The Jazz Pianist:  Left Hand Voicings and Chord Theory



  • An LJP review by "Trombonehead"

    I'm your average beginner/intermediate level pianist who loves jazz piano.

    It's my passionate hobby and I am basically self-taught, but also play trombone and bass. I've got a big stack of "How To" jazz piano books, including several of the famous ones listed on this site.

    I've also looked at many of the online instructional sites like the great Doug McKenzie's. After plunking and bumbling and stumbling my way along for a couple of years, I have to say that without a doubt---my vote for the BEST book I have found for the beginner/intermediate is this one by Fred Hughes.

    No other book I have tried (and I've gone through a big stack) focuses on basic foundations like this one. If you master it all, you definitely will have the tools to go on to another level.

    I think Fred's approach is brilliant.

    He totally avoids long-winded academic discussion of complex jazz theory, and starts right off with basic left-hand voicings. He then builds progressively through the complete advanced spectrum of jazz chords, in every key through the cycle of fifths.

    The greatest thing about his method for the beginner/intermediate is that his left-hand voicings are designed to introduce basic comping skills and chord harmony in a progressive way (with CD accompaniment)---without pulling of hair and gnashing of teeth and existential "angst"!! All the other books like Mark Levine's, etc. are great--- but the beginner/intermediate would be be far better to start off with Fred Hughes---then explore other advanced methods.

    The progressive lessons get more and more challenging, and if you can get through them all you will really have learned a lot.

    If anyone finds that understanding all the different chords is often incredibly confusing and frustrating, this book is a breath of fresh air. Fred Hughes should be commended. I honestly have NEVER seen another book with a such an intelligent, understandable, simple approach to playing EVERY chord through the cycle of fifths.

    Any beginner who can eventually work up to playing the basic arrangements of "Body and Soul" and "All The Things You Are" from this book will have achieved a huge amount.




  • Hi Fred,


    I'm 43 years old, and an hobbyist pianist. Although I took classes on and off since I was about 15, I never really pursued it seriously until the last 2-3 years.


    I just wanted to tell you that I think your book is the BEST and most practical book to learn about voicings and chords, and I wanted to give my sincere THANKS for writing this book. It is helping me a lot in my uphill struggle to become a decent piano player.


    All the other books I have seen are either incomplete, or take a reference work approach which many times does not help much in learning.


    I hope that you do continue writing books. If you did such a wonderful work with chords and voicings, I can only imagine what you could do with a volume on comping and rhythm for example. You might as well (time permitting of course), write some articles on your website (practice methods, etc...). From the way you wrote your book, it seems to me that you have a unique talent for teaching in a practical way, and I'm sure many would appreciate your insights...


    Best regards, and thanks again,



    Panama City, Republic of Panama


  • Fred,


    I just bought your book on left-hand voicings for piano. I teach band in a parochial school in Minneapolis, MN.

    I've just had time to glance through it quickly.  The presentation looks is printed large, which is easy to read.

    I like to find good material for myself, as well as for my students, on jazz piano and chord voicing and theory.
    Years ago(1950's, 1960's etc) material was scarce, so finding a book like yours is great.

    Your book could also be used by non-pianists who can at least read both clefs.

    I hope the book does well.

    Thank you.

    Minneapolis, Minnesota


  • Fred,


    Saw your presentation and bought your book at the TMEA Convention. Great workshop and what a well thought out and extremely useful book. A must for every band director! Glad I was one of the first to get it! Continued success to you!



    Spring, Texas