Drop 2 and Drop 2+4

A very easy way to gain more sonority in your chord voicings or to make more space for the top line is to “drop 2”, “drop 2+4” or traditionally called “open voicing”. These are pretty simple procedures to spread out close position voicings to fill the range better. The origins of the terms drop 2 and drop 2+4 are in Big Band arrangement, where you often have block chord voicings in quick succession.

Usually for anybody coming from the keyboard side, this procedure is pretty awkward as most of these voicings can’t be played on a keyboard but for example in a string orchestra, they sound very sonorous. 

The procedure is very easy: take your close position chord(s). The first step to spread it out would be to drop the second voice from the top one octave (drop 2). If you want to spread it out even more, you can additionally drop the (originally) 4th voice from the top an octave as well (drop 2+4). You create quickly create spread out voicings that way that usually sound very nice in orchestral context.

However there are limitations:

1. This procedure only works if the chord you start with is quite high, otherwise you will spread it out to such low registers that it only creates mud.

2. It is a bit of a cutting corners technique. Depending on the complexity of your original voicings, it could happen that the notes you “drop” are quite high tension notes in the voicing which generally sound very strange when being dropped below the basic chord structure and could violate low interval limits. Also, there is an imminent danger of creating minor 9ths in the voicings when dropped. The safer way would be to avoid needing to do this and construct your open voicings one by one “properly”. Still this techniques are justified as in rapid chord successions (as for instance Big Band block voicings) it is barely noticeable if a “passing chord” is structured perfectly. 


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