Drop 2 chords are one of the most important types of chord voicings in Jazz, and especially when it comes to the bebop or hardbop styles. This lesson is focusing on the Drop 2 voicings on the middle string set. I played and transcribed an example on a medium jazz blues. The example illustrates how great these are for groove-oriented medium swing comping.
What are Drop 2 Voicings
If you are not familiar with drop2 voicings the name may seem confusing. It isn’t necessary to know how they are constructed, but it can also be nice to understand the principle.
Below in example 2 I have first written out a root position F7.
The notes in this chord are low to high: F, A, C, Eb. The main voicing is playable but as you can see in the video the inversions of this voicing are not practical for comping (or in fact playing on the guitar).
If we number the notes in the voicing in order of pitch high to low:
F A C Eb
4 3 2 1
The creating the drop2 voicing is then done by moving the second highest note (in this case C) down an octave.
This is shown in the 2nd bar of example 2. The first version of the drop2 voicing is not a lot easier to play but in the 2nd half of the bar I have a more useful fingering for the same notes.
Inversions and adding chord extensions to the drop2 chords
With the voicing from example 2 it is now possible to make some inversions.
The first bar of example 3 are the inversions of the F7 voicing.
When making inversions on the same string set of a chord you need to order the notes in pitch, which for this chord could be: F A C Eb.
For each string in the first voicing you can then move the voice on each string up.
The first voicing is C F A Eb and this means that the 2nd one will be Eb A C F.
Rules for adding extensions to a chord
For adding extensions to the F7 chord there are two rules we can use:
- The 9th replaces the root
- The 13th replaces the 5th
This means that if we want to turn our 1st voicing (C F A Eb) into an F7(9) then we can replace the root(F) with the 9th(G). This yields the voicing on beat 1 of bar 2: C G A Eb.
The rest of the bar are then the inversions of this voicing.
In the same way we can replace the 5th(C) with the 13th(D) to and get the voicings in bar 3.
Bar 4 is combining these two approaches so that we have a dom7th voicing with both a 9th and 13th.
From these two rules we now have 4 different types of F7 voicings. The same thing is possible with Bb7 and C7 in the F blues.
Groovy Jazz Blues comping
The slightly darker sounding middle string set works really well for hard bop comping focused on groove while still conveying the harmony.
The example starts with an F7(13) voicing. The top note melody moves from F to G. This idea is repeated on the Bb7 where it is played with first a Bb7(9) and then a Bb(9,13). THe F7 in bar 3 repeats the F and the G.
Bar 4 is turned into a II V to Bb to help the progression move to the IV in bar 5. The F7alt voicing can be seen as a B7(9,13) voicing. This way of using the tritone substitute to generate altered dominant voicings is very useful for drop 2 chords.
On the Bb7 the melody is also alternating between the root and the 9th. This also a good example of why it is useful to consider the drop 2 voicings variations of each other.
IN Bar 6 the Bdim is using the symmetrical aspect of dim chords moving the same chord voicing around.
The II V cadence to Gm in bar 8 is also using voicing symmetry. The first chord is a basic Aø drop2 (which is of course the same as our F7(9) voicings) and this is moved up a minor 3rd for the D7. This becomes a D7(b9,b13) voicing: F#, C, Eb and Bb.
The cadence back to F is first a Gm7 and Gm7(9). The C7alt is a C7 with a #9 and b13.
On the turnaround the drop2 chords are using the same ones used previously except for the D7(b9) which is an Ebdim chord.
Using the drop 2 chords
Of course you can get a lot out of practicing the inversions and learning the example that I played and included here. At the same time you are probably getting more out of the voicings if you also begin to comp through a blues with them on your own. I show some simple ways of doing this at the end of the video, which might be useful to check out.
Check out more examples of Drop 2 comping!
If you want to go a bit further with the drop 2 chordsyou can check out some of the lessons in my webstore on this topic. Below is a 3 chorus example on the standard There Will Never Be Another You. I have one on All The Things You Are as well.
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