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What You Need to Know About Drop-2 Voicing

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In this JGT lesson, jazz guitarist Leon Rodriguez discusses why Drop-2 Voicing is important.

Four-part harmony on the guitar requires tried and true methodology. Learning Drop-2 Voicing is a must. Once you’ve gone through this exercise, you will not only understand it, but be able to build your own voicings with this method. We know that harmony is built by stacking 3rds, so we’ll need four strings for a four-note chord.

We first decide on a stringset of 4 for our: Root, 3rd, 5th and 7th. The first 3rd interval is Root and 3rd, C and E. We move that major 3rd interval up the fretboard on string pairs until we have enough total strings for a 4-note voicing. The root will be on the 4th string. Let’s build our Cmaj7 from the {4321}

When all adjacent intervals are 3rds, our strings are also adjacent. The neat stack of notes on the staff in 3rds, called tertian, has no ‘windows’ because they are all lines or all spaces. This is also called closed voicing. It sounds beautiful and consonant. Consider the fingerings across a 4-fret range. One finger per fret. Perfect!

In order to make the C triad a C dominant 7th, the fret range is expanded to 5 frets which is less comfortable although doable for most. When we make the Major or minor 6th chord, a 6-fret range, we are having to readjust our wrist to make the stretch. Intuitively, we now know that the descending top note above the triad is on the wrong side of root note.

While drop 2 voicings are used by keyboardists and arrangers for a myriad of reasons, this is the principal reason guitarists must have this process in our arsenal. Notice that; as the interval gets smaller relative to the 5th (G on the 2nd string) the fret range gets larger. That’s a big truth for all guitarists. Know that {21} stringset 5 fret unison line intuitively. Let’s start by knowing our objective for revoicing the chord:

In order to, retain our discipline of: 

1.) Staying as close to the one-finger-per-fret range, 2.) Keeping the defining melody/ top-note, 3.) Keeping strings adjacent to use advantage of expanding the range of chordal scales to 3 stringsets. {6543}, {5432}, and {4321}; we must then revoice the chord. Drop 2 revoicing is the preferred solution for the guitar.

Here’s root position tertian C major 7, a closed voicing. Let’s track the thinking one note at a time. It’s logical.

We have Shifted stringsets from {4321} to {5432}. We have also changed from a closed voicing root position CMaj7 to a 2nd Inversion Cmaj7/G with two 4ths and a Major 3rd interval. A drop 2 voicing. We will now expand on that voicing. 

The voicing is 5th,Root, 3rd, 7th. Think: Bass,Tenor, Alto, Soprano. One per string. Follow the C major scale (Not the chord spelling) along each string adding voices for a full descending Chordal scale. More on this next time. For a full expansion of the voicings see Volume 5 – Voicings; in my series on Fretbard Theory.

To be continued…Books and On-Line Private Lessons available at www.LeonRodriguezGuitar.com/shop


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