• 2-5-1 Progression: “A & B” Voicing Technique vs Skeleton Voicings

    in Chords & Progressions,Piano

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    In today’s lesson, we’ll be covering the 2-5-1 chord progression.

    In our founder’s very words, I want to define and analogize chord progressions as the “blood flow of music.” I’m tempted to go into the biological implication of blood flow but I’ll spare you.

    (I dare not go into all that because of all what we have to cover in this post. Trust me, if I do, it will take us entirely out of the goal of today’s post.)

    I’ll be giving you a step-by-step guide to the skeleton voicing of the 2-5-1 progression using the A & B voicing technique. But before we get into all that, here’s a review of the 2-5-1 progression.

    Reading suggestion: “Drop 2” vs “A & B” Voicing Techniques in 2-5-1 Chord Progressions.

    Review of the 2-5-1 Chord Progression

    The major scale has seven tones. In the key of C major:

    …chords can be formed on any of these seven degrees.

    C = 1st tone
    D = 2nd tone
    E = 3rd tone
    F = 4th tone
    G = 5th tone
    A = 6th tone
    B = 7th tone

    The 2-5-1 chord progression is the movement of chords from the 2nd degree to the 5th degree, then to the 1st degree.

    Below are the seventh chords of the 2nd, 5th, and 1st degrees in C major:

    Chord 2:

    Chord 5:

    Chord 1:

    Using voice leading techniques, this chord progression can be rearranged thus:

    Chord 2:

    Chord 5:

    Chord 1:

    Wondering why chord 5 looks different? We’ll cover it in the next two segments, stay focused. You can also check out my post on “Drop 2” vs “A & B” Voicing Techniques in 2-5-1 Chord Progressions.

    Skeleton Voicing of Seventh Chords

    The most important tones of a chord – especially in seventh chords – are the third and seventh tones.

    Considering how much we have to cover, kindly check out this post on “How to Play Sevenths Chords With Just Two Notes.”

    “What’s This ‘A & B’ Voicing Thing All About?”

    It takes the combination of three or more notes to produce a chord.

    Considering these notes (aka – “chord tones”) as though they are voice parts and rearranging them to move like voice parts is known as voicing.

    Seventh chords have four tones. The classic C major seventh chord:

    …is built off the first, third, fifth, and seventh tones of the C major scale:

    …and is therefore said to have a first (aka – “root”), third, fifth, and seventh.

    Let me reiterate…

    In chord formation, the most important tones are the third and seventh. This is because they determine the quality of a chord, whether it’s a major or minor chord.

    In the C major seventh chord:

    …E and B:

    …are the third and seventh tones (aka – skeleton) of the C major seventh chord.

    In “A & B” voicing, we are more interested in the position of the third and seventh in any given chord.

    Alphabetically, A comes before B.

    Numerically, you count three before seven (and not the other way round).

    In the C major seventh chord:

    The third (E):

    …comes before the seventh (B):

    However, in music, there are situations where you can put the cart before the horse. Indeed.

    This may seem like it’s going against normal conventions:

    B coming before A.

    Seven being counted before three.

    In this case, we’ll play the seventh tone before the third:

    The regular way of playing the third before the seventh (aka – “3-7”):

    …is called the A voicing, while the “cart before the horse” (rearranged) way of playing the seventh chord in such a way that the seventh comes before the third (aka – “7-3”):

    …is called the B voicing.

    Let’s look at the skeleton voicing of the 2-5-1 chord progression using the A and B voicing technique.

    “A-B-A Voicing Style” of the 2-5-1 Progression Using the Skeleton Voicing Technique

    The 2-5-1 chord progression below is called the A-B-A voicing style because we’re moving from the A voicing of chord 2:

    …to the B voicing of chord 5:

    …then the A voicing of chord 1:

    A voicing (chord 2) – B voicing (chord 5) – A voicing (chord 1).

    Let’s go a step further by deriving the skeleton voicing of chords 2, 5, and 1 in the key of C major.

    The Skeleton Voicing of Chord 2

    Chord 2 is the A voicing of the D minor seventh chord:

    …its third is F:

    …and its seventh is C:

    Therefore the skeleton voicing of the D minor seventh chord is F-C:

    …played over D on the bass:

    Here’s the A voicing of the D minor seventh chord using the skeleton voicing:

    The Skeleton Voicing of Chord 5

    Chord 5 is the B voicing of the G dominant seventh chord:

    Please, remember that in the B voicing, the seventh comes before the third (one of those cart before the horse situations.)

    …its seventh is F:

    …and its third is B:

    Therefore the skeleton voicing of the G dominant seventh chord is F-B:

    …played over G on the bass:

    Here’s the B voicing of the G dominant seventh chord using the skeleton voicing:

    The Skeleton Voicing of Chord 1

    Chord 1 is the A voicing of the C major seventh chord:

    …its third is E:

    …and its seventh is B:

    Therefore the skeleton voicing of the C major seventh chord is E-B:

    …played over C on the bass:

    Here’s the A voicing of the C major seventh chord using the skeleton voicing:

    The 2-5-1 chord progression in the key of C major can be played using these skeleton voicings.

    Check it out below:

    Chord 2:

    Chord 5:

    Chord 1:

    “B-A-B Voicing Style” of the 2-5-1 Progression Using the Skeleton Voicing Technique

    Here’s an alternate take of the 2-5-1 chord progression. This is the B-A-B voicing style.

    Here’s a breakdown of this voicing style.

    We’re moving from the B voicing of chord 2:

    …to the A voicing of chord 5:

    …then the B voicing of chord 1:

    B voicing (chord 2) – A voicing (chord 5) – B voicing (chord 1).

    Let’s go a step further by deriving the skeleton voicing of chords 2, 5, and 1 in the key of C major.

    The Skeleton Voicing of Chord 2

    Chord 2 is the B voicing of the D minor seventh chord:

    It’s a B voicing. That’s why the seventh comes before the third.

    Its seventh is C:

    …and its third is F:

    Therefore the skeleton voicing of the D minor seventh chord is C-F:

    …played over D on the bass:

    Here’s the B voicing of the D minor seventh chord using the skeleton voicing:

    The Skeleton Voicing of Chord 5

    Chord 5 is the A voicing of the G dominant seventh chord:

    Its third is B:

    …and its seventh is F:

    Therefore the skeleton voicing of the G dominant seventh chord is B-F:

    …played over G on the bass.

    Here’s the A voicing of the G dominant seventh chord using the skeleton voicing:

    The Skeleton Voicing of Chord 1

    Chord 1 is the B voicing of the C major seventh chord:

    …its seventh is B:

    …and its third is E:

    Therefore the skeleton voicing of the C major seventh chord is B-E:

    …played over C on the bass:

    Here’s the B voicing of the C major seventh chord using the skeleton voicing:

    Putting these chords together would produce the 2-5-1 chord progression in the key of C major. Check it out below:

    Chord 2:

    Chord 5:

    Chord 1:

    Final Words

    The skeleton voicing technique is an important tool that should be in the toolbox of any serious musician.

    Not only does it help you play less and sound more, it also helps you keep the skeleton in the chordboard visible.

    In another post, I’ll be showing you steps to master these voicing activities over the 2-5-1 progression.

    See you then.

     

    P.S.

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    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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    { 1 comment… read it below or add one }

    1 Jubal Keyz

    Thanks for sharing. GBD “na u try pass” omo naija..

    Reply

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