Your investigation of jazz piano chords would be well served by gaining a familiarity of drop 2 voicings. It’s one effective way to take what you already know to more creative levels for sure. As a cocktail piano player, you’ll absolutely learn to love this approach to voicing chords on the piano. Simply playing a couple of drop 2 voicings in succession results in your sounding like you know what you are doing at those keys.
So what are they? The concept is simple to grasp. Now, although this is true, the implementation of these jazz piano chords can be taken to many levels with regular practice of them in various musical contexts. Okay, we call them “drop 2” because: 1) The focus is on the second chord from the top of a given chord structure (second from the right on the piano keyboard) 2) That note is simply dropped to become the lowest member of the chord voicing. Let’s see how this looks when we apply it to a basic chord that you are already likely to be familiar with, the Major 7th chord…
Specifically, we have the Amaj7 chord here in its basic root position:
A C# E G#
Play this chord formation with the right hand beginning with the A above middle C. Okay, next, see that E, which is the second chord tone from the top? Instead of playing it there, play it one octave lower with the left hand. Therefore, the order of our chord tones is as follows:
E A C# G#
Play this chord voicing and listen!
Now, play the original Amaj7 above… then play this drop 2 voicing again. Go back and forth. It won’t take long for you to appreciate the difference!
When it comes to your adding more and more jazz piano chords to your “piano playing toolbox,” the drop 2 voicing approach will open all kinds of doors for you, as you can apply this to any chord structure!
Let’s do one more here before you go on your own to explore the endless possibilities:
Here is a Gmin7 chord in second inversion (yes, you can apply this to all the positions!):
D F G Bb
Play this Gmin7 chord with the right hand beginning with the D just above middle C. Then drop the second chord tone from the top to the bottom, which gives you this:
G D F Bb
You are playing the G with your left hand. Of course, you can split the voicing between the hands so that each is playing two chord tones if you like.
Apply the drop 2 voicing to all the inversions of a 7th chord as you ascend and descend and listen to what you get! As you take your cocktail piano playing to many different heights with this one, remember…
PLAY WITH PASSION!