Jazz Chord Essentials: Drop 2 Voicings - Part 2

Part 2 of the lesson on Drop 2 voicings. In this lesson you'll learn how to add extensions and alterations. It also gives some exercises to apply them on jazz progressions.

Ultimate Guitar
It's a Part 2 of the lesson on Drop 2 voicings. In this lesson you'll learn to add extensions and alterations. It also gives some exercises to apply them on jazz progressions. 

So now you have an overview of the basic Drop 2 voicings from the previous lesson.

Here's a short video on how I might use chords in a solo on a blues in C.

YouTube preview picture

As you can probably hear I am not only using the chords in their basic form, but I am using different versions of the same type of chord to make simple melodies that then make up the solo. In order to expand the drop 2 voicings from the last lesson and build other skills to play something like this we need to work on a few things:

Adding extensions to chords

Let's look at how we can add more colors to the voicings we already have and a few tricks that will help you use and expand what you already know.

So far we've been concerned with the basic chords so Am7 was simply root, third, fifth and seventh, but as I explained in the first lesson you can use Am9 or Am11 instead of Am7. Instead of making 5 or more note voicings we can use these rules to expand the sounds:
  • 9th (or b9 or #9) can replace the root
  • 13th, b13th, b5, #5 can replace the 5th
  • 6th can replace the 7th
  • 4th or 2nd can replace the 3rd
This means that if we want to make an Am9 voicing you take the Am7 voicing and change A to B. You might notice that this means that you'll be playing the notes B C E G which is a Cmaj7, so you can use Maj7 voicings to play minor 9 voicings. If you use the same approach to D7, you have D F# A C and that becomes E F# A C which is F#m7 (b5). On Gmajor7 you have G B D F# and get A B D F# which is Bm7.

You'll notice that I prefer just using the "category" Chord symbols Am7 even though I am playing the 9th. Think of it as part of the process of not having a one to one combination from chord symbol to voicing, something you probably already had to abandon with several ways to play a C or a G chord.

Altered Dominants

One way to vary the sound of cadences is to use an altered dominant. This almost only works when the dominant is in fact resolving to a I chord, but that is for another lesson on theory.

One observation that is handy is that if you play a D7 (b9, b13) having substituted the root with b9 and the fifth with the b13 you have these notes: Eb F# Bb C which are exactly the same notes as Cm7 (b5) (or Ebm6). So that gives us this set of II V I Cadences:

Of course these are just examples on how you can change the voicings to get other extensions. You should experiment alot with this to get familiar with them and also to find the sounds you like the most. It might also be good to go back and look at the first example in the first lesson since you now might have a better set of tools to understand it.

Melodies in the voicings

When I play chords behind a soloist I am often playing melodies with the top voice of the chords to make the harmony more logical to the listener. I also sometimes play parts of a solo in chords. One way to develop the skills needed for this is to use chords to play a melody. The simplest possible melody is probably a scale on, so let's do a few exercises with that:

As you can see there are a few notes in the G major scale that are tricky to harmonize, and there are several options on how to deal with them. The note C is never going to sound like a Gmaj7 chord so I chose to play an Am7 there. I could have substituted it with a C# and used a Gmaj7(#11).

Let's make a similar exercise using a turnaround: Am7 D7alt Gmaj7 E7alt. With this exercise I am just forcing myself to move up the neck in small steps, not really any system, even if it's almost chromatic. I guess for all of these "melodic" voicing exercises the goal is to be able to make your own more than actually play mine!

About the Author:
By Jens Larsen. I hope you like the lesson. Feel free to connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, G+, YouTube etc. If you have any questions or if you want to stay up to date with lessons, CD releases and concerts. Here's my website: www.jenslarsen.nl.

29 comments sorted by best / new / date

    This is the information I expected my guitar teacher to teach me. For sure this is the music I want to play. Thank you sir, for giving me stuff to work on for months. Looking forward to see the next parts!
    for people like me who cant afford lessons its people like you that take time outta your day to give us the knowledge we need to better improve our craft soooo thank you !!!
    Your welcome! Don't forget that what you are paying a teacher for is not so much information as him or her listening to how you play and tell you what to work on. Sometimes people forget that on the internet Jens
    Justified Death
    Dude I know nothing about theory at all. Honestly, I just enjoy learning the chords you display on tabs and try to make like...a song or something to solo over. I wish you could teach me, because you really sound like you know what you're talking about. Because I've been playing 12 years, and I don't know if I'll ever be able to wrap my head around theory. So with that being said, you should tab out the video at the beginning...because that was totally awesome. LOL 0
    Thanks man! Well writing out the solo in the beginning is a lot of work, and actually sitting down to learn how to do a solo like that is half the fun (And I am not even kidding) Music theory is actually quite simple if you want to learn then you can without too much effort compared to how difficult it is to learn to play guitar. Great that you like the lesson, that makes my day! Jens
    Damn best lessons I've ever read. These are exactly what I have been looking for pretty much since I started guitar. Thanks a million! It's awesome that commoners like us get access to pro info like this
    My only complaint is the fact that the tabs are actually a little too small, and they can't really be zoomed. Perhaps you might want to make/post them in a larger version.
    Ok. Maybe try and see if you can zoom on the version of the lesson that is on my website: http://jenslarsen.nl/jazz-chord-essentia... Or try holding control and use your mouse wheel, that is a zoom function in my browser.
    I can zoom with CTRL and mouse wheel but it ruins the image and becomes pixelated... The tab (font) size just seems small... Website version is the same as this one :s
    Strange I don't have any issue with it here. I'll keep it in mind for later versions as I cannot edit my articles when I've submitted them.