Mickylee - jazz guitar expert

How to Play Shell Voicings on Guitar

Extensive lesson on jazz guitar shell voicings

In this video, Mickylee teaches you everything about shell voicings with clear examples and cool improvisational moments you'll deeply enjoy!

Released on February 3, 2021

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Video Transcription

Hi, my name is Mickey Lee. And in this video I want to talk about shell voicings. Shell voicings are often used in jazz comping both on piano and on guitar. You get a shell voicing when we omit one or more notes of a seventh chord. Usually the first one to skip would be a fifth but we can also skip root, third or seventh. There are many advantages to playing shell voicings, some of them would be, we fit better in the mix when we play with a band and we have more freedom in playing different chord variations than we would have when playing these big chords, these big grips that we are used to playing such as, or.

Let me start with very simple shell voicing, which will consist only of third and seventh. We call third and seventh also guide notes. These guide notes we usually play on the middle two strings, D and G. But we can also play them on G and B. That said, it's not forbidden to play them on first two strings or on last two strings or in the strings, A and D. It's just that they don't sound that good. They sound the best on the middle two strings.

The first chord I'll talk about is C major seventh. It's third is E, and seventh would be B . So let me find E and B everywhere on these two sets of strings. So first would be E, and B here. Then I have one more on strings D and G here. Then we go over to strings G and B. We have the first combination here. And the next one will be here.

So, it's already four different possibilities of playing just third and seventh. Now we can add one note to that and that could be either root or a fifth. Let me show you. If we play here, we can add root here or fifth here. If you're in this position, we have fifth here, and root here. When we go to these two strings, G and D, G and B, sorry. We have even more possibilities because we have three strings beneath. So we can take G fifth, we can say, C the root, and G again here. The same thing goes here, we play these two guide notes. And then we have C root, G fifth and C root again.

Now, let me find the same shell voicings for D minor seven and G seven. So together with C major seven, we can play 251 cadence. For D minor seven, we have F third and C seventh we have here, then here. Then on these two strings, here and here. For G seven is almost the same. We maintain the F, which would be seventh in G seven. And we just, instead of C, we played B, which would be third in G seven. So we have Fb, Bf, Bf again here, and Fb here. D minor seventh, G seven, C major seventh.

Notice that when two chords share one note, I just leave it there. I don't move it anywhere. So why just move the notes that are not common. I could even play it like this, or here, or here. When we add one more note to that, either root or fifth, there's even more possibilities. Let me give you a couple of examples. D minor seven, G seven, C major seventh. But we could play for example, the D minor seven with fifth in bass, G seven, C major seventh with 15 bass. So, that would be G in bass again. Or maybe here, D minor seven, G seven with fifth in bass, C major seventh with fifth in bass. Or maybe this, D minor seven with fifth in bass, G seven with fifth in bass and C major seventh with G or fifth in bass. As you can see, there are many possibilities with just guide notes and either one or five at the bottom. You can explore that and find your favorite combinations.

Now, let him play a couple of turn-around variations in C major seventh, so that you can hear how it can sound like in practical terms. I'll be using just the chord C major seventh, A seven, D minor seven, G seven. And sometimes instead of C major seventh, I'll be using E minor seven. Now, let me play a one or two choruses of Blues in F for you so that you can hear how it may sound with just shell voicings.

We can simplify shell voicings even more if we omit third or seventh of a chord. So in this case, we could have something like this. We play D minor seven. We play D root, and just seven C. Then when we go to G seven, we can play G, as a root and we go to B, which would be third. And at the end C major seventh, C root, B seven. The other option would be to stick with third during D minor seven, which would be F. Then we stay on F for G seven. That would be our seventh note. And the resolution on C major seventh will be note E. So we play C and E. So both options would be first one. Second one.

Let me expand that a little bit for you. C major seventh, A seven, D minor seven, G seven, E minor seven. A seven, D minor seven, G seven, C major seventh. A seven, D minor seven, G seven, C major seventh. That be all for me for now. I hope you learned something from this video. Thank you very much and see you soon. Bye.
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