• Beginners, Here’s How To Play The Major 2-5-1 Chord Progression In Two Shakes Of A Dog’s Tail

    in Piano

    Post image for Beginners, Here’s How To Play The Major 2-5-1 Chord Progression In Two Shakes Of A Dog’s Tail

    If you are interested in learning how to play the major 2-5-1 chord progression, you’re on the right page.

    The good news about the approach I’m about to show you is that all you need are just the primary chords in the major key.

    Now, if the term primary chord is new to you, you’re still on the right page because that’s exactly what we’re starting out with in the first segment of this blog post before we get into the 2-5-1 chord progression.

    Are you ready? Let’s go!

    A Short Note On Primary Chords

    There are chords that are of chief importance in the major key and they are called primary chords.

    These chords are said to be primary because they share the same quality with the key and they are the chords of the first, fourth, and fifth tones of the major scale:




    In the key of C major:

    …here are all the chords in the key (aka – “diatonic chords”):

    C major:

    D minor:

    E minor:

    F major:

    G major:

    A minor:

    B diminished:

    You can clearly see that out of the seven diatonic chords in the key of C major, the only chords that share the same quality with the major key (by being major chords) are the 1-chord, 4-chord, and 5-chord:

    C major:

    F major:

    G major:

    It is because of their quality and how it reinforces the quality of the key we’re in (the major key) that they are described as primary chords — chords of chief importance.

    This means that in the major key, the primary chords take the front seat, and all the other chords take the back seat.

    Now, it doesn’t matter the major key you’re in, the 1-chord, 4-chord, and 5-chord are the primary chords. Simply go to the first, fourth or fifth tone of the major key you’re in and play a major chord and you’ll have your primary chords in that key.

    Now that we’ve covered that, let’s proceed to the major 2-5-1 chord progression and how it can be played using these primary chords.

    How To Play The 2-5-1 Progression Using Primary Chords

    It doesn’t take long to play the major 2-5-1 chord progression in any key

    As promised, I’ll show you how you, as a beginner, can play it in two shakes of a dog’s tail and if you can stick with me for the next two minutes, I’ll show you how that works.

    But before anything else, let’s break down the major 2-5-1 chord progression.

    “What Is A Major 2-5-1 Chord Progression?”

    When a chord movement progresses between the following tones of the scale:

    Second tone

    Fifth tone

    First tone

    …that’s a major 2-5-1 chord progression.

    In the key of C major:

    …the tones are as follows:




    In the key of C major:

    …and here are the chords for the major 2-5-1 chord progression :

    D minor seventh chord:

    G dominant seventh chord:

    C major seventh chord:

    Now, I’m going to show you how to quickly and easily play these chords.

    How To Play The Major 2-5-1 Chord Progression Using Primary Chords

    A good way to start is to refresh our minds on the root progression; which is basically what the left hand is playing on the bass and in situations where you have a bass player, those are the notes they’ll play.

    Here’s the major 2-5-1 root progression in the key of C major:




    Now, quickly, I’ll be showing you the chords that go with these bass notes in the root progression.

    “Check Them Out…”

    The 2-chord:

    F major (the 4-chord):

    …over D on the bass:

    The 5-chord:

    F major (the 4-chord):

    …over G on the bass:

    The 1-chord:

    G major (the 5-chord):

    …over C on the bass:

    Altogether, we have the following chords:




    …and here are the chords formed by right hand chords and left hand bass notes:

    2-chord is the D minor seventh chord

    5-chord is the G dominant seventh [suspended fourth] chord

    1-chord is the C major ninth chord

    I’m sure you can see how we’re clearly using the primary chords in the key to play the major 2-5-1 chord progression.

    “Here’s Another Twist…”

    If you’re adventurous, you can even replace the 4-chord (F major):

    …we played over the 2-bass (D):

    …with the 1-chord (C major):

    This produces the C major chord over D on the bass:

    …and that’s the D dominant seventh [suspended fourth] chord.

    Let’s go ahead and apply it to the major 2-5-1 chord progression:




    I hope that helps.

    Final Words

    Thank you for investing your time in this lesson.

    In subsequent lesson, we’ll also explore other easy ways to play the major 2-5-1 chord progression and how to play other progressions like the minor 2-5-1 chord progression, the turnaround progression and some other fanciful progressions.

    Meantime, you’ll do well to transpose these progressions to other keys on the piano and master them as well.

    Special appreciation to my role-model and mentor, Jermaine Griggs, for the privilege of sharing this information with you and I’m looking forward to seeing you in the next lesson.

    All the best!

    The following two tabs change content below.
    Onyemachi "Onye" Chuku (aka - "Dr. Pokey") is a Nigerian musicologist, pianist, and author. Inspired by his role model (Jermaine Griggs) who has become his mentor, what he started off as teaching musicians in his Aba-Nigeria neighborhood in April 2005 eventually morphed into an international career that has helped hundreds of thousands of musicians all around the world. Onye lives in Dubai and is currently the Head of Education at HearandPlay Music Group and the music consultant of the Gospel Music Training Center, all in California, USA.

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



    { 1 comment… read it below or add one }

    1 Devondre Williams

    Goodmorning. I want to take the time to really thank all of you at Hear and Play. From Jermaine, To JP, To “The Ear Doctor”, I thank god for you all and how he’s used you all to Enhance my piano skills and my ear over this pass year. I pray God keeps you all prosperous and catapults Hear and Play into another Level. Keep up the Good Work and continue to Let God use you all.

    Much Love,


    Leave a Comment

    Previous post:

    Next post: