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Open Voicing (or Spread Voicing)

A style of musical arranging or orchestration in which the notes of chords are assigned across a range wider than one octave. The lowest note of an open voicing is almost always the root of the chord; occasionally it may be the fifth.

Here’s a simple example of open voicing: Start with a C Major triad Middle C (C3), E, and G. Now move the C down one octave (to C2). Next lower the G one octave, to G2. Leave the E where it is and add a high C (C4). C2 – G2 – E3 – C4 is the resulting open-voiced chord, spanning two octaves.

In big band arranging, chords voiced in this manner were often called “pads“, and were used in much the way we now use synth pads.

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