• 95% Of The Time, End Of The Song = 2-5-1 Chord Progression

    in Beginners,Chords & Progressions,Experienced players,Gospel music,Piano,Playing By Ear,Theory

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    For most experienced players, the 2-5-1 chord progression is played at the end of most songs.

    That wasn’t my case so many years ago. I started playing the piano in 1996 and truth be told, it took me over 10 years of playing to figure out that the 2-5-1 progression is played at the end of most songs.

    There are still a vast majority of musicians who even though they know what the 2-5-1 progression is, are not aware that it is the chord progression that is used at the end of most songs. If you belong to that league of musicians, then this lesson is for you.

    If you’re willing to invest the next 12 minutes, you’ll find out what the 2-5-1 chord progression is and see how it can be used to end most songs.

    “What Is A Chord Progression?”

    According to Jermaine Griggs, “…a chord progression is the movement of chords from one degree of a scale to another.” The scale of a key whether major or minor tells us the number of notes within that key, and these notes are also called scale degrees.

    The natural major scale (which is the traditional scale of the major key) has eight degrees. For example, the key of C major:

    …has these eight notes (aka – “scale degrees”):

    C is the 1st

    D is the 2nd

    E is the 3rd

    F is the 4th

    G is the 5th

    A is the 6th

    B is the 7th

    C is the 8th

    A chord progression in the key of C:

    …entails the movement of chords from one degree of a scale to another.

    The 2-5-1 Chord Progression

    The movement of chords from the second [2] to the fifth [5], and then to the first [2] degree is called the 2-5-1 chord progression.

    In the key of C, (using the C major scale):

    …you can determine the root movement of the 2-5-1 chord progression by highlighting the second [2], fifth [5] and first [1] tones of the scale, which in the key of C are…

    D:

    …G:

    …and C:

    So a 2-5-1 chord progression in the key of C:

    …is the description of the root movement from D:

    …to G:

    …to C:

    Let’s go further by adding chords to the regular 2-5-1 chord progression.

    Chord 2

    The chord of the second degree in the key of C:

    …is a D chord:

    Now the scale degree chord for chord two can formed by stacking notes in third intervals, and here’s how it works…

    Using the C natural major scale:

    …a third from D:

    …is F:

    …a third from D-F:

    …is A:

    Altogether, that’s a D minor triad:

    …which we can expand into the Dmin7:

    …Dmin9:

    …or Dmin11:

    …chords.

    Attention: The D minor triad is chord 2, however, other advanced D minor chords like the Dmin7, Dmin9, and the Dmin11 chord can be used at the player’s discretion.

    Chord 5

    Chords of the fifth degree are known as dominant chords. So let’s check out the dominant chords we can form in the key of C.

    The fifth degree (aka – “dominant”) in the key of C:

    …is G:

    …and here’s how to form the dominant chord by stacking notes in thirds…

    A third from G:

    …is B:

    …a third from G-B:

    …is D:

    At this point, that’s the G major triad:

    …which we can also expand to the Gdom7:

    …Gdom9:

    …or even the Gdom13[#11]:

    …chords.

    Chord 1

    Following the same procedure we used for chords two and five, we can form chord one by stacking notes in the interval of thirds.

    A third from C:

    …is E:

    …a third from C-E:

    …is G:

    …and that’s the regular C major triad:

    …which is chord one in the key of C. It can also be expanded to the Cmaj7:

    …and Cmaj9:

    … chords respectively and this depends on who is playing and the musical situation.

    “Let’s Take A Look At The 2-5-1 Chord Progression Using Triads…”

    Chord 2:

    …the D minor triad.

    Chord 5:

    …the G major triad.

    Chord 1:

    …the C major triad.

    “Here’s The 2-5-1 Chord Progression Using Seventh Chords…”

    Chord 2:

    …the D minor seventh chord.

    Chord 5:

    …the G dominant seventh chord.

    Chord 1:

    …the C major seventh chord.

    Now we’re done with an overview of the 2-5-1 chord progression, let’s talk about songs before we proceed.

    A Short Note On Songs

    Being able to play songs is the artistic goal of learning how to play music. The audience may not clearly say the key, scale, chords, and chord progressions you’re playing, but when a song is played, they can tell what song it is.

    Songs can be likened to a musical fabric that is woven out of chord progressions. In this musical fabric, chord 1 (aka – “the tonic chord“) is usually played last because it strengthens the fabric by giving it a sense of the key that the song is played in.

    The tonic is the first degree of a scale and has the highest form of stability, consequently, when a song ends on the tonic chord, it ends with a sense of finality.

    In the ending of most songs, the tonic chord (chord 1) is usually preceded by the dominant chord (chord 5.) This has happened for the past 400 years and music scholars have done their best to explain why the dominant chord resolves to the tonic chord.

    To summarize their findings: “…the strongest root progressions in music is in perfect fifths.”

    The movement of chords from chord 5 to chord 1 creates a perfect cadence. Cadence is a musical term that means “falling” and in this context is used to describe the falling of the music back to its tonic chord.

    The 5-1 chord progression is said to be perfect because of the sense of satisfaction and finality it has. As such, there’s no better way to end a song than a progression from chord 5 to chord 1.

    “If Chord 5 Takes Me To Chord 1, What Will Take Me To Chord 5?”

    According to music scholars, “…the strongest root progressions in music is in perfect fifths.” Consequently, the strongest option of what precedes chord 5 is a note that’s a perfect fifth interval above the fifth degree of the scale.

    In the key of C:

    …the tonic is C:

    …the dominant (G):

    …lies a fifth above the tonic and has the strongest affinity for it.

    In the same vein, the root that precedes G:

    …lies a perfect fifth above G and that’s D:

    Due to the fact that in the key of C:

    …D:

    …is the second scale tone, chord 2 is said to be the strongest option of what precedes chord 5.

    Ultimately, this creates a cyclical chord progression to the C major triad:

    …through  the D minor triad (chord 2):

    …and the G major triad (chord 5):

    Need I say that this is the 2-5-1 chord progression we covered in the an earlier segment of this lesson?

    The 2-5-1 chord progression is very important for a variety of reasons, however, I’ll state two common reasons:

    #1 It is the strongest root movement of chord progressions in music.

    #2 It is used in the ending of most songs.

    I’ll be giving you six examples of songs that end with the 2-5-1 chord progression – three hymns and three worship songs.

    Real-Life Examples Of Songs That End With The 2-5-1 Chord Progression

    Although the list of songs that end with the 2-5-1 chord progression are endless. However, I chose these songs to illustrate how songs end with the 2-5-1 chord progression.

    Hymn #1 – Blessed Assurance

    Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
    Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!
    Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
    Born of His Spirit:

    …washed:

    …in His blood:

    Hymn #2 – “Amazing Grace”

    Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
    That saved a wretch like me.
    I once was lost but now am found,
    Was blind:

    …but now:

    …I see:

    Hymn #3 – “To God Be The Glory”

    To God be the glory,
    To God be the glory,
    To God be the glory,
    For the things He has done,
    With His blood, He has saved me,
    With His power, He has raised me,
    To God be the glory,
    For the things:

    …he:

    …has done:

    Worship Song #1 – “As The Deer”

    As the deer panteth for the water
    So my soul longeth after thee
    You alone are my heart’s desire
    And I long:

    …to wor:

    …ship you:

    Worship Song #2 – “Thank You Lord”

    Thank you Lord,
    I just want to thank you Lord,
    I just want to thank you Lord,
    I:

    …just want to thank:

    …you Lord:

    Worship Song #3 – “Anointing Fall On Me”

    Anointing fall on me
    Anointing fall on me
    Let the power
    Of the Holy Ghost
    Fall on me
    Anoin:

    …ting fa:

    ..all on me:

    Final Words

    From the explanation and examples I’m sure you’ve seen the importance of the 2-5-1 chord progressions. If you need more tips on how to play worship songs, kindly check out our GospelKeys 202 Course on “Mastering Worship Chords.”

    Thanks for investing your time in reading this blog. See you in another lesson.

    The following two tabs change content below.
    Hello, I'm Chuku Onyemachi (aka - "Dr. Pokey") - a musicologist, pianist, author, clinician and Nigerian. Inspired by my role model Jermaine Griggs, I started teaching musicians in my neighborhood in April 2005. Today, I'm privileged to work as a music consultant and content creator with HearandPlay Music Group sharing my wealth of knowledge with thousands of musicians across the world.

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    { 6 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 Bright O. Man GospelKeyz

    Great article…the examples of hymns ending really open my eyes to the real importance of this 2 5 1 progression…Keep the Good Work on….#God Bless hear and play family!

    Reply

    2 Tammy

    Question: In the theory example you use
    2 D/DFA
    5 G/GBD
    1 C/CEG
    but in the real life examples you used
    2 D/FAC
    5 G/FBD
    1 C/GBE
    Did I miss something here?

    Reply

    3 Bambam

    @temmy what actually missed is that in the one you termed ‘theory’ he used the triads and in one you termed ‘practical’ he use seventh of those chords

    Reply

    4 Chuku Onyemachi

    In the theory section, I gave two examples of the 2-5-1 chord progression using triads and seventh chords. Although I used seventh chords and not triads in the application, feel free to use triads, seventh, and ninth chords – whatever works for you.

    Reply

    5 Yemi

    Thank you for this post. I had discovered this before, but I use chord 4-5-1 to end most of the praise and worship songs that I play. Because if you take out the D note for what you highlighted as chord 2, it becomes chord 4 which is what I use. So it’s good to know another way of playing chord 2. Thanks.

    Reply

    6 Living Word

    Tammy, the first ones you wrote are for major chords I.e D/ Dmaj, G/Gmaj e.t.c but the other three are seventh chords with their root note as the bass I.e Cmaj7 is C E G B with d root on bass becomes C/E G B as you said

    Reply

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