Tag Archives: drop 2&4

Allan Holdsworth Chords – Voicings and Inversions

Allan Holdsworth is famous for his very beautiful but also quite difficult and advanced jazz chords. In this video I am going to start with some voicings that I checked out from Holdsworth and apply them to a II V I. I then go over how to invert them and demonstrate how you can generate more great chord voicings from this material.

Taking a voicing and inverting it is probably the most efficient way to find more chords and it is also a great exercise to check or improve your knowledge of the fretboard.

The II V I example

The main example is a II V I using some of the voicings that I picked up from Allan Holdsworth.

The focus of this lesson is on the larger voicings with 4 notes spread out over 2 octaves. The starting point is shown here below with two chords per bar.

When I made this I was just planning to make a few examples of how to apply voicings like this to a II V I. When I made this example I realized that the Cmaj7 chords were inversions of each other and that made me take this approach to the lesson.

This type of chord voicing is to me is most useful for sustained voicings. The point of playing a structure like this is to really show case the way the combination of notes sound. That means that when I use these voicings I am not trying to convey a groove or work with them. 

You could in that respect argue that Holdsworth doesn’t really have a voicing vocabulary that allows him to comp in that way, which he also never really did.

How to make inversions – Inversions for the Cmaj7 voicing

Strictly speaking this is a C6/9 voicing since the notes are G,A,D & E., but since maj6/9 and maj7 chords are pretty much interchangeable I have notated it as a maj7. I guess the thinking is that it is just a tonic chord in a major scale.

When inverting voicings the idea is that you have to order the notes in pitch within an octave and use that as a reference to find the inversions.

For the Cmaj7 this is shown here below. 

The original voicing is (from low to high) G,D,A,E. If we order those in pitch we get: G A D E (as shown in the 2nd bar)

This yields a way of moving to other inversions.

 The original voicing is G,D,A,E. If we move that down an inversion (using the same strings and the row of notes) we get E,A,G,D and in that way the rest of the inversions are created.

Inversions for Dm7

The Dm7 voicing is a Dm7(9,11) and the notes are F,C,G and E. 

Notice how stacks of 5ths seems to reappear in these voicings.

If we order the notes in pitch it gives us the row: E,F,G,C

With this row we have can produce the 3 other inversions of this chord. In the 2nd voicing I move one of the voicings from the 4th to the 3rd string to make it easier to play.

The Altered dominant inversions

The Altered dominant chord in this lesson is a G7(b5b13) voicing, as shown here below.

When we order the notes in a pitch row we get: Eb,F,B and Db.

Again this is used to create the other inversions by moving up and down in the tone row on each string.

Using the inversions

The goal with making the inversions is of course also to put the voicings together in new examples of II V I voicing sets.

In the examples below combines three different inversions in a II V I.

The first one is using a descending top note melody from G to E. It is often easier to move from chord to chord while descending since the voice-leading is naturally moving down. 

The 2nd example is going against this and has a top note melody that moves up.

One of the things that is an advantage with these voicings is that the way the notes are spread around the octaves makes them less obvious for voice leading. 

This makes it easier to make other choices as shown here below:

Inversions of everything

The idea of making inversions of chord voicings is useful on several levels for your jazz guitar skills.

  1. It is very useful to be aware of exactly what notes you are playing in a chord voicing. 
  2. The process is a great way to solve problems with fingerings for chords
  3. You stay training your knowledge of the fretboard
  4. You get some new voicings that might be extremely useful

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Allan Holdsworth Voicings on a II V I

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Drop2&4 voicings – Part 1

We are all looking for ways to lay down chords so that the harmony is presented in a rich and exciting way. Chord voicings with large intervals and a big range can be a very powerful tool to play long sustained chords that sound full but and still clear and interesting. Drop 2&4 voicings are a good way to approach this systematically and in this lesson I am going to go over how you can convert your Drop2 Voicings into Drop 2&4 voicings.

To use the material that I am going to cover in this lesson you are probably better off first knowing Drop2 voicings which are by many considered standard chord vocabulary for jazz. If you are not familiar with Drop2 voicings you can check out my lessons on it here:  http://jenslarsen.nl/jazz-chord-essentials-drop-2-voicings-part-1/

The layout of this lesson is that I am first going to go over what a Drop 2&4 voicing is and then am going to explain how you can convert a drop2 voicing into a drop 2&4 voicing.

Build up of a Drop 2&4 voicing

If you look at the first D7 chord in example 1 you can see that it is a D7 as a stack of thirds.

Let’s number the notes from the top we get: 1(C), 2(A), 3(F#), D(4).

Means that we have 2 & 4 (the notes A and D) that we can drop down an octave (beat 2 of bar 1 and dropped down on beat 3 of bar 1).

If we then move the F# to another string to make it easy to play we have the drop 2&4 voicing that is shown on beat 4.

Since we don’t use the stacked 3rds and it’s inversion of the chords a lot on guitar (mainly beacuse they are virtually unplayable) It makes more sense to learn these voicings by starting with something we already know like the Drop2 voicings.

The drop2 voicing of the 1st chord is shown on beat 1 of bar 2. Since we already have the 2 dropped we just need to drop the 4 (which is of course still the D because the 2(A) has been dropped down already)

The rule to convert the drop2 voicing to a drop 2&4 voicing is to take the 2nd lowest note and drop that an octave.

Drop2&4 voicings - Part 1 - ex 1

The reason for creating the voicing this way is that we get a very consistent fingering where we have on string in the middle that is not used and we get a playable version of  the voicing directly from the drop2 voicing that we already know.

The 4 main chord types as drop 2&4

If you look at the diatonic 7th chords in a major scale you have 4 basic types: Maj7, m7,Dom7 and m7b5. With those 4 types covered we have a good base to play most songs and we can also use them as a starting point when adding extensions or alterations.

In this lesson I am using chords from the key of G major to demonstrate the different chord voicings.

Now that we have the method described above we can take the inversions of the drop2 voicings and make drop2&4 voicings from them:

Drop2&4 voicings - Part 1 - ex 2

Drop2&4 voicings - Part 1 - ex 3

Drop2&4 voicings - Part 1 - ex 4

Drop2&4 voicings - Part 1 - ex 5

It is worth noticing that there are of course other ways to place the notes on the fretboard, but this method yields a complete and consequent way to work with the voicings which is why I have only used those fingering sets.

II V I progressions with drop2&4 voicings

To demonstrate how you can use the drop 2&4 voicings I have made three examples of II V I cadences in G major and used the drop 2&4 vocicings. Since the drop2 voicings behave just like the drop2 voicings we can apply the same rules for adding extensions and alterations.

The first example is a completely simple version of the II V I using the basic chord voicings around the 10th fret. I chose to resolve the dominant upwards even if it could have resolved to the voicing below as well. In this way the F# is moved up to G.

Drop2&4 voicings - Part 1 - ex 6


In the 2nd line I am still using basic voicings from examples 2-5 but now I am using the chord voicings from the 3rd of the chord to add a 9th to all the chords. For the Am7 I use Cmaj7, D7 an F#m7b5 and the Gmaj7 is played with a Gmaj7 voicing though I could make it into a Bm7 voicing by changing the G on the D string to an A.

Drop2&4 voicings - Part 1 - ex 7

The final example is making use of an altered dominant. The way I am coming up with the altered dominant voicing is described in this lesson: http://jenslarsen.nl/play-standard-2-types-drop2-chords/ It is in fact a m7b5 voicing from the 7th of the chord, so in this case it’s a Cm7b5 standing in for a D7alt.

For the rest the voicings are straight forward Am7 and Gmaj7 voicings as shown in example 2-5.

Drop2&4 voicings - Part 1 - ex 8

I hope you can use the examples and the voicings to create some interesting sounds and expand your voicing and sonic vocabulary. I think that given the construction and range of these chords they are better off being used as sustained long sounds than voicings you just use as you would normally to play chord stabs over a standard, but do experiment to find the use for it that suits you the best.

If you want to study the examples away from the video or article you can download a pdf here:

Drop2&4 voicings – Part 1

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