• Variations of “2-5-1” Chord Progressions

    in Chords & Progressions

    If you listen to music, you’ve definitely heard a “2-5-1” progression. They are found in just about any type of music — regardless of style, genre, or rhythmical pattern. It is commonly the series of chords that end a song or phrase. However, it can be used in several situations (I can only go over a few in this lesson but encourage you to check out my course for further instruction).

    In this chord progression, the 2 chord (you’ll learn what this is later on in this lesson) leads to the 5 chord which in turns, produces a strong pull towards the ending chord (which is usually the 1st major chord of the scale).

    First, let me start by showing you what chords correspond to each tone of a major scale:

    1 tone – Major
    2 tone – Minor
    3 tone – Minor
    4 tone – Major
    5 tone – Major (dominant)
    6 tone – Minor
    7 tone – Half Diminished

    To understand the chart above, you must understand that each tone of a major scale has a chord which goes along with it. For example, the following is a C major scale:

    (C — D — E — F — G — A — B — C)

    Each tone above has a matching chord. Simply add the endings of the chart above to the scale as shown below:

    >C MAJORD MINORE MINORF MAJORG MAJOR / DOMA MINORB HALF-DIMINISHED<

    To further understand progressions, lets number each chord:

    1 = C major
    2 = D minor
    3 = E minor
    4 = F major
    5 = G dominant
    6 = A minor
    7 = B half – diminished
    8 = C major

    Now, to create a “2-5-1” chord progression (or any numbered chord progression), simply take the 2, 5, and 1 chord out of the entire series of chords above. That is, we would not use the 3,4, 6, or 7 chord.

    The 2 chord is D minor; the 5 chord is G dominant; and the 1 chord is C major.

    This right here is the most basic “2-5-1” chord progression you’ll ever see:

    Dmin — Gdom — Cmaj

    min = minor
    dom = dominant
    maj = major

    REFERENCE 1A:

    D minor chord = (D) + (F) + (A)
    G dominant chord = (G) + (B) + (D) + (F)
    C major chord = (C) + (E) + (G)

    Example: To play a Dminor chord simply play all three of the notes shown above at the same time (D+F+A)

    Moving on…

    Now that we have covered some theory (I’m glad that’s out of the way), let me just show you a few chords that I love to play. I will try not to be as theoretic … I will simply give you the chord changes and you’ll have to apply them to your understanding of chords and alterations. All of these progression will be shown in the key of C major…

    (For more chord progressions, check out our 300-pg course! It is currently on special.)

    1) “Churchy 2-5-1 Chord Progression” Style #1

    D7 (b9) — G13 —- Cmaj (pronounced “D seven, flat nine —– G thirteenth — C major”)

    D7 (b9) = Bass * Play “D” ——— F# + A + C + D#
    G13 = Bass * Play “G” ———- F + A + C + E
    Cmaj = Bass * Play “C” ———– E + G + C (1st inversion)

    Example: For D7 (b9), we would play F# + A + C + D# with “D” on the bass (left hand).

    Inversion just refers to the way the chord is played. Since “C” is the highest note, it is said to be played in its “first inversion”

    Note: I love playing this chord progression in gospel music. You try playing it and let me know what you come up with!

    (For more chord progressions, check out our 300-pg course! It is currently on special.)

    2) “Churchy 2-5-1 Chord Progression” Style #2

    For this progression, every chord will be the same except for the D7 (b9). We will simply play a regular D9 chord.

    D9 = F# + A + C + “E” (not D#)

    Notice: The only difference in a D9 and a D7 (b9) is the difference in the “ninth” tone. Since we are not flatting the 9th tone, we use “E” instead of “D#.”

    D9 = Bass * Play “D” ——— F# + A + C + E
    G13 = Bass * Play “G” ———- F + A + C + E
    Cmaj = Bass * Play “C” ———– E + G + C

    3). “Contemporary 2-5-1 Chord Progression” Style #1

    For this progression, we are going to use:

    D9 add 6 —> G13 —> Cmaj

    D9 add 6 = Bass * Play “D” ——— F# + B + C + E
    G13 = Bass * Play “G” ———- F + A + C + E
    Cmaj = Bass * Play “C” ———– E + G + C

    4.) “Contemporary 2-5-1 Chord Progression” Style #2

    This progression will follow the same exact pattern as #3 with the following chord alteration:

    D9 b5 —> G13 —-> Cmaj

    *** You are going to have to extend your fingers for this one!

    D9 b5 = Bass * Play “D” ——— F# + B + C + E + A#
    G13 = Bass * Play “G” ———- F + A + C + E
    Cmaj = Bass * Play “C” ———– E + G + C

    Well, that’s it for this lesson. See ya next time!

    (Leave your comments about this lesson below. Did you like the chords I shared? Have you tried them out? Have your own 2-5-1’s to share?)

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    Hi, I'm Jermaine Griggs, founder of this site. We teach people how to express themselves through the language of music. Just as you talk and listen freely, music can be enjoyed and played in the same way... if you know the rules of the "language!" I started this site at 17 years old in August 2000 and more than a decade later, we've helped literally millions of musicians along the way. Enjoy!

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    { 24 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 Anonymous

    I was so Bless to fine this on my E-mail

    God Bless

    Sis BJ

    Reply

    2 Berenger

    U can not imagine how happy I may be for this precious courses.I ‘m also grateful to U for these nice chords I enjoy everytime I try them out! but I’ve got a little problem concerning the 2-5-1 progression.for instance in the C key how can I use this progression? from what chord to what chord can I use this progression and what are my 2-5-1 chords also? God bless U a lot

    Reply

    3 Dico

    I have written anurod nine songs that I have really liked and am shy to sing a lot. But I have been told my lyrics are amazing. After finding a mood, there is no EXACT proper format. There are a few, though. E-mail me for a list. . No scam, I assure you. P.S. If you liked this answer, PLEASE be my fan. Thank you and Happy New Year.

    Reply

    4 Terence Brown

    I really enjoyed these posts concerning chord progressions. I thought I had it right, but these posts confirmed it for me.I’m doing well but I need the workbook ie. (300 page course). I tried to skip it but I must confess, I need to have it if I’m going to have a good foundation on the theory. Thanks Jermaine and
    Hear and Play Family.

    Reply

    5 Keith Samuels

    Hey Jermaine,
    Great stuff, but isn’t the (#4) contemporary 2-5-1 progession with the (D9 b5 = Bass * Play “D” ——— F# + B + C + E + A#) incorrect. The A# should really be an Ab.

    Keith

    Reply

    6 Keith Samuels

    Hi,

    A 2-5-1 that I like to use on sometimes is this

    Dmin9 F-A-C-E
    Gb9 F-Ab-B-E (or Eb)
    C E-G-C (add a D for a 2 under the e if you like)

    Let me know if you like this one.

    Reply

    7 toyin

    pls basicalt i play on f sharp key my problem is i want 2 know chords and thier application am a very good fan of hear and plaay pls i would like u 2 help me out because all the tutors are been lectured on c major key please how do i refer them to my f sharp key and maind u i love your tutors thanks toyin.

    Reply

    8 Delroy H.

    Looking at Toyin’s Comment I would like to add a little bit here, first of all, it’s not wise to stuck to any one key but try to play-in and to know all 12 keys. So, every thing that was said about the key of “C” , the same principle/pattern can be transferred to the other 11 keys. Therefore, The 1 in “C”– C + E + G or root, The 1 in “F#”– F# + A# + C# or root.
    Let’s look at the 2-5-1 progression in “F#” that would be : 2 – G# minor G# + B + D#
    5 – C# Major C# + F + G# then to 1 – F# Major F# + A# + C# .
    So the next thing to do, get to the basic “C” get all the chord with variations the 6, 7, 9, 11,13 etc. and transfer them to the other 11 Keys…… keep striking.

    Reply

    9 malcolm

    i would like to do about the phat chord voicing Jermine you have help me alot with those 251 progression

    Reply

    10 Anthony A. Jackson

    Hello Brother Griggs,
    Thank you for sharing time and time again. The varying 2-5-1 possibilities you shared are awesome. My kids and I love your lessons! We have a theory question about complex chords. The numbers don’t seem to match as far as the numbered scale is concerned. For example, in the key of C, the 2-chord, played as D9 seems to have F# as the “9”. Is a 9 really a 2 as we continue the scale numbers at the octave note? Wouldn’t the second note for D be an E and not an F#? I am just trying to understand the pattern of this theory as my kids and I are learning together, I want to explain this correctly. Thank you again.

    Reply

    11 Ayhamscorp

    Hi Anthony. Just want to clarify the thing about the D9 chord.
    The F# is not the 9th note, it is the 3rd (major third).
    Here is the formula of 9 chords:

    R, 3, 5, m7, 9 =====> 9th = 2nd
    Apply it on D, you’ll have:
    D (R), F#(major 3rd), A(perfect 5th), C(minor seventh), E (ninth).

    A quick way to find out what the 9th, 11th, and 13th notes of each scale are, is to do the following:
    note – 7 = the note in normal numbering (1 to 7)
    9-7=2 (so 9 is the 2nd note of the scale)
    11-7= 4 (11 is the 4th note of the scale)
    13-7= 6 (13 is the 6th note of the scale)

    Hope this helps.
    Thanks.

    Reply

    12 radgenal

    i liked that…numerically ! 9-7=2,11-7=4, 13-7= 6…….

    Reply

    13 custom metal stampings

    salutations from over the world. precise blog I will return for more.

    Reply

    14 Anthony

    Germaine pls can u send me this newsletters with no video attached? Pls do so

    Reply

    15 Ayhamscorp

    Hi Anthony. Just want to clarify the thing about the D9 chord.
    The F# is not the 9th note, it is the 3rd (major third).
    Here is the formula of 9 chords:

    R, 3, 5, m7, 9 =====> 9th = 2nd
    Apply it on D, you’ll have:
    D (R), F#(major 3rd), A(perfect 5th), C(minor seventh), E (ninth).

    A quick way to find out what the 9th, 11th, and 13th notes of each scale are, is to do the following:
    note – 7 = the note in normal numbering (1 to 7)
    9-7=2 (so 9 is the 2nd note of the scale)
    11-7= 4 (11 is the 4th note of the scale)
    13-7= 6 (13 is the 6th note of the scale)

    Hope this helps.
    Thanks.

    Reply

    16 Mihailo

    Hi Jermaine, Thank you so very much, you are helping me understand music heaps. Well done! I’ll make sure to pass this on and let people know about you.

    Blessings and Greetings.

    Mihailo

    Reply

    17 Jean Rodolphe

    Man I’m getting back on my skills and I like the fact that you kept on sending me e-mail Jermaine and when I finally needed help it was there thank you. this was very helpful and quick to diagnose. May God keep blessing you and and everyone that’s involved including families.

    Reply

    18 J.T

    Good afternoon. I have a question about the 2 in the 2-5-1 here. i noticed your using a Dmaj chord for “style 1” and so on for that matter. i thought the 2-chord had to be a minor? or is it left to the discretion of the player to produce the sound he wants? i just wanted to clear that up so i dont confuse myself :).

    Great stuff by the way, i find your blogs/lessons to be very helpful and informative.

    Thanks,
    J

    Reply

    19 Jerrica Bunker

    Keep up the good work , I read few content on this internet site and I conceive that your blog is rattling interesting and holds circles of great info .

    Reply

    20 tabletki poronne

    I want to to thank you for this good read!! I absolutely enjoyed every little bit of it. I have got you book marked to look at new things you post…

    Reply

    21 ORAFU Victor

    I tried playing 2-5-1 progression using Dmaj (second inversion ) on many gospel music. The output was wonderful. More kudos to you.

    Reply

    22 Thomas Downie

    How do you go about 2,5,1. Jermaine.

    Reply

    23 radgenal

    i truly have been blessed finding this site, thanks again Jermaine u r a blessing to all

    Reply

    24 Tendai Matongo

    Hi
    Thank you very much for the website, I am pretty new to the language of music however I have a passion on playing the Keyboard. How best can you assist me Ive started with the progression of Fsharp but still find most of it very confusing.

    Regards
    Tendai

    Reply

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