We’re back with another “Ask Jermaine” session — this time, focusing on the phrase, “2-5-1 Of The 4.”
This question comes from Bill in San Antonio, TX.
“Jermaine, I’ve heard you and others talk about how important 2-5-1 progressions are and I understand all this. What I don’t get is when you say the 2-5-1 of the 4 or the 2-5-1 of the 6. What does this all mean?”
First off, great question Bill!
In music, even though you’re in one particular key (or as I always say, one planet or galaxy), you can borrow things from other places.
For example, if you live in the USA like me, it doesn’t stop us from importing goods from other countries.
Using chord progressions in your current key that would be typical in another key is very common… and helps to spice up your music.
If you only used the same diatonic chords of a key every time, things would get boring pretty fast. Now, don’t get me wrong… millions upon millions of songs use the typical diatonic chords (that is — major on 1, minor on 2, minor on 3, major on 4, dominant on 5, minor on 6, diminished or half-dim7 on 7). And with all the inversions and potential voicings available to you, these 7 chords can be turned into a lot!
So let’s explore the 2-5-1 in general. Then, we’ll turn to the “2-5-1 of the 4″ and once you get that concept, you’ll get them all (i.e. “2-5-1 of 6″ … “2-5-1 of 3″ etc).
If you’re a beginner, you must understand the numbers come from the major scale.
A 2-5-1 chord progression is no more than a chord off the 2nd tone of the scale moving to a chord off the 5… finally coming home to a chord on the 1.
In C major:
C is 1
D is 2
E is 3
F is 4
G is 5
A is 6
B is 7
So this would be some type of D chord going to some type of G chord… then coming home to some type of C chord.
Above, we covered diatonic chords briefly. Those are the chords that are most likely to occur on each tone of the scale.
So the D would most likely be D minor or D minor 7 because the 2nd tone of the scale naturally creates a minor chord.
The G would either be a G major or G dominant 7.
And the C — it would be a C major or C major 7.
D minor 7
G dominant 7 (a.k.a. – G7)
C major 7
This holds true in all keys.
If we wanted to take this to the key of F, we answer these questions:
1) What is the 2 in F? What is the 5? What is the 1?
Answer: The 2nd tone of F major is G, the 5th is C, and the 1 is F.
2) What diatonic chords occur on the 2, 5, and 1?
Answer: The same diatonic chords that occur on any 2, 5, or 1. The key doesn’t matter. The 2nd diatonic chord of any scale will be minor or minor7. The 5th will be major or dominant 7 and the 1 will be major or major7.
So, in F major:
G minor 7 >>> C7 >>> F major 7
F major 7
So, if you’re in C major and someone says “play the 2-5-1 of the 4,” they literally mean:
“Even though you’re in C major, think as if you were in F major because F is the 4th of C. What would be a 2-5-1 in the key of F major? Simply bring that chord progression to the key of C.”
Your song may start on C major 7 and since we know 2-5-1 progressions are very strong, we’d insert a “2-5-1 of the 4″ to give us a strong connection to the 4.
So the progression would be: C major 7 – G minor 7 – C7 – F major 7
You hear this all the time too! It’s simply a C major 7, followed by a “2-5-1 of the 4.”
F is the 4th tone of C… so “2-5-1 of the 4″ literally means “2-5-1 of F.” We’re bringing a 2-5-1 from F major into C major (and you know it’s not a chord progression native of C major because the G would never be minor… it would always be major or dominant so that’s an obvious giveaway that we’ve borrowed this progression.)
C major 7
F major 7
So whenever someone says “2-5-1 of the 4,” you’ll never be confused again!
I’m out of time but maybe next time I can cover the “2-5-1 of the 6.”
It’s the same concept except the 6 is minor… so you’re borrowing a “2-5-1″ from a minor key. Just check out this lesson I did on the diatonic chords of minor keys. Then figure out the 2, the 5, and the 1 of “A minor.” Once you’ve gotten that, bring those chords into C major and you’ve got yourself a “2-5-1 of the 6.”
There you have it, the “2-5-1 of the 4″ concept demystified!
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