Eddie Landsberg's Golden Secrets of the 7 Tones
The root is usually the tone the chord is named after. For example, the root of Bbmaj7 would be Bb. It is usually played by the bass player (if there's a bass player in the band) so you don't need to include them in your voicings unless its in the melody. When figuring out a tune on the piano, always play the root in your left hand at the bottom of the chord.
Thirds are your most important tones. They are mandatory (unless you're going for a suspended sound.) To find the third, count up 4 half steps for a major or dominant chord, and three half steps for a minor or diminished chord.
Sevenths add stability. To find the 7 th, count down a half step for major chords, two half steps for minor and dominant chords.
Fifths are relatively weak tones. The fifth is 7 half steps up (or five half steps down) from the root.
The most common alteration to minor chords is to flatten the fifth (lower it a half step.) The Flat 5 is located 6 half steps up or down from the root.
The 9th is located two half steps up from the root. It is a very common tone. The most common alteration to it would be raising or lowering it a half step in a dominant 7 chord. Flat 9, which has a darker bluesier sound would be a half step up from the root... sharp 9, which sounds brighter and funkier would be three half steps up.
The 4th or 11th is located 5 half steps up from the root. Modern and contemporary Jazz musicians like to raise it up a step when they play it over major scales. You'll hear this refered to as "lydian" harmony.
The 6th or 13th is another important tone, especially in minor and dominant chords. To find it, count down three half steps (a minor third) from the root. One of the most common alterations to 13ths are flattening them in minor chords.
Tones may be inverted. This means you don't have to play it at the exact spot (above the root) that we've used to pinpoint them. You can play them lower or higher. That's a matter of chord voicing choice.
There is usually no need to double notes except for special effects.
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