96 Jazz Guitar Chords in 10 minutes: how to learn Drop 2 and Drop 3 voicings for Jazz Guitarists

 

Here’s a clever way to learn 96 jazz guitar chords in a few minutes:

  • Learn Drop 2 and Drop 3 voicings (2 things to learn)
  • … for 4 chord qualities (maj7, min7, dom7, m7b5)
  • … at each fret (12 frets on the guitar)

TWO times FOUR times TWELVE = 96

So, this whole post will be about “Drop” voicings and more specifically how to play them on the fretboard. They are very foundational, as Jazz guitarists of all level will sooner or later learn Drop 2 and Drop 3 voicings. Here’s the original website page that discussed those jazz guitar chords on the website …

In very few words, Drop voicings are a way for us to cope with chords that would be otherwise impossible to play. And I’m specifically pointing my guitarist’s index finger at closed voicings. Those bastards!

If you look at virtually any theoretical explanation about chord construction, you’ll soon see a bunch of stacked third on staff paper. Like this:

closedvoicings

Man … those are impossible to play on the guitar! (most of the time)

So, what do we do? Well … we find our way! 🙂

And “our way” consists of changing the order in which the notes appear in the chord; we’ll displace some notes on a different octave so chords become more guitar-friendly. And we do that by using the concept behind Drop 2 and Drop 3 voicings.

Drop 2 – STEP 1 – Understand the theory

What is a Drop 2? Well, without discussing inversions (and stuff) in too many details, let’s put it like this:

C major 7th chord: C E G B becomes C G B E , from low to high (see video)

  • C E G B is a closed voicing for Cmaj7. This means that it consists of all stacked thirds.
  • Then C G B E is the Drop 2 voicing we were looking for.

Did you notice? It’s like the E note is an octave higher now. In fact, it is not exactly what happened, but you can remember the idea this way if you’d like.

cmaj7drop2

The most important thing is that all the same notes are present, whether we change on which octave the notes appear. The second most important thing is that Drop 2 voicings are super easy on us, Jazz guitarists. 🙂

So, as guitarists, our Drop 2 voicing of reference for C major 7th is the fingering x 3 5 4 5 x. Simple, easy and effective.

So consider x 3 5 4 5 x as our new “compass” for now. 🙂

And that’s all you need to know, for now at least. Simply understand that a Drop 2 is a sort of voicing, a way to align the notes so this-or-that chord becomes playable on the guitar (because, as discussed in the video, most closed voicings are not even nearly playable on the guitar.)

Drop 2 – C major 7th on the Staff

For the those of you who really like theory, here’s how we get Drop 2 voicings on staff paper. This is the “correct way” to get C major 7th as x 3 5 4 5 x … it stems from a 2nd inversion of a closed voicing.

cmaj7closedvsdrop2

But it doesn’t matter if you don’t completely “get” this latter part. The important thing is still the C major 7th voicing we got. If you can play it, move on.

Drop 2 – STEP 2 – Finding a good fingering

Play C major 7th on the guitar as a Drop 2 voicing as x 3 5 4 5 x …

So we are basically done here!

We found something that is practical and that we can apply … but it is beyond the closed voicing. Zat sit.

We could have considered other string sets. But, so far, the best location to play that Cmaj7 is on strings 5-4-3-2 … and we’ll see why in step 3.

Drop 2 – STEP 3 – Through the scale

This is the hardest and longest step of the process. This is where you get a lot of “bang for your buck”. We extract TONS of new chords from our starting point.

We will be using the same voicing (starting at C major 7th in Drop 2) and keep using the same set of strings and moving each note within the chord to the next note in the scale. The scale is, obviously, C major: C D E F G A B.

Doing so, we’ll get all the diatonic chords in the key of C. Diatonic chords (meaning chords within a key) are important. Most tunes you’ll play are “in a key”, so diatonic chords are likely to appear together. Makes sense, right?

The chords in the key of C major are:

Cmaj7, Dm7, Em7, Fmaj7, G7, Am7, Bm7(b5)

So we will take that simple x3545x voicing and move it up and down the major scale. We now (magically) have 7 chords. They all sound nice and are easily playable on the guitar. 🙂

cmajdiatonicdrop2s

Drop 2 – Wrap Up

All the chord shapes are moveable. So this means that for the string set 5-4-3-2, you now have a voicing for:

  • Major 7th chords
  • Minor 7th chords
  • Dominant 7th chords
  • Minor 7th (flat 5) chords

Four chord types TIMES twelves frets = 48. We are halfway there!

Drop 3 Voicings: Repeating the same ideas

Same concepts as above … different starting voicing.

What is a Drop 3? Well, without discussing inversions (and stuff) in too many details, let’s put it like this:

G major 7th chord: G B D F# becomes G F# B D , from low to high (see video)

  • G B D F# is a closed voicing for Gmaj7. This means that it consists of all stacked thirds.
  • Then G F# B D is the Drop 3 voicing we were looking for.

Did you notice? It’s like the F# note is an octave lower now. In fact, it is not exactly what happened, but you can remember the idea this way if you’d like.

gmaj7drop3

And that takes care of steps 1 and 2. 🙂

Drop 3 – G major 7th on the Staff

Not for the faint or heart … check out this picture if it helps you (only):

gmaj7closedvsdrop3

Drop 3 – STEP 3 – Jazz guitar chords through the scale

And finally, here’s how to play this on the guitar:

gmajdiatonicdrop3s

And we have the remaining 48 chords! 🙂

10 thoughts on “96 Jazz Guitar Chords in 10 minutes: how to learn Drop 2 and Drop 3 voicings for Jazz Guitarists

  1. Hi Marc, wassup ? Just wanna tell you. You really inspire me to learn jazz guitar. I think I saw a video you did where you said playing guitar you will gravitate towards one genre. We’ll I’m really falling for jazz. Must admit I signed up to your 7 day lessons on playing chord melody- but didn’t get it ! I am very bad at theory :-(. But I wanna play jazz guitar man. And I think you might be the person to help me. How does a total novice like me start. Can’t imagine picking up my guitar and just comping. Any advice. Keep up the excellent work
    Riz, London, UK

    • Hello Riz, it’s hard to answer a question like that in a simple comment on a blog! 🙂 … but in short, here’s what I recommend: learn a tune. Start (for instance) with Tenor Madness. Learn the melody, learn the chords, and attempt to solo using (just) the blues scale. That will give you a head start. Then contact me by email and we can discuss. Good luck and have fun practicing. M-A

  2. This web site is a prime example of my favorite saying about guitar lessons. You can be a professional guitarist, but if you do not know how to teach people, make it easy to understand and use, then just what is the point. I started taking lessons at the age of 47. From 1998 to 2000 I took guitar lessons from two professional guitarists and at the end of that time I could not even play one song. At a cost of over $2,000.00. And I have been on my own ever since.This site is so well thought out. And you have found a way to try and simplifiy the technique presented here in probably the most complicated type of guitar playing ever. A very good effort on your part. And you have given me so much material to work on I will be busy throughout the entire year of 2016 trying to become a jazz guitar player. Thank-you and God Bless You.

  3. Hi Marc, I get that the root position drop 2 comes from the 2nd inversion of the closed voicing. My question is how do you determine the order of the remaining inversions of drop 2 voicings?

    • Hey Mark. This is an excellent question. Simple answer: if you know that root position drop 2 (C G B E) comes from the 2nd inversion close voicing (G C B E), then simply infer the other drop 2 inversions from the three other inversions of the close voicings. Namely: First inversion drop 2 (E B C G) comes from 3rd inversion close (B C E G). Second inversion drop 2 (G C E B) comes from root position close (C E G B). And lastly, third inversion drop 2 (B E G C) comes from first inversion close (E G B C).

  4. Hi. i signed up for the free chord melody course but only received one tune ‘summertime’. This is very good but how do I know if I I sign up for the paid course I will get it. I really want to learn more chord melody stuff and I find this a bit frustrating.

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