Lesson 3: On Drop 2 chord voicings and La Vie En Rose

Christmas and New Year are over and it’s back to the rhythm of taking lessons with Master. Had my 3rd lesson with him yesterday afternoon. I had to admit that I’d been a little lax on my homework in terms of practicing (my jazz at least – I’ve been stressing the neighbours with my renditions of various Thrash Metal ‘standards’), however, I had gone out and purchased a whole bunch of CDs of artists singing standards in order to become more familiar with the Jazz lexicon and repertoire. I picked up some Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald etc..

Based on my listening to these over the past few weeks, I’d chosen two songs that I wanted to learn to play – from the Sinatra CD I chose “What’ll I do” and from Louis Armstrong, “La Vie En Rose”.   He wasn’t familiar with the first but knew the second one well so we immediately launched in to learning it and coming up with the chords and arrangement with the melody against this backing.

Chord progression he showed me was:

| A | Amaj7 | A6 C#min7 Cmin7 | Bmin7 | E7 | Bmin7 | E7 | Bmin7 | Adim Amaj7 | x 2

| Dmaj13 | D#Dim add13 | A   | Dmaj13 | D#Dim add13 | Bmin7 | E7 | A

Audio and tab coming during the ‘homework’ post.

Launching off from here we had a long discussion about chords and inversions and so forth culminating in him introducing me to a system of building and memorising chords based on what he calls ‘Drop 2’ voicings which originated from Berklee. Key points I retained about these are:

  1. Taking Gmaj7 as an example, with the root on the 4th string like below, we have what he refers to as a ‘closed voicing’ where the chord is built on stacked thirds, i.e. Root (G), 3rd (B), 5th (D), 7th (F#).
  2. The ‘Drop 2’ is derived by taking the the second voice from the top (D on the second string) and moving it an octave down, resulting in wider intervals – D-G is a fourth, B-F# is a fifth.
  3. Reorganizing the voices by inversion so that the root is on the 4th string results in the shape below which he refers to as the Parental form of the Major 7th.                                  image
  4. Knowing this and that the order from 4th to 1st string is R, 5, 7, 3 then we can derive each of the following by manipulating the tones in this order:
    1. Dominant 7th chord (flatten the 7th).
    2. Minor 7th (flatten the 3rd).
    3. Minor 7th b 5 (flatten the 5th).
    4. Diminished 7th (flatten the 7th again)image
  5. From the root position, there are 3 other inversions resulting in the following 4 forms from which the set above can later be derived (by flatting 7ths, 5ths, etc). GM7 inversions
  6. By manipulating the tones as in 5) you can come up with the 5 basic shapes in 4 different neck positions.

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