• Here’s How To Determine 2-5-1 Root Progressions Using Suspended Chords

    in Chords & Progressions,Experienced players,Piano,Theory

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    In today’s lesson, I’ll be showing you a simple way to determine 2-5-1 root progressions using suspended chords.

    Although suspended chords are not regularly used by gospel and jazz keyboardists who tend to explore major, minor, and dominant chords, if you master what I’m about to show you in this lesson, you’ll be able to determine 2-5-1 root progressions with effortless ease.

    To get you started in this study is a review of the 2-5-1 root progression.

    A Breakdown Of The 2-5-1 Root Progression

    Every major [or minor] key has eight degrees. Using the C natural major scale:

    …which is the traditional scale in the key of C major, we can outline the eight degrees of the C major scale as follows…

    C is 1

    D is 2

    E is 3

    F is 4

    G is 5

    A is 6

    B is 7

    C is 8

    Attention: Due to the fact that C is duplicated in this number system (C is 1 and also 8), the C on the 8th degree of the scale is not always considered. Although there are eight degrees, only seven of them are exclusive.

    The seven degrees in any given key are possible root notes of chords (aka – “scale degree chords“.) For example, a chord formed on the third degree in the key of C major:

    …(which is E):

    …is called chord 3 because the third degree in the key of C (which is E) is its root note.

    A root progression is the movement of root notes from one degree of the scale to another in relationship with a chord progression. Consequently, the knowledge of root progressions can help you know exactly what goes on in the left hand when chord progressions are played.

    There are so many root progressions…

    • 1-2-3
    • 2-3-4
    • 4-6-2
    • 6-2-5-1

    …and the permutations are endless.

    However, root progressions that move in intervals of fourths/fifths are the strongest. Root progressions that ascend in fourths (in the case of G:

    …to C):

    …or move in descents of fifths (in the case of G:

    …to C):

    …are the strongest root progressions.

    The 2-5-1 cyclical progression is a strong root progression because of the root movement in ascent of fourths…

    D:

    …to G:

    …to C:

    …and in descent of fifths…

    D:

    …to G:

    …to C:

    “Here’s a 2-5-1 chord progression in the key of C…”

    Dmin9:

    Gdom13[b9]:

    Cmaj9:

    In the chord progression above, the root progresses from D:

    …to G:

    …and then to C:

    …and that is exactly what the left hand does in a 2-5-1 chord progression.

    Having covered the 2-5-1 chord progression, let’s take this study to another level by learning how suspended chords can help in the determination of the 2-5-1 root progression in all twelve keys.

    But before that, let’s take a look at suspended chords.

    “What Are Suspended Chords?”

    One of the most important tones of a chord is its third, because the interval between the root and the third chord tone influences the overall quality of the chord. A major third quality in a chord produces a major chord while a minor third quality in a chord produces a minor chord.

    However, there are a special class of chords known as suspended chords that are not third-oriented. The third in suspended chords is either omitted or replaced with another tone that is either a perfect fourth or a major second above the root of the chord.

    Take note of the perfect fourth and the major second intervals.

    A perfect fourth interval is the product of the relationship between the first and the fourth tones of the natural major or natural minor scales, while a major second  interval is the product of the relationship between the first and the second tones of the any traditional scale.

    Given a C major triad:

    …you can form a suspended chord by omitting its third tone (E):

    …then replacing it with another note that is a perfect fourth above C (the root):

    …and that’s F:

    …which is also the fourth tone of the C major scale:

    Altogether, adding F:

    …to C-G (the C major triad with an omitted fifth):

    …produces a suspended chord:

    “That’s Not All…”

    You can form a suspended chord also by omitting third tone of the C major triad and replacing it with another note that is a major second above C (the root):

    …which is D:

    …and the second tone of the C major scale:

    Altogether, adding D:

    …to C-G (the C major triad with an omitted fifth):

    …produces another suspended chord:

    “Now Take A Look At Both Suspended Chords…”

    The first one:

    …was formed with a perfect fourth interval and is called the suspended fourth chord and is notated as sus4, while the second one:

    …was formed with a major second interval and is called the suspended second chord and is notated as sus2.

    “Here’s A Smarter Way To Also Form Suspended Chords Using Major Triads”

    Using a major triad, and a knowledge of the natural major scale,  you can form a suspended chord either by moving the third tone of the chord to the fourth or second tone of the scale.

    “Here’s How It Works…”

    Knowing that the C major triad:

    …consists of the first, third, and fifth tones of the C natural major scale:

    …you can form suspended chords by moving the third tone (E):

    …to the fourth tone (F):

    …to form a suspended fourth chord:

    Alternatively, you can move it (E) to the second tone of the scale (D):

    …to form a suspended second chord:

    “Let’s take a random example…”

    Using your knowledge of the Ab major scale:

    …you can form Absus4 and  Absus2 chords using the Ab major triad:

    It’s as simple as moving the third tone (C):

    …to the fourth tone (Db)

    …to form the Absus4 chord:

    …or moving the third tone (which is also C) to the second tone (Bb):

    …to form the Absus2 chord:

    “Here Are The Suspended Second Chords In All Twelve Keys”

    Csus2:

    Dbsus2:

    Dsus2:

    Ebsus2:

    Esus2:

    Fsus2:

    Gbsus2:

    Gsus2:

    Absus2:

    Asus2:

    Bbsus2:

    Bsus2:

    “Also Check Out The Suspended Fourth Chords In All Twelve Keys”

    Csus4:

    Dbsus4:

    Dsus4:

    Ebsus4:

    Esus4:

    Fsus4:

    Gbsus4:

    Gsus4:

    Absus4:

    Asus4:

    Bbsus4:

    Bsus4:

    Suspended Chords Can Help You Determine 2-5-1 Root Progressions

    Suspended chords have an outline of the 2-5-1 root progression and several years ago, I mastered the 2-5-1 root progression in all twelve keys using them. Today, I’ll be showing you step-by-step how this works.

    The Use Of The Sus2 Chord

    The Csus2 chord:

    …provides an outline of the 2-5-1 root progression in the key of C:

    The chord tones of the Csus2 chord, which are C, D, and G:

    …are the first, second, and fifth tones in the key of C. Consequently, the 2-5-1 root progression in the key of C, which progresses from D:

    ..to G:

    …to C:

    …has exactly the same notes in the Csus2 chord. Using the sus2 chord in any key, you can tell the 2-5-1 root progression in that key.

    “Let’s take two examples…”

    Example #1 – The 2-5-1 Chord Progression In The Key Of E

    The Esus2 chord:

    …has an outline of the 2-5-1 root progression in the key of E:

    The notes of the Esus2 chord:

    …E, F#, and B are exactly the same notes in the 2-5-1 root progression in the key of E, which progresses from F#:

    …to B:

    …and to E:

    Example #1 – The 2-5-1 Chord Progression In The Key Of E

    The Bbsus2 chord:

    …has an outline of the 2-5-1 root progression in the key of Bb:

    The notes of the Bbsus2 chord:

    …Bb, C, and F are exactly the same notes in the 2-5-1 root progression in the key of Bb, which progresses from C:

    …to F:

    …and to Bb:

    The Use Of The Sus4 Chord

    The use of the sus4 chord to determine a 2-5-1 root progression is not as easy as the use of the sus2 chord, however, it’s something you can apply.

    Playing a sus4 chord on the fifth tone in any given key outlines the notes of the 2-5-1 root progression. In the key of C:

    …where G:

    …is the fifth tone of the scale, forming a sus4 chord on G:

    …outlines the 2-5-1 root progression in the key of C.

    The tones of the Gsus4 (which are G, C, and D):

    …are the notes of the 2-5-1 root progression in the key of C…

    D:

    …G:

    …and C:

    …arranged in a a different order.

    Using the Gsus4 chord:

    …as a guide, you can play a root progression in the key of C by playing D (the fifth tone):

    …then G (the root):

    …then C (the fourth tone):

    Although this may not be as easy as the use of sus2 chords, it works.

    “Let’s take an example…”

    The 2-5-1 Chord Progression In The Key Of Gb

    In the key of Gb:

    …where Db:

    …is the fifth tone, the Dbsus4 chord has an outline of the 2-5-1 root progression in the key of Gb.

    The notes of the Dbsus4 chord:

    …Db, Gb, and Ab are exactly the same notes in the 2-5-1 root progression in the key of Gb, which progresses from Ab:

    …to Db:

    …and to Gb:

    Final Words

    With what we’ve learned in today’s lesson, I’m sure you’ve seen a smarter way to have the 2-5-1 chord progression at your finger tips. You can also check out this lesson on how to master the 2-5-1 chord progression using quartal triads.

    Thanks for the time invested in reading this blog and see you in another 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 the head of education, music consultant, and chief content creator with HearandPlay Music Group sharing my wealth of knowledge with hundreds of thousands of musicians across the world.

    Attention: To learn more about this, I recommend our 500+ page course: The "Official Guide To Piano Playing." Click here for more information.




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