Drop 3 chords

Drop 3 Chords - Guitar Diagrams And Music Theory

Drop 3 chordsWhat Are Drop Voicings?

Drop voicings are open chords which span more than an octave. They are very useful tools in music composition and arrangement and are greatly appreciated by guitarists for comping and soloing.

The name drop 3 come from the fact that you dropped the third highest note of a close voicing. If the drop 2 and 3 drop voicings are the most used and surely the first players learn when exploring jazz guitar, you have to know that there are drop 2-3, drop 3-4, drop 2 and 4 voicings and drop 2-3-4 voicings.

However, these are not commonly played on the guitar because of their complexity, that's why this lesson focuses on drop 3 voicings only. You will see how they are built and how to play them on guitar by using the chord shapes and tablatures provided on this page.

Drop 3 chords construction

What are drop 3 voicings?

Drop 3 chords are very used by composers, arrangers, jazz musicians and of course by guitarists when playing jazz guitar rhythms. These types of voicings are excellent for accompanying a singer or a soloist, especially when you want to add a bass line. Indeed, the particularity of drop 3 chords on guitar is that the lowest notes are on the fifth and sixth string, allowing the player to detach more easily the basses from the other notes that constitute the chord.

Drop 3 voicings are very used in chord-melody arrangement as you can hear in this video, a chord melody-arrangement of the famous jazz standard Beautiful Love.

The term drop indicates lowering one of the notes of a chord to the octave. You need to know that a voice corresponds to a note, so the voice number one is the highest note of the chord, the second voice is the second highest note, and so on. It means that a four-note chord contain four voices.

Let's take an example with Cmaj7 voiced in close position, it is built with C (1), E (3), G (5)  and B (7).  C is the fourth voice, E the third voice, G the second and B the first voice (the highest).

Cmaj7 close voicing

Drop 3 voicing

To create a drop 3 voicing, you need as a basis a 4-note close voicing, as shown in the TAB with standard notation above, in which all four notes are within an octave. All you need to do is to drop the third highest note to the bass, thus giving a new C major seventh voicing with the third in the bass. This new chord is called Cmaj7/E. 

C7 drop 3 voicing

Drop 3 chords and inversions

How To Invert Drop 3 Chords?

Now that you understand how to build a drop 3 chord, you need to know how to inverse the notes in order to get 4 different drop 3 chords. Please note that inverted voicings consists of chords in which the order of the notes have been changed so the root of the chord is no longer the bass note.

For a better understanding, let's take a look at the 5 voicing charts and 8 guitar neck diagrams below. They represent the most frequently used chords in jazz music, namely major 7, minor 7, half-diminished, dominant 7 and diminished. 

Each diagram below contains 4 guitar chord shapes. The first shape in black is the root position, the blues shape shows the first inversion, the red is the second inversion, then the green one corresponds to the third inversion.

Drop 3 Chord Voicings - Guitar Tutorial

Drop 3 Chord Voicings - Guitar Tutorial

Major 7 Drop 3 Voicings 

The highlighted area in yellow in the chart below is the voicing corresponding to the major 7 close chord previously seen in this lesson whose highest note has been dropped to the bass. This is the first inversion of the root voicing (R-7-3-5). This root chord produces two other inverted voicings. One with the fifth in the bass (5-3-7-R) and one with the seventh in the bass (7-5-R-3).

Drop 3 major 7 root voicing (root position) R 7 3 5 maj7 
1st inversion  3 R 5 7 maj7 / third in the bass
2nd inversion  5 3 7 R maj7 / fifth in the bass
3rd inversion 7 5 R 3 maj7 / seventh in the bass

Dominant 7 Drop 3 Voicings

Since dominant seventh chords are built with root (R), third (3), fifth (5) and minor seventh (b7), we get three inverted chords, 3-5-5-b7, 5-3-b7-R and b7-5-R-3 derived from the drop 3 root voicing which is spelled R-b7-3-5. 

Drop 3 dominant 7 root voicing (root position) R b7 3 5 Dominant 7
1st inversion 3 R 5 b7 Dominant 7 / third in the bass
2nd inversion  5 3 b7 R Dominant 7 / fifth in the bass
3rd inversion  b7 5 R 3 Dominant 7 / minor seventh in the bass)

Minor 7 Drop 3 voicings

Minor seventh chords are made of root (R), minor third (b3), perfect fifth (5) and minor seventh (b7). When the third highest tone of a m7 close voicing is dropped to the bass we get 4 Drop 3 voicings so eight guitar chord shapes as shown below.

Drop 3 minor 7 root voicing (root position) R b7 b3 5 Minor 7
1st inversion b3 R 5 b7 Minor 7 / minor third in the bass
2nd inversion 5 b3 b7 R Minor 7 / fifth in the bass
3rd inversion  b7 5 R b3 Minor 7 / minor seventh in the bass)

Minor 7 flat 5 Drop 3 voicings

Half-diminished voicings are built the same way as minor 7 but with a diminished fifth. Once again here are 8 different drop 3 chord shapes to play on guitar. 

Drop 3 minor 7b5 root voicing (root position) R b7 b3 b5 Minor 7b5
1st inversion b3 R b5 b7 Minor 7b5 / minor third in the bass
2nd inversion b5 b3 b7 R Minor 7b5 / fifth in the bass
3rd inversion  b7 b5 R b3 Minor 7b5 / minor seventh in the bass)

Diminished 7 Drop 3 voicings

The particularity of diminished chords is that they are symmetrical. It means that the intervals are the same, so the chord positions and fingerings are exactly the same. Because of this symmetry we can deduce that all of the chords below contain the same four notes.

Drop 3 diminished 7 root voicing (root position) R bb7 b3 b5 Diminished 7
1st inversion b3 R b5 bb7 Diminished 7 / minor third in the bass
2nd inversion b5 b3 bb7 R Diminished 7 / fifth in the bass
3rd inversion  bb7 b5 R b3 Diminished 7 / diminished seventh in the bass


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