Are you looking to expand your understanding of chords and learn different ways of playing them on the guitar? If you’re already feeling confident about playing open chords, barre chords, and 7th chords, maybe you’re ready for a new challenge to start learning drop 2 chords.
In this post, we cover what drop 2 chords are, how to play them on guitar, as well as musical examples to apply them. This concept helps you to arrange notes in a certain order to get different variations of a chord.
If you haven’t already, I also recommend learning spread triad chords which is related to the drop 2 chord concept.
We’ll first review some musical terms before learning the drop 2 chord shapes.
What is a chord voicing?
A chord voicing refers to the way the notes of a chord are arranged. As you may already know, there are several ways of playing the same chord. You can consider any chord as having a particular ‘voicing’.
For example, let’s take a C Major chord which contains the notes C, E, and G. One way the notes can be ordered from lowest to highest can be C, E, G, C, E, which is the open C chord. Another voicing can be C, G, C, E, G, and C, which is a barre chord shape.
Although the 3 notes of the chord are the same, the order of the notes are different, as you will see in the chord charts below.
What are chord tones?
Chord tones are the notes that determine the quality of a chord. For example, chord tones 1, 3, and 5 make up a Major triad and 1, b3, and 5 make up a minor triad.
After you learn open and barre chords which contain triads (3 notes) you then want to be able to start learning 7th chords. To understand this in more detail, see this post on how to play triads on guitar.
7th chords include the chord tones 1, 3, 5, and 7. 7th chords tend to sound fuller and are often used in styles like jazz and r&b.
Let’s look at the chord tones for a C Major 7 chord:
And these would be the chord tones for a C minor 7 chord, in which you simply bring the 3rd and 7th chord tones down a half step from the previous chord example.
What is a drop 2 chord?
A drop 2 chord is the way you arrange a chord by taking the second chord tone (from highest to lowest) and placing it as the bass note. Drop 2 chords are used for 7th chords that have 4 chord tones and are used to play different inversions of the same chord.
Now that we know the chord tones for C Major 7, you can voice the chord in 4 different ways depending on how you order the notes. (This is before we drop the second note).
These 4 chord voicings can be played on a piano but are very impractical to play on a guitar. So what you can do is take the second note from the top and put it as the bass note for more playable shapes on the fretboard.
Now let’s take a look at each of these inversions and drop the 2nd voice. This is what each chord would look like:
C Major 7 drop 2 chords on the 5th string
Here are the drop 2 chords for C Major 7 starting on the 5th string ordered from a lower to higher range on the guitar.
Here are the same shapes in chart form below.
C Major 7 drop 2 chords on the 4th string
These are the drop 2 chords for C Major 7 starting on the 4th string below.
C minor 7 drop 2 chords on the 5th string
Now let’s look at what the drop 2 chords look like for C minor 7 starting on the 5th string.
C minor 7 drop 2 chords on the 4th string
You can also play these starting on the 6th string but I would recommend learning the shapes on the 5th and 4th strings first. We are only covering Major and minor 7th chords in this post but you can also apply drop 2 chords to other chord qualities such as dominant 7th or half diminished chords.
Drop 2 chords application examples
Here is an example of drop 2 chord inversions over one long Major 7 chord.
Now that you know these drop 2 shapes for C Major 7 and C minor 7, you want to be able to apply them over different chords.
For this next example which includes another chord, I am thinking of the chord tones for F Major 7 to play a smooth transition when switching between chords. The chord tones for F Major 7 are: F, A, C and E.
Try this following example:
Here is one last example of using drop 2 chords over a series of different chords.
Drop 2 chords are an arranging tool that you can experiment with to bring variety to your chords. Remember that these voicings are used in 7th chords which contain 4 chord tones. You are essentially spreading the notes in a chord so that you can play more practical shapes on the guitar fretboard.
Drop 2 chords are more often heard in styles like jazz or r&b but experiment with them to see how you can incorporate them to your style of playing. Try learning the different shapes starting on different strings and challenge yourself to play the voicings over different chords, ideally in all 12 keys. To transpose a chord, you have to find the root note and then shift the chord shapes accordingly.
To learn more, you can also apply the drop 2 chord system to Major 6 chords. For more on richer chord harmony, check out this post on how to play jazz guitar chords.
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All the best,