Drop 2 Voicing – What Are They & Examples

Published Categorized as Chords

Well, I suppose you are here to expand your knowledge of chordal extension and four-note voicings, eh? Or, perhaps you are simply here out of sheer curiosity’s sake? Or, you might even have found yourself here after hearing your favorite jazz idol speak of this holy grail of harmonic discovery, drop 2 voicings?

A drop 2 chord is essentially a seventh chord that is built by dropping the second-highest note of a closed position chord a whole octave, turning it into the bass note of the chord.

Whatever your reason for being here, may I be the first to welcome you along for the ride as we attempt to elucidate for you today the ins and outs of drop 2 voicings? We will run through what it means to use drop 2 voicings as well as outline some examples through which to better understand the concept.

Table of Contents

Drop 2 Voicing – What Are They & Examples

What Is a Drop 2 Chord?

If drop 2 voicings are inherently formed with drop 2 chords, then it stands to reason that we will need to understand the latter before we can come to understand the former. Though it might sound scary, there really is not as much to drop 2 chords as you might think and you will no doubt pick it up without a hitch.

In essence drop 2 chords are a way to learn to play the basic open 7th chords on guitar with a twist – and, though open position chords might seem like something a little too simple for your means, they are wholly useful as they are easy to play on 4 adjacent strings, meaning there is more space for you, the player, to experiment with chordal extensions and note voicings.

A drop 2 chord is essentially a seventh chord that is built by dropping the second-highest note of a closed position chord a whole octave, turning it into the bass note of the chord.

We might even think of it as one of the slash chords, in fact – i.e. those chords whose root position chords are themselves modified, leading them to be divided between their principal harmonic makeup and the new root note.

However, where slash chords are chords whose root position note is changed however the musician or composer sees fit, drop 2 voicings are one whose bass note is changed based on the specific parameters of the voicing. The drop 2 voicings in particular are one that uses the second-highest note of the chord as the root note.

A drop 1 chord would be one that uses the highest note as the root position note, just as a drop 3 chord would be one that uses the 3rd highest note as the root note, and just as a drop 4 chord would be one that uses the 4th highest note in the whole chord as its root note.

Why Is a Drop 2 Chord?

Drop 2 voicing chords are used through the western hemisphere, though have found particular home in the arms of guitarists, especially those playing more harmonically complex and simultaneously improvisatory music like jazz.

The guitar’s string groupings are separated more or less by intervals of perfect 4ths, which has been shown to have a tendency to make most close positions chords cumbersome and impractical to play – especially so if the music it is within moves fast and is itself tonally and harmonically complex.

Drop voicings are often called upon to do the dirty work and to save the guitarist in question a whole lot of hassle. Open chords are no doubt the most commonly utilized voicings on the guitar at all – not to mention other similar fretted instruments, for the unparalleled volume and resonance they can produce – these drop voicings allow far more freedom for the guitarist to move around the fingerboard at will.

This means both horizontally and vertically, permitting far more freedom for the guitarist to play any chords in any key in any area of the guitar’s four-octave range. All of this without the use of a capo!

These kinds of voicings find a strong home in jazz circles among jazz guitar players – famously used abundantly by idols like Joe Pass & Wes Montgomery – for the simple fact that they allow a guitarist to move between points of harmonic interest far faster while still keeping all of the essential harmonic data intact.

Suddenly, Joe Pass’ uncanny ability to voice himself out of basically every harmonic situation becomes a lot more clear…

Drop 2 Chord Example

If you are a little confused then we would do our best to illustrate this technique with an example:

The Diatonic Cycle of Fourths in C Major: Cmaj7 – Fmaj7 – Bm7b5 – Em7 – Am7 – Dm7 – G – Cmaj7

Being the very center of western tonality, it makes sense to start with the C major scale through the diatonic cycle of fourths: C major 7 – F major 7 – B minor 7 flat 5 – E minor 7 – A minor 7 – D minor 7 – G 7 – C major 7.

The first port of call here would simply be to play each chord progressions separately in their own right, as I imagine that to play this cycle through one after the other might be a little difficult, at least at first. Once you do have the actual voicing of the chord down, however, you should try playing the chord voicings in sequence, no matter how slowly.

It is in the sequence that you will get the clearest idea of how the drop 2 voicings can act as a lubricant between so many different points of tonality and harmony.

So, looking at it theoretically, you ought to be able to see that the two chords at the end of this cycle are the very same C major 7, and yet they are being played in pretty different ways on different parts of the fretboard. What gives?

Well, they are both inversions of the C major 7 chord. Where the first in the cycle has the root note C as its bass note, that at the end of the cycle instead uses the 5th scale degree as its root note, that being the 2nd highest note in the scale excluding the 7th scale degree, which is anyhow represented by the highest played note, the B on the high E string.

Final Tones

So, there you have it! Hopefully, you are feeling somewhat the wiser about the world of the drop 2 voicings, what makes it tick, the pros and cons, and how you might go about using it in the real world, in your own musical peregrinations, and in those you share with band mates and the like.

Hopefully, you are at least able to see how important voicings like this are in expanding your chordal knowledge and sending your own playing, whether compositionally and/or improvisationally, to another level. Visit our Guitar Chord Chart for Drop Tuning article to learn more about guitar drops.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

How do I practice drop voicing 2?

The best way to practice drop 2 voicing chords is to go about it however you might practice any other similarly categorized area of guitar theory, with much gusto and plenty of patience. Being such an essential part of jazz guitar chords playing, this is no doubt going to present itself as more of a barrier than a passageway, at least at first. This is an inherently theoretical aspect of guitar harmony and tonality, and so I can imagine and personally justify the shrugged shoulders and exhalations, though it will do you a world of good in the long run, even just to think it through properly.

What is a drop voicing?

A drop voicing is a way to reimagine a four-note chord, such as what might be used in a canonical jazz piece. If we take any such chord itself, it is said to be drop voiced when any of the notes within the chord other than the bass note are used as the bass note. A drop 1 voicing will be a chord whose highest pitched note is dropped an octave and used as the bass note. Likewise, drop 2 voicings will use the 2nd highest note dropped an octave as the bass note. In much the same way, a drop 3 voicing is one whose 3rd highest note is used as the bass note when dropped down an octave of course.

What does drop 3 voicing mean?

A drop voicing is a way to reimagine a four-note chord, such as what might be used in a canonical jazz piece. If we take any such chord itself, it is said to be drop voiced when any of the notes within the chord other than the bass note are used as the bass note. A drop 3 voicing is one in which the 3rd highest note in the chord is used as the bass note. Now, the whole chord does not move up a whole octave to accommodate for this, but rather this 3rd highest pitch is dropped an octave.

What does Drop 2 and drop 3 mean?

A drop voicing is a way to reimagine a four-note chord, such as what might be used in a canonical jazz piece. If we take any such chord itself, it is said to be drop voiced when any of the notes within the chord other than the bass note are used as the bass note. In this context, drop 2 voicings will be one that uses the 2nd highest note within the chord as the bass note, dropping the pitch a whole octave to accommodate for the rest of the chord, rather than the other way around. Likewise, a drop 3 voicing is one that uses the 3rd highest pitch as the bass note, dropped an octave, with all of the other notes moving around it to accommodate.

By Nate Pallesen

Nate is just your average (above average) guitar player. He's no Joe Satriani, Jimi Hendrix or Jimmy Page - wait this site is about acoustic guitars (sorry) He's no Django Reinhardt, Chet Atkins, or Michael Hedges, wait? who!? He's no Robert Johnson, Eric Clapton or Ben Harper - more familiar? Anyway you get the point :-)

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