So, what the heck is a shell voicing, you ask? That's a term from jazz arranging, also used by jazz pianists, that refers to the basic essential notes of a chord. You ever hear a piano solo whare the guy snaps out those cool 2 and 3-note chords in his left hand that sound so full? Wanna learn how to do it on guitar? Well, here goes:

First, we need to know what the essential notes of a chord are. They are (in descending order of importance) the 3rd, 7th, added tones, root, fifth. In English, that means in, say, a C13 chord, the most important notes are: E, Bb, A, C, G, in that order. What is implied is that you can omit the least important notes if you don't want them. Usually, the fifth is the first to go. Then the root - especially if you have a bass player. What would you need with another root? With that in mind, let's look at some guitar shell voicings for various chords.

Cmaj7 voicings




Cmin7 voicings




C7 voicings




These are just a few voicings. With this concept in mind, you can construct shell voicings over just about any chord you can think of. Try it!


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