• Here’s How Beginners Approach The 2-5-1 Chord Progression

    in Beginners,Chords & Progressions,Piano,Playing By Ear

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    If you’re interested in learning how beginners approach the 2-5-1 chord progression, this lesson is for you.

    The 2-5-1 chord progression is arguably the strongest chord progression in music. Although it is regularly played by intermediate and advanced players, it’s possible for any beginner to play it as well.

    So, if you’re a beginner, with a basic knowledge of how to play a few songs on the piano, and probably heard of the 2-5-1 chord progression, but don’t know how to go about it.

    This lesson will give you a insider’s view of it and also show you how you (or any beginner) can play the 2-5-1 chord progression.

    The 2-5-1 Chord Progression – Explained

    The Preliminaries

    There are eight notes in the major key and these notes are also known as degrees. For example, in the key of C major:

    C is the first

    D is the second

    E is the third

    F is the fourth

    G is the fifth

    A is the sixth

    B is the seventh

    C is the eighth

    Chords can be formed on every degree of the scale in a major key. These chords are known to music scholars as scale degree chords. Due to the fact that this lesson is for beginners, we’ll focus on the triads for every degree (or note) of the scale.

    “Check Them Out…”

    On the first degree (which is C):

    …is the C major triad:

    On the second degree (which is D):

    …is the D minor triad:

    On the third degree (which is E):

    …is the E minor triad:

    On the fourth degree (which is F):

    …is the F major triad:

    On the fifth degree (which is G):

    …is the G major triad:

    On the sixth degree (which is A):

    …is the A minor triad:

    On the seventh degree (which is B):

    …is the B diminished triad:

    On the eighth degree (which is C):

    …is the C major triad:

    How Chord Progressions Are Formed

    Chord progressions can be formed from scale degree chords. For example, a chord movement (in the key of C major) from chord 1:

    …to chord 3:

    …produces a 1-3 chord progression.

    The 1 and 3 in the 1-3 chord progression are derived from the chords used in the chord progression:

    Chord 1

    Chord 3

    Following the same procedure, chord progressions can be formed.

    The 2-5-1 Chord Progression

    Using the numbers 2, 5, and 1, we can decode that a 2-5-1 chord progression is basically a chord progression between the following scale degree chords:

    Chord 2

    Chord 5

    Chord 1

    In the key of C major:

    Chord 2 is the D minor triad:

    Chord 5 is the G major triad:

    Chord 1 is the C major triad:

    When the above mentioned chords are played in a regular succession, it is known as the 2-5-1 chord progression. Using the same procedures, the 2-5-1 chord progression can be played in any key.

    The 2-5-1 Chord Progression For Beginners

    The 2-5-1 chord progression is very vital in harmony, especially in gospel and jazz styles. Research has proven that the 95% of the time, the 2-5-1 chord progression can be played at the end of a song.

    Although the 2-5-1 chord progression is played by intermediate and advanced players, and most beginners are left out, it’s still possible for a beginner to learn how to play it using triads and the dominant seventh chord.

    The Chords

    There are three chords in the 2-5-1 chord progression:

    Chord 2

    Chord 5

    Chord 1

    “Let’s Breakdown The Chords In The Key Of C Major…”

    Chord 2 is the D minor triad:

    Chord 5 is the G dominant seventh chord:

    Chord 1 is the C major triad:

    Inversion Of The Chords

    Beyond the knowledge of the chords, it’s important for us to briefly cover the inversion that the chords would be played in, before we proceed.

    Chord 2:

    …would be played in its first inversion:

    …while chord 5:

    …would be played in its third inversion:

    …then chord 1:

    …[just like chord 2] would be played in its first inversion:

    The 2-5-1 Chord Progression

    Putting all the chords in their respective inversions, we’ll have a 2-5-1 chord progression.

    “Check It Out…”

    Chord 2:

    Chord 5:

    Chord 1:

    Application Of The 2-5-1 Chord Progression

    “…To A Gospel Song”

    In the song Oh How I Love Jesus, the 2-5-1 chord progression can be applied at the end of the song thus:

    Cau-ause he:

    …first loved:

    …me:

    “…To A Nursery Rhyme”

    In the nursery rhyme Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, the 2-5-1 chord progression can be applied at the end of the song thus:

    What:

    …you:

    …are:

    Final Words

    Congratulations! You can play and apply the 2-5-1 chord progression, and that’s a good thing.

    Before the next lesson where we’ll be learning how to play the 2-5-1 chord progression in all 12 major keys, try using the 2-5-1 chord progression to end other songs.

    All the best!

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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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