Drop 2 Voicings for Prelude To A Kiss


Recently I recorded a Willie Answers lesson on diminished harmony. Part of that lesson was using a diminished approach technique which I discuss in depth in the lesson. I also covered drop 2 voicings which generated some questions from our students. So, I figured let’s do an article to explain the concept!

In this article, I am using Duke Ellington’s Prelude To A Kiss to demonstrate drop 2 voicing techniques.

The Melody

Let’s start with the melody. In example 1, you’ll find the melody of the first 4-measures of the song.

drop2ex1  Example 1

Voicing Down From The Melody

Next, we “voice down” from each melody note with a four-note chord.

drop2ex2 Example 2

Let me explain what voice down means. Notice the first chord is D7 with the notes: C-E-F#-B. These notes break down as follows:

  1. C = the 7th of the chord
  2. E = the 9th of the chord
  3. F# = the 3rd of the chord, and
  4. B = the 13th and is also the melody

So, to “voice down” means that we are creating a chord voicing down from our melody note. The melody note should remain the top note while we ‘fill in’ chord tones and tensions beneath the melody. If you need help creating block chords, check out my article on Creating Seventh Chords.

TIP: when we refer to voicings or voicing a chord, we are referring to how the notes of the chords are arranged.


Now that we have our melody voiced with 4-note chords, we can proceed with our drop 2 technique. In example 3, I have isolated the first D7 chord:

drop2ex3Example 3

If we were to number the notes of the chord, starting with the melody note and working down, we have B = 1, F# = 2, E = 3, C = 4.

IMPORTANT: at this point you might be thinking “Wait a minute! I thought B was the 13th and F# was the 3rd?” Yes, B is the 13th of the chord. However, when thinking of the placement of the note B, it is the top note of the chord or note #1. Another way to look at it is like this:



B = #1 (the top note)
F# = #2 (the second note down)
E = #3 (third note down)
C = #4 (fourth note down)

Dropping The 2nd

Now the drop 2 chord voicing technique involves dropping the 2nd note from the top down an octave. So, this means that you ‘drop’ the F# down one octave. A couple of points:

  1. We are still only using four notes in our chord. We are not adding notes.
  2. The ‘dropped’ note does not mean that we are dropping it from the chord. Just dropping it down an octave from where it currently is.
  3. You would play this dropped note with your left hand, or break up the four notes between the hands.

Take a look at example 4 to see what this looks like:

drop2ex4Example 4

Drop 2 Chord Technique

So here in example 5 we have the first four measures with each chord using the drop 2 technique. Bear in mind that we are only focusing on the drop 2 technique. We can add more re-harmonization and “fills” between the chords at a later time.

drop2ex5Example 5

I would suggest spending some time with this and download the pdf sheet music of this article to take back to the piano.

Fuller Chord Voicings

So if you played example 5, you’ll hear that the chords sound really nice, but maybe a bit “thin” because the root of the chord is missing. Well, if we add the root to the chord, we get a much fuller chord sound. See example 6:

drop2ex6 Example 6

Finally, in example 7, we can see how using our drop 2 technique along with the added root gives us a beautiful, rich chord sound that is pretty easy to achieve if you follow the steps I have outlined in this article.

drop2ex7 Example 7


Download Article Sheet Music

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  1. hi willie,

    I love prelude; it’s great for a arthritic intermediate like me to work with. Maybe you would consider doing a DVD on it?


  2. I am a junior when it comes to chords and voicings. I thought D7 should be D-F#-A-C. Never mind the order, but when you said the first chord is D7 with the notes C-E-F#-B and later on added the root D, the difference between your version and my understanding is that firstly I have an A which you don’t have, which is fine because it is OK to exclude the 5th note, and secondly you have E and B which I don’t have, and it is this last point that I hope you can explain to me by email. Thanks.

  3. Hi, I always loved your teaching,but I always had difficulty in downloading lessons as your lessons were hard to come by to me. I am not a computer nerd at 84 years of age so I have a hard time. Maybe I will try something soon.

  4. Great lesson! Short and clear yet full of key points..
    When you do the step “Voicing Down From The Melody”, can you add any tensions and/or available chord tones ?

  5. just love all your piano videos and your sample sheet music really helps me.could you please put up some sample sheet music of the billy preston song will it go round in circles.

  6. Hi, Willie !

    Your lessons work perfectly on the chromatic accordion where chords are made in the left and right hand just like the piano. Also, the accordion bellows allow for sustained notes, so the result is a beautiful, rich sound.

  7. Hi Willie!

    Great article! Clear as a day. Step-by-step in i pedagogical way. I left a comment under the lesson page. You explained it good already there but now my understanding of the drop 2 technique is quite good I think. Also want to take the chance to thank you for taking questions from students serious. This last few weeks I have felt that you really is my teacher. I asked for a lesson (You´ve Got A Friend) and when you mentioned this (and my name) in the last Willie Answer lesson I felt: Cool! This is how it should work!! This is amazing. I am actually sitting i Malmö, Sweden and have a piano teacher in USA.

    Just to let you know/


  8. Willie, this was very helpful. My piano teacher is having me voice down some simple pieces while I am doing chord progressions/variations with the left hand. Your explanation of the Drop 2 technique is fascinating and makes me want to focus on these exercises more so that I can get to the point that I can explore these advanced techniques. Thanks!

  9. Agreed, however it is easier for a beginner to see this as a D7 and start to learn about the tensions that dom7 chords can receive. In this case however, the B in the melody makes it a D13 chord. But, the underlying chord is still D7. You’ll have probably a 50/50 chance of seeing it written either way. In the real book, it is written as D7.

  10. This is without a doubt the best newsletter I have seen regardless of subject. Most of the time newletters are merely used to keep hammering on selling stuff with litte or no other content. I actually enjoyed reading it.

  11. Magnificent web site. Plenty of helpful information here. I am sending it to some pals ans additionally sharing in delicious. And naturally, thanks for your effort!

JPC glossary / key

  • RH – right hand
  • LH – left hand
  • HT – hands together
  • CM – contrary motion (to move in opposite directions)
  • Harmonically – to play as chords (all notes together at once)
  • Melodically – to play as a melody (single note) – arpeggiate
  • R7, R3, R37 – chord shells (Root-7th, Root-3rd, Root-3rd-7th respectively)
  • bpm – beats per minute. Refers to the metronome setting