass lines combined with chordal comps.

Berklee professor
Paul Schmeling demonstrate shell voicing

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  • Daniel E. Friedman

    Reply Reply February 24, 2008

    Nice demo, clearly explained. I liked the use of the flattened seventh shell (Ab7).

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