Over Extending Chords – “Phat” Chords

Looking through the internet and especially at Gospel piano tutorials you often find the term “Phat” chords. These “Phat” chords are basically extremely extended and altered chords using both hands creating that deeper sound. It may sound awesome as first due to the complexity. However just because something is complex it does not necessarily mean that is it good. Over extending chords often makes it difficult to identify the correct key or keys used. Over over extending can be a sign of not really knowing the theory behind getting nice harmonic tension in chords.

Check out Robert Glasper, deep Neo Soul / Jazz with a lot of harmonic tension within his chords textures however I do not see over extended “Phat” chords being played, no need. He is skillful enough to be able to identify what keys “at a minimum” are need to setup tension between chords, and this is the most important thing. Try watching his hands next time and see for yourself, he is playing a lot of 7th major and minor chords. It is the way the chords are strung together which makes it sound so special.

These so called “Phat” chords do sound nice, and are good in church as long as the singer is familiar with the progressions, however they are not always required for theory.

A very good example is below, have a look at how the roots of the chords (mainly 3rd and 7th) are targeted in this Autumn leaves improvised piece.


11 thoughts on “Over Extending Chords – “Phat” Chords”

  1. Trying to learn some Phat chords, but I thing I should try something with more theory first. Not too many people give enough explanations for the chords charges etc..

  2. When most people are teaching those phat chords, they never give the actual chord name or the keys. You only ever hear them talk about the invidual notes that make up the chord.

    1. You are probably referring to a lot of the African american gospel players. I guess its the way they learned to play, a lot of improvisation and ear work. Also learning from others rather than forking out big money to go to piano schools to learn the theory.
      Different upbringing, different way of playing and instrument.

  3. I love what your doing here! As a website owner myself, i can really appreciate your effort. I’d like to support your site by buying your loop. Do you take PayPal?
    I’ve read all your posts, and this is the only one thay kind of has me stumped a bit. The part about extended chords not needed for theory. As a gospel artist, I’d like to share my two cents on this, if that’s cool?
    I didn’t take the time to listen to the example, so I apologize for that, but alot of times “phat” doesn’t really mean extending more, but rather filling the chord up. Stacking it with both hands and playing with your triad inversions contained in the chord. But yeah, Gospel definately has alot of elements that haven’t been explored too much in neo soul. D’angelo is about the only one I can think of who’s touched on preacher chords even lol.

    Again, love what you’re doing here! I can see your passion and dedication in the amount of work you’ve put into your site. Amazing!

    1. Thank you, and I do take Paypal.
      I appreciate your comments on the extended / phat chords. What I like to tell people is that deep and tense chromatic movement which you hear a lot in Neo Soul can be achieved without filled out chords, although filling the chords out may give a fuller sound for a final product e.g. recording. I just don’t want people to get put off by complex chords and thing that is the only way to achieve sounds in the R&B Neo Soul genre. The frame work can be done with simple 7ths Maj and Min I believe. Then those chords can be filled out with more complex chords once you are more comfortable.
      Anyway – take a listen to some of the chord progressions I have. Some complex, other no so. However everything off the top of my head.


      1. Very good point! I love your playing btw! Beautiful.

        I purchased your loop, and I would encourage everyone who enjoys Hezekiah immense effort here to support him as well, it really does take a lot of work to provide a website. And he does it for FREE! Show some love to SOULFUL KEYS! 🙂

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.