On my last improv lesson I talked a little bit on ''piano style'' voicings , and particularly I gave you just one voicing to apply over different chords . With this idea in mind i thought about doing a big lesson on chords and divide it into parts , so this big chord workout and analysis will be under the name of Chord Library.
Why a big lesson on chords? Well , to me , chord knowledge is one of the most important points to strengthen in order to build a strong foundation for improvisation . Your single-line melodies will not sound more interesting than your chordal vocabulary . No melody will make sense unless put over a context ( a chord , or a sequence of chords ) , so it is no small matter to know harmony and it's applications.
Ok , so let's start with the lesson . What is this Maj7 drop family that I am talking about?
The ''Maj7'' corresponds to the chord quality . To me there are 5 main families : Maj7 , Dominant 7 , Minor 7 , Minor 7b5 and Diminished. I covered this in a previous lesson , so if you want to read a little more about those , here it is :
The ''drop2'' corresponds to the ''voicing'' of the chord . A voicing to put it simple is how the note distances are arranged from one to the next , different intervals ( or distances ) between the notes will generate different voicings , though the notes may be the same.
So .. What is a drop2 Chord?
A drop 2 chord is a derivation from a closed-voicing , meaning that we are going to drop one of the voices down an octave , in this case , the 2nd note going from top to bottom. Don't get confused , with this little diagram it will be easier to understand.
A ''4-way close'' or just closed voicing is a chord in which the notes will be in the least amount of distance from each other. So .. if we arrange Cmaj7 with this in mind we can get the following possibilities:
C E G B (root position)
E G B C (1st inversion)
G B C E (2nd inversion)
B C E G (3rd inversion)
All notes are a third apart , except between the B and C , that are a second apart . This is the closest distance between the notes
you can get in this chord context.
So... let's do a ''drop 2'' version of the first one :
If we have :
C E (G) B (The G would be the 2nd note , counting from top to bottom... so it gets dropped an octave)
Then after dropping the 2nd note we get this order:
G C E B <--- now we have a 2nd inversion Maj7 drop2 chord
So let's do the same thing with all the closed voicings , after putting them in order we would get the following possibilities:
C G B E (root position , drop2 voicing )
E B C G (1st inversion , drop2 voicing )
G C E B (2nd inversion , drop 2 voicing )
B E G C (3rd inversion, drop 2 voicing )
You can drop any voice , if you dropped the 3rd voice from the top , you'd get a drop3 chord family , but I'll save that for another lesson.
So how do these drop2 voicings look on the guitar?? They are more common than you think , in fact I'm sure if you have played some guitar you've been using at least a couple of these.
Here is the diagram I made , the most detailed one I could think of:
Ive included fingering , fret numbers , notes , formulas and all the information I could include into a single diagram , so I hope you can get the grasp of all the information you should be aware of when thinking of a chord.
Well , I'm stopping with the theory ! let's get to play !
Don't worry , they aren't that hard , but some of them do have a little stretching , be sure to keep your hands relaxed and a good playing position .
Ok , the first thing I would recommend you to do is to play all the voicings slowly by string groupings , this means using strings 1 to 4 , 2 to 5 , and 3 to 6 , in the following way:
*Some of them are a little dissonant , but don't worry , they all have a situation in where they work in , so try and learn them all.
After you've gotten these shapes under your fingers , try doing some arpeggio drills , just run through the shapes in a more free manner , and play one note at a time , to get the sound in your ears and also making sure you are pressing all the notes correctly .
Yep , I can't deny that this drills can be a little boring , but try to think of them as a way to train your concentration , try to get into a meditative state when playing this at slow tempos.
OK OK , let's apply this over something more fun , as any theory must find a way into some actual music , or it doesn't make any sense. So , I'll be using this groovy backing track with a very simple progression :
All of these shapes are transposable , so we'll be using the same ones , just starting at different points in the guitar . Let's do a little chord recognition:
Finally , let's try and mix a little of these voicings with some single lines , some rhythm motifs , etc . See them actually applied musically :
See how I broke the chords apart and played intervals and lines around them? I will cover this in more detail on a later lesson but even though you see me moving around quite a bit , my mind is ''anchored'' on the chords while I break them apart and play around them . I also use the pentatonic family of the particular chord to make melodies out of it , the link from the pentatonic families is the one I shared above earlier . So be sure to check that lesson out !
Finally , here is the backing track for you to try your own ideas using these chords:
I hope this lesson brings you new ideas for your chord choices and helps you build a vocabulary for your improvisation.
As always , I'd be more than happy to answer any question!