Practicing minor 251's

I’m wading into the Minor 251 Progression Practice Guide, and trying not to drown.
I see that, although most of the voicings are around middle C or higher, the are transcribed on the bass clef. Is there a reason for this? Not, to whine, my bass clef reading skills are substantially inferior to my treble clef reading skills; and this is just another hurdle. Anywhere I can see these voicings written in the treble clef?
Also, as I’ve said before, all of my 251 training has had me using shell voicings in the left hand. I have no intention of playing in a group. Any reason why, when I’m practicing these voicings in my right hand, I shouldn’t use shell voicings in my left?

I usually play just solo ballads on these songs, however I run into the lack of variety in my solo and even as a soloist I want to create a little improv on the tune – that’s when I run into my limitations and lack of knowledge — and so I return to the lesson and try to learn the Left hand voicings, and I realize that I didn’t really KNOW the chord structures and what I could do with them. that little experience of the rootless left hand voicings is what helps me expand. I then play along with iReal Pro so I have a “bass and drum” backing me up. but all that actually does help my solo ballad playing greatly. I dont “read” sheet music at all by the way;

You’ll find that all the various books on jazz recommend staying within the two octaves around middle C with these voicings. Any further below, it’s too muddy; any higher and you have conflicts with what’s going on in the right hand. Like Lori said, these are actually the building blocks for the much richer voicings to come. I felt just like you at first, but then I sort of “saw the light.” :sunglasses:

Firstly, great tips from @LoriNelson and @scott1 :+1:

Here are some ways that I find rootless harmony useful in my solo piano playing:

1) When Playing Stride Style Left Hand

When playing solo piano in a stride style, it’s common to play the root in the lower registers of the piano, and then come up with our left hand to play a rootless voicings.

We have already established the foundation of the harmony and so it then frees up our left hand to choose more interesting colours and flavours that can be accessed through rootless voicings.

As an exercise, when you next find a minor 251 in a tune, play the roots way down in the lower registers and then come up and play rootless minor 251 voicings in your left hand.

2) To Access Different “Textures” For The Same Chord

Playing a chord without the root creates a very different texture. You are correct that when playing solo piano, we should be establishing the basis of the harmony for most of the chords. An effective way to do this is with shell voicings as you correctly highlight.

However, throwing in a few rootless voicings can add variety to our playing.

Something to experiment with. A lot of this is down to personal taste too.

3) Rootless Voicings In The Right Hand

Sometimes it can be nice to play rootless voicings in the right hand for harmonic fills and decoration.

They also sound great in the right hand with a bassline underneath. This is particularly common in Solo Bossa Nosa styles as you will see in our courses on bossa nova.

4) Shapes For Right Hand Improvisation

All of those rootless voicings - and their inversions - are useful shapes to be able to visualise in the right hand and can be used for melodic creativity and improvisation.

A Final Note Wendy:

Learning the rootless minor 251s is lot of work.

It’s a gradual process that we will take over many years.

Don’t let this stop you from progressing on in the syllabus, perhaps just revisit the exercises now and again and over time you will become more and more comfortable with the shapes until they are ‘second nature’ to you.


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