• The Relationship Between Stable And Unstable Major Seventh Chords In A 2-5 Chord Progression

    in Chords & Progressions,General Music,Piano,Theory

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    Our focus in today’s lesson is on the 2-5 chord progression.

    Although the 2-5 chord progression is an incomplete 2-5-1 chord progression, it is important because it covers 66.6% of the 2-5-1 chord progression (which is arguably the strongest root progression in a variety of music styles especially in jazz and gospel music).

    Warning: What you’re about to learn about the 2-5 chord progression will revolutionize your playing – I guarantee you that. Therefore, if you DON’T want to know what the top players are doing over the 2-5-1 chord progression, leave this page now!

    Let me give you the order of this lesson before we proceed. Firstly, you’ll be exposed to the redefinition of major seventh chords, followed by a thorough breakdown of the 2-5 chord progression, before we end with the application of stable and unstable major seventh chords in a 2-5 chord progression.

    Let’s get started!

    Major Seventh Chords – Redefined

    In chord formation, the stability of a chord depends on the quality of the fifth interval it’s made up of.

    “What Is A Stable Major Seventh Chord?”

    A stable major seventh chord is a major seventh chord that CANNOT be broken down into chromatic dissonant intervals like augmented and diminished intervals.

    The only stable major seventh chord is the major seventh chord – formed by playing the first, third, fifth and seventh tones of the natural major scale. Playing the first, third, fifth and seventh tones of the C natural major scale:

    …which are C, E, G and B:

    …produces the C major seventh chord.

    Due to the fact that the major seventh chord CANNOT be broken down into any chromatic dissonant interval, it is considered as a stable major seventh chord.

    Unstable Major Seventh Chords – Explored

    Unstable major seventh chords are major seventh chords that CAN be broken down into chromatic dissonant intervals. Apart from the major seventh chord, every other major seventh chords like:

    …belong to this category.

    The Minor-Major Seventh Chord

    The minor-major seventh chord is the first scale degree seventh chord of the melodic minor and harmonic minor scales. Therefore, playing the first, third, fifth and seventh tones of the melodic or harmonic minor scale produces the minor-major seventh chord.

    Playing the first, third, fifth and seventh tones of the C harmonic minor scale:

    …or the C melodic minor scale:

    …which are C, Eb, G and B:

    …produces the C minor-major seventh chord.

    The C minor-major seventh chord:

    …(and every other minor major seventh chord), is considered as an unstable major seventh chord because of the augmented fifth interval between its third and seventh tones – which are Eb and B:

    It is this augmented fifth interval (which is a chromatic dissonant interval) that makes the minor-major seventh chord unstable and this explains why the minor-major seventh chord has the tendency to resolve to a more stable chord when played.

    The Diminished-Major Seventh Chord

    The diminished-major seventh chord is a product of the diminished triad and a major seventh interval.

    The major seventh interval is a product of the first and seventh tones of the natural major scale. The relationship between the first and seventh tones of the C natural major scale:

    …which are C and B:

    …produces the major seventh interval. The C diminished major-seventh chord:

    …is a product of the C diminished triad:

    …and the C major seventh interval:

    Diminished major-seventh chords are considered as unstable major seventh chords because of the diminished fifth interval between the root and the fifth tone, and also the augmented fifth interval between its third and seventh tones.

    The diminished fifth interval and the augmented fifth interval are chromatic dissonant intervals and are the intervals that the instability of the diminished-major seventh chord is derived from.

    The Augmented-Major Seventh Chord

    The augmented-major seventh chord is the third scale degree seventh chord of the melodic minor and harmonic minor scales. The augmented-major seventh chord is a product of the augmented triad and a major seventh interval.

    The major seventh interval is a product of the first and seventh tones of the natural major scale. The relationship between the first and seventh tones of the C natural major scale:

    …which are C and B:

    …produces the major seventh interval. The C augmented-major seventh chord:

    …is a product of the C augmented triad:

    …and the C major seventh interval:

    The C augmented-major seventh chord:

    …(and every other augmented-major seventh chord), is considered as an unstable major seventh chord because of the augmented fifth interval between its first and fifth tones – which are C and G#:

    It is this augmented fifth interval (which is a chromatic dissonant interval) that makes the augmented-major seventh chord unstable and this explains why the augmented-major seventh chord has the tendency to resolve to a more stable chord when played.

    Quick Insights On The 2-5 Chord Progression

    Every major or minor key has its traditional scale which gives an outline of the degrees in that key.

    There are eight degrees 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

    The movement of chords from one degree of the scale to another produces a chord progression because literally the chord progresses from one degree to another.

    Jermaine Griggs has emphasized so much on the number system long before now. In the number system, every degree of the scale is represented with a number that corresponds with its distance from the first tone of the scale (aka – “the tonic”.)

    “For Example…”

    A root progression from C (represented as ‘1’ on the number system):

    …to D (represented as ‘2’ on the number system):

    …can be considered as a 1-2 chord progression.

    “What Is A 2-5 Chord Progression?”

    In any given key, the movement of chords from the second degree of the scale to the fifth degree of the scale produces a 2-5 chord progression.

    The second and fifth degrees in the key of C major:

    …are D:

    …and G:

    …respectively. Therefore, in a 2-5 chord progression in the key of C major:

    …chord 2 (which is the D minor triad):

    …progresses to chord 5 (which is the G major triad):

    “It Gets A Lot Better With Seventh Chords…”

    Using seventh chords, we can have a spicier 2-5 chord progression from the D minor seventh chord:

    …to the G dominant seventh chord:

    “Have You Tried Ninth Chords?”

    To further sophisticate the 2-5 chord progression, ninth chords can be applied. This would entail a chord progression from the D minor ninth chord:

    …to the G dominant ninth chord:

    “In A Nutshell…”

    There are a variety of ways to play the 2-5 chord progression. However, we’ll be focusing on how it can be played using the stable and unstable major seventh chords we learned in a previous segment.

    The 2-5 Chord Progression Using Stable And Unstable Major Seventh Chords

    In a 2-5 chord progression in the key of C, the scale degree seventh chords are the D minor seventh chord:

    …and the G dominant seventh chord:

    …respectively.

    However, for the purpose of this lesson, we’ll be substituting the D minor seventh chord with the D minor ninth chord:

    “Then…”

    Using the “part-over-root” voicing technique, we can rearrange the D minor seventh chord into an F major seventh chord:

    …over D on the bass:

    …written as Fmaj7/D:

    From our “part-over-root” voicing of the D minor ninth chord, we’ve derived the F major seventh chord – a stable major seventh chord.

    “Here’s What You Need To Know…”

    Stable major seventh chords are used in the formation of chord 2, while unstable major seventh chords are used in the formation of chord 5.

    This first part of the statement above that says “stable major seventh chords are used in the formation of chord 2″ explains why the F major seventh chord played over D:

    …produces the D minor ninth chord.

    Let me end by explaining the second part that says “unstable major seventh chords are used in the formation of chord 5″ to you.

    In the key of C major, the F major seventh chord (a stable major seventh chord):

    …is used in the formation of chord 2, while other unstable major seventh chords like the F minor-major seventh chord:

    …F diminished-major seventh chord:

    …and the F augmented-major seventh chord:

    …can be used in the formation of chord 5.

    The F minor-major seventh chord:

    …over G on the bass:

    …produces the G13sus4[b9] chord:

    The F diminished-major seventh chord:

    …over G on the bass:

    …produces the G13[b9] chord:

    The F augmented-major seventh chord:

    …over G on the bass:

    …produces the G13[#11] chord:

    “Here Are Three Approaches To The 2-5 Chord Progression Using Stable And Unstable Major Seventh Chords…”

    Approach #1

    Chord 2:

    …to Chord 5:

    Approach #2

    Chord 2:

    …to Chord 5:

    Approach #3

    Chord 2:

    …to Chord 5:

    Final Words

    From what we’ve covered so far, I know that you can effortlessly play the 2-5 chord progression with tons of options for chord 5.

    Kindly transpose this idea to all twelve keys and have fun applying them to congregational songs and jazz standards.

    Thank you for your time and see you in the next lesson.

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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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    { 4 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 Joe

    Incredible lesson Dr. BTW, Approach #1 and #2 are the same.

    Reply

    2 Linda Lane

    Yes! Approach #1 is wrong!!!

    Reply

    3 Chuku Onyemachi

    Hi Linda,
    May I know why you think it’s wrong?

    Reply

    4 Linda Lane

    Approach #1 and #2 are the same notes

    Reply

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