2-5-1 Jazz Chord Progression Deciphered

Unlock the mysteries of this popular jazz chord progression.

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Hey guys, Willie Myette, creator of jazz and I want to welcome you to episode number 15 of the confident improviser podcast. So today we are going to be talking about the 251 progression, and it’s 251 progression deciphered. So what I’m going to be doing is I’m going to show you how to unlock the mysteries of this popular jazz chord progression. So now this podcast goes along with the confident improviser course, which you could find back at jazz edge. If you’d like to watch the video for this podcast and also get the sheet music, all of that is back at jazz edge, you can also go back to the confident improviser.com for more information. All right, so 251 progression deciphered. So first of all, when we are going to try and find a 251 progression and create a 251 progression, we have to remember that it all comes off of the major scale. So that’s where we start first, here’s my C major scale, C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C, pretty simple. C major scale all white notes from C to C. So that’s the first thing that we need to start with, we need to be able to know what our major scale is, and know all of the sharps and flats that go along with that major scale. Alright, so there’s our key of C. Next step, we just simply number the notes 12345678, or one. So number one is seen number two is d three is E, F is four, and so on. Okay, so if we take a look at it, immediately, we could see what we could see that two is D, five is G, and one is C. So already, we start to have the outline of our 251 progression in the key of C, right, and that would be a D to A G to a C. Now the next step gets a little bit more tricky. And this is where we are going to create diatonic seventh chords on each note of the scale. Now, this looks a lot more complicated than it is, let me play it for you. So you can hear. Right,

so even in playing that right there, it’s kind of like whoa, you know, it kind of seems like, that seems a little bit complicated, right? In reality, though, it’s not all that complicated. So what we’re doing is, I am creating a seventh chord, which is a four note chord on each note of the C major scale. And all I’m doing is using the notes from the C major scale. So that means that it’s going to be all white notes in the key of C to C here that I’m not playing any black notes in my chords, okay, all white notes in the chord, because they’re all coming from the C major scale. Now when we move into another key a little bit later, you’ll see that that’s going to change but in the key of C, it’s all white notes. That one chord is a major seventh chord to chord is a minor seventh chord, three chord is a minor seventh, four core is a major seventh five chord is a dominant seventh, okay, pay attention to that. Six chord is a minor seven, seven chord is a minor seven, flat five, some people call it half diminished. I like minor seven, flat five personally, and then one is major. Okay, so now, I said pay attention to the five chord being dominant, okay? It’s because there was only one dominant chord in each key, and that is the five chord, you’ve probably heard about dominant motion, right? Moving from five to one. Okay, so the G seven to see that is your dominant motion g seven resolving to see, that’s five resolving to one. Okay, now, the two chord here is my D minor chord. So D minor, g7, C major, that’s my to my five, my one chord progression in the key of C. Now a couple of things we need to cover. First of all, you see up here on the top, we’re using Roman numerals. So an uppercase I, a lowercase I, lowercase II, for three, uppercase IV for four uppercase V for five, lowercase v i for six, lowercase v II for seven. Right? So first of all, why do we use Roman numerals? Well, partly because it’s just what we’ve always done in analysis. Okay, so harmonic analysis and music has utilized Roman numerals for quite a while. So we continue to do that. There’s also another practical purpose, you’ll see that I have some uppercase and lowercase Roman numerals. Now and again, you might see the analysis written without any chord symbol. Now in this particular example, I still put caps Little I triangle seven, meaning a one major seventh chord. For the two chord, I have two lowercase eyes. So lowercase i is the minus sign, and a seven. So that’s telling me that it is a two minor seven chord. Okay? Now the reality though is that if we have uppercase and lowercase, we can use uppercase for majors and lowercase for minors. So in this two chord when it’s two lowercase, with a minus seven, the minus seven is almost redundant, right? We almost don’t need that because if we just put a lowercase two, we will know that it is minor. So that’s the benefit of using our Roman numerals. We have case sensitivity, we have uppercase, and we have lowercase. uppercase means major, lowercase means minor. In this particular example, I’m writing out lowercase two, and also adding in the minor seven, just to make sure that everyone understands that it is a two minor seven chord. Okay, so now let’s put together the 251 progression. So we have D minor, seven g7, C major seven, I’m going to play those chords in my right hand. So it’s D, F, AC, G, B, D, F, and C, E, G, B, they’re just gonna play my roots in the left hand. So again, those notes, D, F, A, C, for D minor g7, the notes are G, B, D, F, seven, and a notes for C major seven, or C, E, G, B. So that is our 251 progression right there. Okay, so you can stop right there, you understand 251 progression, but we’re going to continue on because we have more to do. Now the 251 progression like this is fine. But it sounds much better. If we use inversions. Take a look at that.

Does that sound better than moving? This one really sounds like we’re moving all over the place. Where’s this one

sounds a little bit smoother voice leading, okay. And voice leading is the way that the notes of one chord, move to the notes of the next chord. That’s your voice leading. So D minor, right? This is root position D minor. So d f AC, when we go to the g7. I take those top two notes at a D minor and I move them down. Okay. And now I have D, F, G, B, D, F g b, and that is my G seven chord in second inversion. Then I take the bottom two notes of the G and move them down to C and E. And now I have my C major seventh chord, C, E, G B, that again is in root position. So D minor seven root position D, F AC, g seven second inversion, D, F, G, B and then C major seventh root position, C, E, G, B, okay. All right. So that’s our 251 inversions. Okay, so now, we’re going to start to find some 251 progressions in an actual jazz standard. So what I wrote here, look for a minor chord, moving to a dominant chord, okay, let’s just stop right there. Minor chord moving to a dominant, it’s not a minor moving to a minor, it’s not a minor moving to a diminished, it’s not a minor moving to a major, it’s a minor chord moving to a dominant chord. And remember, a dominant chord is going to say something like g seven, G, nine, G, 13, G, seven sharp 11 g seven, ba, ba, ba, ba, ba, ba, right? That’s going to be your dominant chord. Okay? Now also, notice, I didn’t say it’s a major chord moving to a dominant chord, or it’s a dominant chord moving to a dominant chord, no, those those are different things. That’s not a 251 progression. So a 251 progression is a minor chord moving to a dominant chords, okay, that’s the two five part of the progression. Now the one part of it is typically a major chord, that could be a dominant, it could be a minor, there’s a little bit more gradation, there’s a little bit more gray area there and you have a little bit more flexibility. So that means that I could go D minor seven, two, g seven, C seven or D minor to G to C major for D minor, to g7 to C minor. Now typically when going to those Other chords like the minors the dominant, you might find that there’s going to be some alterations of the two, five progression. So a typical 251 progression is a minor chord moving to a dominant chord moving to a major chord. And again, how this works, it’s a minor chord moving to a dominant chord up a perfect fourth, or down a perfect fifth. So D, going up a fourth goes to G, right? Now, the one thing I didn’t write in here, which I will tell you is to find the one chord move up a perfect fourth from the five, seven. Okay. So, we go up a perfect fourth from the minor chord. Okay. And then we then go to our dominant chord. So we start with a minor chord, D minor, we go up a perfect fourth to a dominant chord, that’s g seven. And now to find the one chord go up a perfect fourth from the g7, make a major chord there. And that’s my one chord. Okay, that’s my one major chord. So again, let me show you an example. Start with D minor seven, we go up a perfect fourth, to g7. And then we go up a perfect fourth, again, to C major seventh. Now obviously, we’re not gonna go like this. It’s not a very good voice leading instead.

But just to get the chords, right, E minor, g7 to C major. So it starts on a minor goes up a perfect fourth row dominant goes up a perfect fourth to a major. Now, you’ll see here that I underline many times the one chord will be missing. In that case, just find the two, five, okay? All right. So now, we are going to actually put this into practice. Here I have beyond the sea, okay, pulling this right out of the eye real pro, a, be sure to download ireo Pro, get a real pro, if you don’t have it, right, it’s a great program, highly recommend it, you can get it on iOS or Android. It’s $15. As of right now, you know, I don’t know if it’s gonna go up or down. But that’s the price of it right now. Great program for backing tracks and playing along, you know, with harmony. So anyway, there’s your progression for beyond the see pulling up, right from IBO Pro. So what I want you to do is try and figure out the two fives on your own first. Okay, so once you try the analysis on your own first, there’s a PDF file in the members area of the confident improviser under exercise number 15. So just go back to the members area, and then you can under TCI 15, you can download this PDF file. Okay, so what I’m going to do is I’m going to go through it with you right now, but I just kind of gave this amount of time where you could just kind of like, pause the video if you want and then you know, see if you could do it on your own before I give you the answers. Okay, so now what we’re going to do is, and what you should be looking to do is try and find the 251 progressions, you don’t have to analyze the rest of the song, just try to find the 251 progressions. Now what I’ve done on the next page here, which I’m about to show you, is I have made a box around the two five progression, and I have kind of like a circle around the one chord, right. So we’re ready, go ahead and unpause the video and I will give you the answers. Okay, so here we are. The This is the analysis now for beyond the sea, I’m showing you all of the two five progressions, alright, and we’re just starting with the two fives, we’re not even adding in the ones just yet. Now, for those of you that are joining me on the podcast, let me count this out for you got 1-234-567-8910 1112 1314 teen to five progressions, okay, 14 to five progressions out of this song. Now if you take a look at this, usually if you saw the video, you would see there are a bunch of red boxes all over this page. And in fact, like half of the song is a two five progression of one sort or another. Okay, so now you’ll see that I have G minor seven, the C, that’s a two five, G minor and a seven c Yep, D minor seven, the G seven. There’s another two, five, B minor seven, e seven, right? There’s another two, five, and then everything else is just a copy D minor seven, the C, I’m sorry, D minor seven, the G seven, D minor seven, the G seven, G minor seven, the C seven. Right. Those are All to fives. Now in the next page, you’ll see I’ve circled where the one chord comes in. Now you’ll notice that sometimes the one chord isn’t there, like I’m showing you right here goes G minor seven to C seven, then D minor seven, the G seven, you see, there’s no one chord in there, it goes to five, and then moving on to a different to five. Oh, you know what, I missed one right here. Let me just fix that real quick for you. Okay, all right. So, at the beginning, here, we have G minor, seven to C seven to F six. Okay, so there’s my minor chord, going up a fourth through a dominant going up a fourth to a major. Remember, a six chord is still a major chord, okay? It’s a major sixth chord. And then you see it goes G minor seven, the C seven to F six, right? There’s another 251 progression. Now, the G minor seven, C seven over here does not resolve to anything, okay? Instead of 10 goes to a different to five D minor, seven, g7, to C seven. And you see I’ve put this in yellow, just because it’s a little bit different than your typical major, you know, Major, one chord.

There was another one I missed here as well, this one going up to a, right, so B minor, seven, e seven, a six, there’s another two, five, B minor, seven, e seven, a six and other two, five, D, G to C is a two, five D, G to C is a two, five, G, C to F less than one, two, F. There’s another two, five, right there. Okay. So you can see we got so many, two, five ones. What about this one here, G to C to D minor? Is that a 251? Or just a two five, G minor seven to C seven to D minor? Okay, well, G minor seven, it’s a minor chord goes up a fourth, okay to see, yeah, that’s a dominant. Alright, so we got the two and the five, what about up a fourth from C, that should go to where C up to F, that should be F major, but instead it’s being played as a D minor. So that is not a 251 progression, it’s just a two, five. Now, the thing to understand about jazz is that we will have many different 251 progressions, or two, five progressions, and they do not necessarily always have to be within the key signature. Okay, this song right now beyond the C is written in the key of F, okay? So in the key of F 251, is G minor seven, C seven to F, that’s 251. But you’ll see here that I have D minor, seven g7. Well, that’s listed as a two five as well. And you might think, well wait a minute, D minor, seven is six in the key of F, G seven, doesn’t even really even function, the key of F, right, because there’s g seven, and the key of F, it should be a B flat, right, that should be your two chord. Now it’s a dominant chord, what’s going on there, and then moving down a little bit further, you have B minor to e to a, well wait a minute, that’s not in the key of F either. Well, the song happens to modulate into the key of A for the bridge. But regardless, that doesn’t matter. The point is, you will find pockets of two, five progressions, or like littered throughout a jazz standard, okay. And then what that means is that we have key centers, so the song might start in the key of F, it might continue through the entire song in the key of F might never modulate. Now this song, like I said, Does modulate temporarily to the key of A right and modulates over here to the key of C for a little bit, right, okay, and then modulates back to the key of F. Okay, so there’s a little bit of modulation there. But you will find some standards that do not modulate really, but they will have these pockets in which they move to different two fives, so you might have a to five in F G to C to F. But then as you’re going along, you might have a C minor to F seven to B flat, what just did a two five to the four chord doesn’t mean that we’re now in the key of B flat, it just did a two five progression to the forecourt. So the thing to understand the thing to remember is that your two five progression does not always have to be two and five of the key that you’re in, you might start in the key of C two five will be d two g, but you might have a bunch of other two five progressions within that same song, even though you never modulated outside of the key of C. Okay, gets complicated, sure, but the more you do it, the better you get at it. Alright, so anyway, if you have questions, feel free to join me on Thursdays at 1pm. The link is right in the site under the live training. I answer all of my confident improviser questions live every Thursday, one o’clock eastern time. And that’s it for me guys. So I will see you in the next podcast episode. Thanks for joining me

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