Famous Chord Progression: 2-5-1


You've probably heard of lots of references to chord progressions like the 2-5-1 and 6-2-5-1 turnarounds. A chord progression is a series of chords played one after the other. And chord progressions make up songs.


So, what are the 2-5-1 progressions? First, the numbers come straight from the major scales. The 2-5-1 is three chords because each number of the scale represents a chord.


C - D - E - F - G - A - B - C
1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8

A 2 - 5 - 1 from this scale is a chord based on "D" moving to a chord based on "G" moving to a chord based on "C". This is called the number system.



Let's take a look at Dmin9 Chord (D minor ninth chord)

L.H. / R.H.

D/FACE

To make the sound stronger, play D and C with your left hand. You'll want to play the D and C far apart to create a nice sound.

If you desire a fuller sound, try playing DAC in your left hand.

With the G13 chord ( G thirteenth chord), play:

G/FACE

You can see that this is the same chord as the one above but the bass is different so it's not a Dmin9 but rather, G13. If you want to make the bass full, play GF or GDF in place of a single G bass note.

Looking at a Cmaj9 chord (C major ninth chord), here it is:

C/ EGBD

If you'd like, play CB in the left hand for a fuller, richer sound.

Combining all three chords, you'll hear these changes in all music styles, especially jazz.

Practice:

Dmin9 to G13 to Cmaj9

This progression, the 2-5-1 is common when a song is either about to end or at a point where it needs to return back to the beginning to repeat another verse. The 2 prepares for the 5 and the 5 creates this tension that is only calmed by resolving to a point of rest - the 1 chord... that is probably the chord that opened the song.

The Major Modes and II-V-I

The basic chords played in jazz harmony come from the major scale and all of its modes. Each mode starts on a different note of the major scale. The Greek names for these modes, in use for over 2,000 years are written below. The Roman numerals I-VII are on the left and correspond to the modal names on the right. In other words, Ionian is always the I mode, Dorian is always II, Phrygian is always III...
the same in every key.

C Major Scale and Its Modes

I         C D E F G A B C       C Ionian
II       D E F G A B C D        D Dorian
III      E F G A b C D E        E Phrygian
IV      F G A B C D E F        F Lydian
V       G A B C D E F G        G Mixolydian
VI      A B C D E F G A        A Aeolian
VII    B C D E F G a B         B Locrian

From these modes come seventh chords. Seventh chords are constructed by playing every other note of each mode.

C      D     E      F      G     A     B      C           (CEGB)
root  2nd  3rd    4th   5th   6th   7th   octave

This particular chord is the C major seventh chord because of the interval relationship between the root of the chord and its other notes. A major seventh chord has a major third, a perfect fifth and a major seventh. Because this chord is built off of the first mode, it is called a I chord.

CE = major 3rd
CG = perfect 5th
CB = major 7th

The second, or Dorian Mode, of the C major scale runs from D to D. The root, third, fifth and seventh of this mode - again form a chord, the D minor seventh chord because of the interval relationship between the root of the chord and its other notes. A minor seventh chord has a minor third, a perfect fifth and a minor seventh. Because this chord is built off of the second mode, it is called a II chord.

D      E       F      G     A     B     C     D             (DFAC)
root   2nd  3rd   4th    5th   6th   7th   octave

Dmin7 = DFAC

DF = minor 3rd
DA= perfect 5th
DC = minor 7th

The fifth, or Mixolydian mode runs from G to G.

G      A      B     C       D      E      F     G              (GBDF)
root   2nd   3rd   4th    5th    6th   7th   octave

This is called a "G seventh" chord, or G dominant seventh and is notated G7.
This chord is a dominant seventh chord because of the interval relationship between the root and its other notes. A dominant seventh chord has a major third, a perfect fifth and a minor seventh. Because this chord is built off of the fifth mode, it is called a V chord.

G7 = GBDF

GB = major 3rd
GD = perfect 5th
GF = minor 7th

These three chord, I, II, and V-major seventh, minor seventh and dominant seventh-are the three most commonly played chords in jazz. Since each one has a perfect fifth (there is an exception though), the third and seventh are the variables. They determine whether the chord is major, minor, or dominant, or what's called the quality of the chord. The following rules sum up the differences between the three chords:


  • A major seventh chord has a major 3rd and a major 7th.
  • A minor seventh chord has a minor 3rd and a minor 7th.
  • A dominant seventh chord has a major 3rd and a minor 7th.
These three chords often occur as a II-V-I chord progression and is the most common chord progression in jazz. The II-V-I in the key of F is Gm7,  C7 and F. 

Memorize the II-V-I progression in every key.


For more information, visit 2-5-1-chord-progressions

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All the best,






"The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you." B.B.King
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