Drop2 – Tactics to Create Cutting-Edge Jazz Guitar Harmony

Drop2 voicings is probably one of the most important chord types that we use in jazz guitar. This video is going to demonstrate how you can embellish the melody you play with inner-voice movement and sometimes an extra layer of harmony. 

Exploring ideas like this are great for really understanding how the harmony moves and how each voice is moving. This will give you a great overview of the notes in the chord and also a lot of useful insight in what is possible with a chord voicing.

The Cadence

For this video I will demonstrate the ideas on a II V I in A minor. The basic A minor cadence would be:

Bm7(b5) E7(b9) Am6

Since we use melodic minor on tonic minor chords the A minor chord is an Am6.

The II and V chords are coming out of A harmonic minor.

The basic Drop2 voicings

To begin with it is probably useful to just go over the basic cadences on the top string set. This is shown in all inversions here below:

I have kept the voicings very basic but did opt for using a dim chord for the E7 to have the b9 in the chord.

Adding Extensions and alterations

One possible next step could be to add some more extensions to the chords. This can be done following the ideas that I went over in this lesson: https://jenslarsen.nl/jazz-chord-essentials-drop2-voicings-part-2/

To quickly demonstrate this you can look at the example below:

Here  the Bm7(b5) has an 11 which replaces the 3rd and the E7b9 has an b13 that replaces the 5th. The Am6 has an added 9 where the 9th(B) is replacing the root.

Inner-voices in a Minor Cadence

The first example has a half note top melody moving from A to C and finally B on the Am6(9).

The second highest voice is moving from D up to F on the E7(b9) and on the E7 it makes a small melodic movement with F, G and D. The is voice then resolves to E on the Am6.

On the Am6 the lowest voice travels from 6(F#) chromatically up to the Maj7(G#).

Melodic movement in more parts of the harmony.

In this second example the top note melody is moving on the Bm7(b5) and then the 2nd voice takes over on the E7. The E7 voicing on beat 3 has a #9 and also a #11 suspending the 3rd. The inner voice moves from A# to C and on the C the top note melody takes over and moves from F to G to resolve to the 5th(E) on Am.

On the Am the first voicing is an Am6(Maj7) and there is an inner voice melody travelling from G# to B on the final chord.

Counter Harmony – Counterpoint 2.0

The beginning of the 3rd example has the top note melody moving, similar to what was happening in the 2nd example. 

On the E7 the melody is a high C and under this I move all three voices adding a different layer of harmony. The first voicing is an E7(#9b13) and the idea is to move the #9 down to the b9 via the 9th. The way I do this is by adding B7 on the F# so that there’s a quick B7 passing chord under the sustained C note melody.

From there the E7 is resolved via a dim chord voicing to an Am6. On the Am6 the 2nd voice is moving from the 6th(F#) via the root to the Maj7(G#).


A practical way to learn this

The examples that I went over in this lesson are of course quite dense with innner-voice movement. I made them like this to demonstrate what is possible and to give you some ideas to make your own chord progressions.

When you want to work on this you should probably try either take one of the ideas I use (so one of the chords in the example) and then insert that into your playing. This will make it easier to work on getting used to thinking like this.


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You can also download the PDF of my examples here:

Drop2 – Inner-voice movement and Melody – Minor II V I

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