Weekly Workout: Drop Two Chord Arpeggios

Posted by Sean McGowan

Drop Two chord voicings are popular with guitarists of all styles, owing to their ease of fingering, reasonable three-to-four-fret span, and pleasing sound. The term “drop two” comes from big band jazz and orchestralarrangers who, when creating parts for four horns or stringed instruments, would number them one to four (typically the highest to lowest notes in a chord voicing). One way arrangers would create interesting textures would be to simply lower, or “drop” one of the parts in a standard chord voicing down an octave. Drop two literally means that the second part is dropped an octave. For example, a Cmaj7 voicing C–E–G–B (low to high) becomes G–C–E–B when the G is dropped an octave to create a drop two voicing.

Weekly Workout 7: Drop Two
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This workout introduces five basic drop two chord types and shapes, all played with the root on the fifth string. We’ll take each chord shape and move it up and down the neck in whole steps. Measure 1 starts with a Cmaj7 chord, followed by Dmaj7, Emaj7, etc. all the way up to the 15th-position Cmaj7. If you don’t have a cutaway, the arpeggios in measure 4 may be difficult to reach, but you can still get a good workout if you omit this measure and go straight from measure 3 to measure 5. Play the individual notes of each chord from low to high using alternate picking for each note.  If you are playing fingerstyle, play each ascending chord with a p–i–m–a pattern or practice alternating strokes with i–m ascending and descending.

The other four chord types are minor seventh (measure 8), dominant seventh (measure 9), m7b5 or “half-diminished”  (measure 10), and diminished seventh (measure 11). For each chord, I’ve notated just the first two voicings, but be sure to move them all the way up and then back down the neck as with the major seven voicings in measures 1–7. 

Excerpted from Acoustic Guitar, April 2013

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