Silent Night Jazz Piano Chords and Accompaniment

Instructor
Jonny May
Quick Tip
Level 2
14:45

Learning Focus
  • Accompanying
  • Chords
  • Songs
Music Style
  • Contemporary
  • Holiday
  • Jazz Ballads
  • New Age
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Are you looking for  a way to play some very hip jazz piano chords for Silent Night? In today’s Quick Tip, you’ll learn a great Silent Night jazz piano accompaniment you can use while singing or playing with somebody else! The topics you’ll learn are:

  1. Rootless voicings and chord alterations
  2. Reharmonization

We’ll take this accompaniment four measures at a time and talk about each of these concepts as we move through the arrangement. Let’s get started!

Silent Night Jazz Piano Accompaniment: First Four Measures

Before we begin, feel free to follow along with our Smartsheet where you can slow things down, change the key, and loop sections for practice. In order to understand how to use these ideas, let’s begin by looking at the most vanilla chords for Silent Night:

Silent Night vanilla chords
Silent Night vanilla chords

The simplicity of this song lends itself well to reharmonization! Reharmonization means adding or changing harmonies to make the melody sound more interesting. Here’s the first four bars of our jazz arrangement of Silent Night:

Silent Night first four measures
Silent Night first four measures

As you can see, we’ve added a lot more chords here! These new chords follow a very common chord progression in jazz: the 3-6-2-5 progression. In the key of G, Bm7 is the 3 chord, E7 is the 6 chord, Am7 is the 2 chord, and D7 is the 5 chord. Normally, this progression would resolve to the 1 chord (GMaj7), but we’ve changed the chords in measure 4 to Dm7 and G7. These two chords are the 2 and 5 chords of CMaj7, the first chord of the next phrase in measure 5.

If all this is confusing, don’t worry! Here’s a way to conceptualize thinking about chords numerically in the key of G:

Diatonic 7th chords in G
Diatonic 7th chords in G

Essentially, this exercise helps you see where chords are in the key based on their position in the scale. Remember the key signature as you move up the scale!

LOOKING AT THE INDIVIDUAL CHORDS

Now let’s take a look at the chords in Silent Night individually. The first chord (GMaj7) is spelled F#-A-B-D. This is a rootless voicing because instead of playing the typical G-B-D-F#, we’ve removed the root (G) and added the 9th of the chord (A). This is called a chord extension or color note. Extensions are what gives jazz its wonderful harmonic color, and we’ll be using a lot of them in this Quick Tip!

The next chord is D7, and obviously there are some really hip notes we wouldn’t normally expect to see in D7! Let’s start with the actual voicing itself: C-D#-F#-G#-B. C and F# are the 7th and 3rd of the chord; the rest of the notes are either extensions (B) or alterations (D# and G#). D# is the b9 and G# is the #11 of the chord. These alterations create not only color, but dissonance as well! This combination of color and dissonance are another key component that makes up the sound of jazz. The precise chord symbol for this voicing is D13(b9#11). Cool!

The rest of the chords in this phrase are fairly straightforward. They are all typical rootless voicings jazz pianists use whenever we see these particular chord symbols. Focus on which notes are extensions (9, 11, or 13), and which are primary chord tones (3, 5, or 7).  This will help you gain a better understanding of how rootless voicings work. Let’s move on to the next four measures.

Second Phrase

Here are the next four measures:

Second four measures
Second four measures

We start with a beautiful CMaj9 chord (spelled E-G-B-D), then move immediately into another reharmonization. The next chord is F#7(b9) because the G natural on top of the voicing is the b9 of F#. This chord follows a 5-1 harmonic motion that resolves to Bm9 in the next measure (note the C# in the voicing). We then move on to G13 (note the E on top), resolving back to CMaj9. The progression repeats the same reharmonization as before, but with different alterations for F#7. This time, our voicing has an A natural and D natural, the #9 and #5 of F#7. This chord then resolves to Bm9, followed by E7(b9).

Once you can play through the first 8 measures comfortably, let’s move on to the final four measures!

Last Phrase

Here are the last four measures of Silent Night:

Last four measures
Last four measures

The first chord is Am9 (which actually resolves the previous two chords: Bm7-E7(b9)-Am7 is a 2-5-1), followed by B7(#9#5). Dominant 7 chords with the #9 and #5 is one of the most common altered dominant chords in jazz, and we have 2 of them in this arrangement already! This B7(#9#5) resolves to Em9, which then moves to A13 (notice the 13, F#, on the top here).

Finally, the arrangement ends with Am9, D13 (the same voicings as the first phrase), then GMaj9 and D13(b9#11). That’s it! Once you can play the whole arrangement through, try singing the melody along with the chords. You’ll find that it sounds very, very hip!

If you want to dig into more detail about the topics covered today, check out our Piano Chord Extensions, Coloring Dominant Chords With Extensions, Piano Chord Alterations, 2-5-1 Chord Extension & Alteration Exercises, Passing Chords & Reharmonization 1 and Passing Chords & Reharmonization 2 courses.

Thanks for learning, and see you in the next Quick Tip!

Blog written by Austin Byrd // Quick Tip by Jonny May

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