I hope that you are practicing what I taught in the last lesson about using the 9th in specific voicings. Don’t worry if it takes a while to get–those voicings will become instinctive and will greatly help your playing.One thing I want to mention at this point is that there is one particular finger you should keep an eye on.
When I am watching church pianists, one of the first things I notice is what they do with the thumb on the right hand. The vast majority of church pianists usually use that finger to double the root. This is a big mistake. It does not help you a bit to double the root unless the root is also the melody note. You actually want to get to the point where you are playing as many unique notes as possible in your chords. I have seen church pianists play eight notes at once but only three unique notes (root, 3rd and 5th); in my opinion, it would better to only play four notes if all of them are unique.
So what should you do with the thumb on the right hand (assuming you are playing melody in the top of the right hand)? The thumb should regularly either play the 7th, the 9th, or any other note besides the root. No, that is not a hard fast rule, but give your thumb a little attention and see if that does not help your sound.
I want to take a few more lessons to talk about the 9th and I am going to take things a bit slower. If you can just learn one small thing a week, you will be doing great. One of those small things that will help you a lot is learning to use the 9th or 2nd in the ending of a song.
Remember that the 9th and 2nd are the same note. You call it a 9th if there is a seventh in the chord and a 2nd if there is no seventh. Don’t let this confuse you.
The 2nd/9th is a great color note because it really is not too dissonant. Also, it is a great note to add to the last chord of any song because it adds a bit of richness without giving you the feeling that it needs to resolve. I probably use it in the last chord 80% of the time.
I want to give you a few ways to end songs with this note. I am using the hymn “I Surrender All” in these examples, and because the key is Db, the Eb is the 2nd/9th.
Let’s take a quick look at the last chord. Most church pianists will naturally play a F, Ab, and D in the right hand in this situation. Here, I am substituting an Eb (2nd) for the Ab (5th). The 5th is not necessary in this chord at all, but you especially do not need it in the right hand because it is already being played in the left hand.
Notice the 2nd is used as a grace note in the last chord. There are times where this note sounds too heavy. You can make the sound more subtle by either rolling the chord or playing it as a grace note. It will take some practice for you to instinctively know when you need to play it differently from other notes in the chord.
Here, I play the 2nd in the last two chords. Note the 5th is left out of the last chord completely and the top note of the chord is the third rather than the more obvious root. I love this sound.
I will talk about the connection between arpeggios and the 2nd/9th later but want to introduce it here because this is such a common ending. Don’t be intimidated. All you do is play F, Ab, Db, and Eb in a run four times in a row. The 2nd works perfectly in this kind of run.
Continue to work on adding 9ths to hymns of your choice. Start by incorporating in the specific voicings we discussed in the last lesson. Also, practice ending songs with the 9th in the final chords.