Drop 2 and drop 3 voicings are often a jazz guitarist’s introduction to chord voicings that do no require the root on the low sixth or fifth strings. The “drop” moniker comes from the way in which these voicings are generated. To create a drop 2 voicing, take a Cmaj7 chord that is stacked in thirds and “drop” the second note from the top down an octave.


Dropping the third note from the third-stacked Cmaj7 creates a drop 3 voicing.


Running each voicing through the three remaining inversions generates a total four drop 2 and drop 3 voicings. The handout below has voicings for the four most common seventh chord qualities: Major 7 (R 3 5 7), Dominant 7 (R 3 5 7), Minor 7 (R 3 5 7), and Minor 7b5 (R 3 b5 7). Drop 2 voicings spread the four notes of a seventh chord among four adjacent strings that are easily playable in all inversions. Play drop 2 voicings in each of the three groups of four adjacent strings: 1234, 2345, and 3456. I have presented the fingerings for the 1234 set.


Drop 3 voicings feature a string skip; this means that drop 3 voicings can only be played on two sets of strings: 1235 and 2346. Here they are on the 2346 set.


Once you are comfortable playing these shapes with a C root, try cycling through the eleven other roots. This will allow you to voice common progressions while moving to a shape that is in the same area of the fretboard. If done correctly, you will see minimal movement between each chord, a concept known as voice leading. Below is an example of drop 2 and drop 3 chords voice led through a repeating ii–V–I–VI. Notice how each shape connects with a different inversion. For more information on drop voicings, voice leading ideas, and other ways of looking at harmony on the guitar, see Mick Goodrick’s The Advancing Guitarist.

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