Talk:Voicing (music)

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Vague criticisms[edit]

This article is a complete waste of space. The aesthetic ramifications of choosing different voicings is inappropriate for an article like this, which should focus on explaining what voicings are. The fundamental concept isn't explained at all (or rather is mis-explained). I'm inclined to trash the whole article and start over, but I don't want to get caught in an edit war like I guess happened with the Inversion page. 08:00, 27 October 2007 (UTC)

Ok, I went ahead and wrote an article for this. It's a good start, though some subsections might benefit from more detail. At least the actual concept is presented now. Some examples would be good though, both on piano and guitar, especially with a discussion of two-handed piano voicings and how alternate tunings and fret-board layout affect guitar voicings. Guitar voicings could be (and perhaps is, I didn't check) an entire other article, of course. On piano, there are entire systems of how to devise voicings, and it might be reasonable to mention them (I know of two, I assume there are others). Also, I was really focused on instruments that play chords, and didn't really talk about arranging for string or brass. Anybody who wants to go through and add links, that would be great. I was just trying to replace the utter junk that was there before with a reasonable start. 10:10, 27 October 2007 (UTC)

When are you going to log on so we can engage seriously? Tony (talk) 10:34, 27 October 2007 (UTC)
Right now, I'm not sure if it's more hassle than it's worth. I just saw a particularly poor article which had a request for somebody who knew something about the subject to help out. I won't claim that what I wrote was amazing, but I think it was cogent, mostly. I'm not a super music theory expert, being particularly weak with counterpoint and the classical approach, and I don't know how they might do a treatment on the subject. I come from the Mark Harrison school of music theory (author of "Contemporary Music Theory" vol I-III), and would be quite content to see the contemporary viewpoint presented alongside the classical viewpoint (if they even have much to say on the subject). Also, the article may be misnamed, as I am only really talking about chord voicings. If people use the term "voicings" in other contexts, though, I've not heard it, and I would expect the article to be named "Chord_voicings" or "Voicings (chord)" or somesuch. Finally, the study of voicings is deep, and I'm not sure what level of detail you consider appropriate for an article like this. Voicing techniques vary by instrument and potentially warrant their own articles, if their is enough interest. That would allow the main article to merely explain what voicings are and defer all examples and discussion of how voicings are created/chosen to individual instrument articles. Anyway, I'll keep an eye on this to see your response, and if things seem to be sufficiently collegial, then I'll log in. 18:27, 27 October 2007 (UTC)

Jimmy Amadie wrote a great book on piano chord voicing technique. It is titled "Harmonic Foundation for Jazz and Popular Music". He uses a five note voicing technique that greatly simplifies piano chord voicings for jazz musicians. ( I learned this technique from Frank Puzzullo of Ball State University who was a Jazz piano instructor there back in 1997 (,2017,5216-1182-168172,00.html). A crude summary of his approach is as follows: Choose two notes from the chord for your left hand, which can be the root and the 3rd, root and 5th, root and 7th, or the root and the 10th. You can even use the 3rd and 7th because the bass player will normally cover the root. Next you pick three notes for the right hand. You should try not to double any notes. So if you chose the root and 5th in the left hand, then you would play the 3rd, 7th, and 9th in the right hand. This works for any chord. This book is full of exercises and great examples of piano chord voicings. 00:59, 3 November 2007 (UTC)

Appalling little article[edit]

This is an embarrassment, and should be deleted or completely rewritten. The tone is wrong, the information uncited, prescriptive, and shallow, since it provides no reasons for its assertions. IV6 clouds IV? Hello? Tony (talk) 14:32, 17 February 2008 (UTC)

It's really not THAT bad. If anything it doesn't fall into the trap of burying itself in theory only. (talk) 07:27, 21 June 2008 (UTC)


If you are going to criticize the article please be polite and please point out specific problems which need correction and suggest how those improvements could be made. That this and every article could always be better went without saying. Hyacinth (talk) 10:08, 21 June 2008 (UTC)

Is this addressed to me? You know I'm rude. Now, let's take the opening:

In music, a voicing is the inversion of a chord. This is the vertical ordering of the pitches in the chord (which notes are on top, bottom, or in the middle). It is an effective way of representing a chord's sound. The spacing or "simultaneous vertical placement of notes in relation to each other" and "the manner in which one distributes, or spaces, notes and chords among the various instruments" (Corozine 2002, p. 7).

I disagree with the first statement. It's not the same as inversion. It has to do with which member of the chord lies where, above the bass; inversion is to do only with which member of the chord is in the bass. What does effective mean here? Too vague to use. Corozine's definitions are not wrong, but need to be brought together into an proper, full definition at the start, in WP's voice, with a few citation numbers. TONY (talk) 10:34, 21 June 2008 (UTC)

Why can't/shouldn't Corozine be quoted?
Unless policy and guidelines changed the current citation style is fine and does not need to be changed. That said, I prefer footnotes.
I'll switch the order of his quotes so that emphasis is on instrumentation.
Hyacinth (talk) 20:08, 21 June 2008 (UTC)

Not sure the emphasis should be on instrumentation. I didn't say Corozine shouldn't be quoted; nor did I suggest that the citation style needs to be changed. I wonder why the second figure is a dotted minim; it would be less confusing to keep it the same as the first example in all respects but the one at issue. TONY (talk) 09:46, 22 June 2008 (UTC)

It is often helpful when misunderstood to restate what one said so as to attempt to explain it. Hyacinth (talk) 03:38, 2 July 2008 (UTC)

About the terms "inversion" and "inverted", I believe they can be applied to chords, but not to voicings. An inverted chord may be voiced in a variety of voicings but those voicings are not called inverted voicings, they are called voicings of an inverted chord. Chordal inversion is a harmonic concept, devoid of octave considerations. The voicing concept depends on octave placement and is purely structural or spacial rather than harmonic in that changing the octaves of individual voices in a voicing may produce new voicings, but does not change the harmony underlying those voicings. Consider that voicings don't even have to be voicings of chords. Arbitrary collections of pitches can be voiced. Incomplete chordal subsets can be voiced. Diads can be voiced. Even the single notes of melodies can be voiced as unisons or octaves. Please rewrite or remove the part that says "Which note is on the bottom determines the inversion." It's not true for voicings, only chords. Another Stickler (talk) 10:02, 24 January 2010 (UTC)


Arranging is not like flower arrangement? Hyacinth (talk) 04:43, 7 December 2008 (UTC)

No; it's like flower arranging. An arrangement is just one instance. Arranging is the whole skill. See [1]. The dictionaries agree that an arrangement (flower or music or meeting, etc.) is the product of arranging. When people arrange to meet, they are arranging a meeting. The time and place they agree on is their meeting arrangement. That's why music schools teach "arranging" not "arrangement". -- Another Stickler (talk) 20:31, 8 December 2008 (UTC)
Wouldn't it be the same with composing? We're not a music school. Hyacinth (talk) 08:46, 23 December 2008 (UTC)
For some reason it's not the same with composition. You'd expect them to be the same, but they're not. Arranging (noun) is the art of arranging (verb) arrangements (noun), but composition (noun) is the art of composing (verb) compositions (noun).
"11. the art of composing music" -- Random House Unabridged Dictionary 2006.
"3.a. The art or act of composing a musical or literary work." -- American Heritage Dictionary 2006
Check here
-- Another Stickler (talk) 23:59, 23 December 2008 (UTC)

Drop voicings.[edit]

I'd like to add this about drop voicings but I don't have the software to make the illustrations. Please somebody make some illustrations and add that a "drop 2" voicing is created by taking the second voice from the top of a close position voicing and dropping it an octave. For example, (reading up) [C, G, E] and [E, C, G] and [G, E, C] are all "drop 2" voicings of a C triad. Similarly, "drop 3" voicings are found by dropping the third voice from the top of a close position voicing down an octave such as this "drop 3" voicing of a C7 chord [C, Bb, E, G]. By the same method, there are also "drop 2 and 4" voicings such as [C, G, E, Bb] and [G, C, Bb, E]. (That person that said a "drop 5" voicing means the 5th of the chord is dropped below the 3rd of a chord had it all wrong. The numbers have nothing to do with the chord members, but rather with the voice numbers, counting down from the highest voice as voice 1. I took that error out of the article.) Another Stickler (talk) 10:37, 24 January 2010 (UTC)

The section and explanation is added. Someone please add the illustrations. (talk) 22:53, 17 May 2015 (UTC)

Expert attention[edit]

Why, what, where, and how does this article need attention from an expert on the subject? Hyacinth (talk) 17:08, 13 June 2010 (UTC)

Tag removed. Hyacinth (talk) 08:03, 5 December 2010 (UTC)

Need Clean Definition of Voicing[edit]

CarrotSalad (talk) 21:22, 6 November 2010 (UTC)In music composition and arranging, a voicing is the instrumentation and vertical spacing and ordering of the pitches in a chord (which notes are on the top or in the middle, which ones are doubled, which octave each is in, and which instruments or voices perform each). Which note is on the bottom determines the inversion. Voicing is the manner in which one distributes, or spaces, notes and chords among the various instruments and spacing or simultaneous vertical placement of notes in relation to each other.

This is just way too complicated and ambiguous. The following definition is simple and clear.

Voicing: A voicing is the selection of at least one tone for each of the chord's pitch classes.

Here's the simple definition if the instrumentation is really part of the voicing.

Voicing is a selection of tones, at least one for each of the chord's pitch classes, together with their distribution amongst various instruments.

Look, the vertical spacing, ordering, which notes are on top or in the middle, which ones are doubled, which octave each is in simply is a complicated kludgy way of determining exactly what tones are to be played in the first place. Can any one really suggest that if someone fully describes a voicing then they would have no idea of the exact tones to be played? Once you know the exact tones, you know everything else. In early January 2011, I will make the changes myself unless someone else ways in first.

Here's the definition from, which agrees with mine, except for the fact that this one regards a voicing as a sound produced by a selection of tones, and not as a selection of tones that produces the sound.

voic·ing (vo̵is′iŋ) noun The sound of a chord as determined by the selection of the component notes and the way the notes are distributed to the instruments —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:33, 7 November 2010 (UTC)

Do you have any suggestions? Hyacinth (talk) 06:40, 16 November 2010 (UTC), "at least one for each of the chord's pitch classes" is incorrect. Omissions are fine. Consider what jazz pianists call "rootless voicings" for the left hand, which don't get in the way of the bass player. For example, a G13#11 chord has seven members [G B D F A C# E], but a pianist might play any of various fewer-than-seven-note left-hand voicings, such as (reading upward) [F B E], [F A B E], [F B C# E], [F A C# E], [F A B C# E], etc. (talk) 02:02, 16 September 2013 (UTC)

Removed misleading sentence[edit]

"Which note is on the bottom determines the inversion."

I removed that misleading sentence. There wasn't room in the edit summary to say why. Voicings don't have "inversions". Only chords have inversions, which determine the bass of the chord, and the bass of a chord is not the same thing as the bottom note in a voicing.

A chord has exactly as many inversions as members, or, if you prefer, one fewer inversions than members. For example, a triad, harmonically speaking, has root position, where the root is in the bass, first inversion, where the third is in the bass, and second inversion, where the fifth is in the bass. But each of those inversions can generate indefinite numbers of voicings.

The bottom note in a voicing doesn't have to be the bass of the chord, especially when instruments are combined. If a pianist and bass player play together, it's likely that the pianist will avoid playing the same note as the bass player and will choose voicings in higher registers that have different notes in the bottom. That doesn't change the harmonic sense of the chord inversion. It's just a voicing for that instrument. For example, with a chord progression from G7 to C9, the bass will probably play G to C notes (the roots), but the pianist might play rootless three-note voicings in the left hand (reading up) F B D (seventh on the bottom and missing the root) to E Bb D (third on the bottom and missing the root and fifth) while playing the melody with the right hand. (talk) 03:40, 22 March 2015 (UTC)


Does anyone else see problems in the Doubling section? It's cited but it looks wrong. I don't have the cited book to check if the errors come from the book or the contributor. I suspect that the errors are paraphrases rather than quotes, but I'm hesitant to correct them without access to the original. Does anyone else have it? Can you fix it? The Debussy's Sarabande example should be called "parallelism", not "non-octave doubling" (which I don't think is a real term). There's a huge sentence that tries to define too many terms at the same time and confuses itself. For example, it contains "doubling at other the same pitch or at different octaves." Grammatically, that's saying that all intervals are equivalent to primes or octaves! "Melodic doubling in parallel" sounds like a made-up crush of multiple terms. Doubling means duplicating the same pitch. Everything else is parallelism of one sort or another. Some of the applicable well-defined terms include "parallel motion" (where the direction must be consistent but not necessarily the width), parallel octaves (a way of strengthening the melody), parallel fifths (a thing to supposedly avoid in certain counterpoint idioms but which is well used in various other types of music), chromatic parallelism (where the width must be strictly maintained), and diatonic parallelism (where the width can vary as long as the number of scale steps is consistent). Sometimes people also say "doubled at the octave", which is equivalent to "parallel octaves". "8vb" means "an octave below", "8va" means "an octave above". "15vb" and "15va" are similar for double octaves. I don't think anyone ever says "doubled at a non-octave" though. (talk) 02:18, 28 March 2015 (UTC)