Drop voicing is a specific technique used to achieve open voicings. In this technique, the top pitch of the original close voicing is maintained. The pitches below this are labeled as either the second, third or fourth pitch down from the top. A drop-2 voicing is the result of lowering the second pitch from the top by one octave. In a drop-3 voicing, the third pitch from the top is lowered one octave. In a drop-4 voicing, the fourth pitch from the top is lowered one octave. Depending on the situation, some drop voicings may result in more musical and tasteful pitch spreads. Even distribution, with closer intervals in the middle or top of the chord are ideal (although not mandatory). Especially in lower registers, closer intervals will take on a muddy sound quality.
The tasteful and musical use of open voicings can provide much needed variety to our harmonic pallet. When a keyboard player can create both cluttered and open sounding harmonies he or she can more easily express a wide range of sound and emotion. In addition, since there is more space between the pitches of an open chord voicing there are more options for contrapuntal motion across chord changes. This allows for better voice leading within the performance. Open voicings also allow us to use more of the low register of the keyboard without being hindered by a muddy and cluttered sound. Finally, open voicings bring a connection to the elements being played by the left and right hand. When playing closed voicings in our right hand and roots in our left, our playing can tend to sound like two disconnected parts. Open voicings unite the two hands as one connected piece of music.
This Learning Music With Ray video discusses close and open chord voicings. In the video, I explain the difference between a close and an open voicing. I provide visual examples of a C7 chord written on a musical staff in both close and open voicings. I explain different strategies for obtaining open voicings, and discuss the reasons why we would want to use open voicings. Finally, I demonstrate these examples of close and open voicings (of a C7 chord) on the piano keyboard.