5 + Note Chords


When playing a chord with 5 or more notes in it, like in the case of C maj 9, the span of the chord will prohibit some students from reaching the 9th of the chord.  So the remedy for this is called “ Open Position”.

Open Position simply means the notes of the chord are spread beyond the span of an octave.  In other words the right hand will play some notes of the chord, particularly notes that are beyond the octave i.e. 9ths, 11ths and 13ths.

For example the  “ C” major chord in close position would be played  ( C,E,G ) in the left hand .  “ C” major chord in open position could be played  ( C then G and then the E up an octave ).

Open position is very practical when playing solo piano because it allows chords to be played lower on the piano without sounding too muddy.  This is done primarily by “ transferring’ the third of the chord from the left hand up an octave into the right hand.

Some pianists will play 5 – note chords with 4 notes in the right hand and the root in the left hand.  This is particularly well suited if you are playing an “ active” bass line on the piano.  Examples would be a walking bass line, or a latin tune with an active bass line.  In the previous 2 styles of playing I would suggest playing 3 notes in the right hand including the melody, perhaps up to 4 total notes in the right hand.  More than 4 notes in the right hand is very difficult to play simultaneously especially if the tempo of the song is fast.

Learn About…


Harmonic Patterns