Harmonic Literacy for the Guitar I: Drop II Voicings.

The guitar is a supremely expressive instrument, and an essential component in a huge range of musical styles. However, its place in the instrument family is somewhat of a platypus. It is partly melodic with some players playing almost exclusively monophoncally (e.g. BB King). Some musicologists place it in the percussion family as its strings are not bowed – Jimmy Page and Nigel Tufnell aside, and it is also of course it is also a chordal – a harmonic – instrument. However due to

1) The guitar’s limited number of strings

2) The anomalous standard tuning system (all 4ths apart from one rogue major 3rd)

3) The fact that – unlike the piano – most of the notes on the guitar can be found in more than one position and

4) The number of fingers we’ve evolved

…a comprehensive harmonic approach is extremely challenging to learn. What might be simple on the piano, for example closed-voicing diatonic 7th chords, can be difficult on the guitar. Then again the parallel nature of the guitar has huge advantages -in terms of transposition and playing in different keys – over many other instruments.

The following document, provides a challenging but hugely useful inroad into deep harmonic literacy of the guitar, its deep study (even of just one section of it) I’ve found has really helped me and my students. Enjoy, be patient, and then enjoy a lot more.

Drop2 voicings