Playing Drop 2 Chords on Guitar
Amongst the most popular chord forms on guitar (outside of the basic C A G E D chord shapes) are voicings commonly known as Drop 2 voicings.
Drop 2 chords lay out comfortably on groups of four adjacent strings and as a result make for good rhythm guitar voicings where you need to play sixth/seventh chords. They are also very popular voicings for guitarists who play chord solos. Jazz guitar players like Joe Pass and Wes Montgomery used these chord forms a lot in their playing.
These chord voicings are created by taking a close position chord form and ‘dropping’ the second note from the top of the chord down by an octave, hence the ‘Drop 2’ name. Below is a brief explanation of this process.
Here’s how Drop 2 guitar voicings are created
As you can see from the musical example above, the original Cmaj7 voicing was arranged quite tightly (often called a close position voicing) and I took the second highest note and lowered it by one octave. This produced the arrangement of notes in the second bar, which sounds fine, but leaves a fingering issue, whereby I have to make sure that the second string is muted to avoid it ringing out if not required.
An easier to finger combination of the same notes is shown in bar 3. This time the chord has exactly the same notes as shown in bar 2, but has now been rearranged to fall across the top four strings. There is no longer any concern now about having to mute any strings.
The final bar in the example above shows how the new Cmaj7 drop 2 voicing (placed across the top four strings of the guitar) can then be expanded to produce a group of four distinct chord inversions. These inversions are termed; Root position, first, second and third inversions, depending upon which note is located at the bottom of the chord voicing. The root position voicing has the root note at the bottom, the first inversion has the third of the chord at the bottom, the second inversion has the fifth and the third inversion has the seventh at the bottom of the chord.
Now that you know how Drop 2 chords for guitar are created, we can develop this system further by creating other common seventh chords on the top four strings. The PDF files below gives you Drop 2 voicings for Maj7, Min7, Dominant 7th and Min7b5 chords (all from a G root note)
Learn the chords from the PDF slowly and take your time to ensure proper memorisation. My suggestion is to take one chord type at a time and learn the four inversions of it first before going on to the other chord types.
As soon as you can, try the Drop 2 chords in some real music as well, as this really helps in getting them under your fingers and into your playing vocabulary. If you are a Blues or Rock player, see if you can find a composition that uses these chord types and practice them with it. If you are a Jazz or Fusion style player, you could maybe try a jazz standard.