• Jazz Improvisation: Essential Scale Options For The Major 2-5-1 Chord Progression

    in Chords & Progressions,Experienced players,Jazz music,Piano,Scales,Theory

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    Our goal in this lesson is to explore essential scale options for the major 2-5-1 chord progression.

    In jazz harmony, the major 2-5-1 chord progression is one of the most important progressions and this is because its destination is the 1-chord (which is usually the first and last chord in a vast majority of songs).

    One of the ways an intermediate jazz keyboardist can learn how to improvise is with the major 2-5-1 chord progression and a good way to start is by learning the scale options that are compatible with the chords.

    Right before we jump into learning the scale options, let’s refresh our minds on the 2-5-1 chord progression.

    A Short Note On The 2-5-1 Chord Progression

    A chord progression is a product of the movement from one scale tone chord to another.

    There are seven scale tone chords in every major key. In the key of C major:

    …here are the scale degree seventh chords:

    The C major seventh chord (which is the 1-chord):

    The D minor seventh chord (which is the 2-chord):

    The E minor seventh chord (which is the 3-chord):

    The F major seventh chord (which is the 4-chord):

    The G dominant seventh chord (which is the 5-chord):

    The A minor seventh chord (which is the 6-chord):

    The B half-diminished seventh chord (which is the 7-chord):

    The movement from the 2-chord:

    …to the 5-chord:

    …then the 1-chord:

    …is described as the major 2-5-1 chord progression.

    “Here’s A Smoother Major 2-5-1 Chord Progression…”

    The 2-chord:

    The 5-chord:

    The 1-chord:

    “Check Out The Major 2-5-1 Chord Progression Using Ninth Chords…”

    The 2-chord:

    The 5-chord:

    The 1-chord:

    Scale Options For The 2-chord

    The 2-chord in the major key is a minor chord and there are tons of scales that can be played over the 2-chord. However, we’ll be learning a few of them that top the list.

    The Dorian Scale

    The D Dorian scale:

    …is a scale option for the 2-chord which can be any of the following:

    D minor triad:

    D minor seventh chord:

    D minor ninth chord:

    D minor eleventh chord:

    It’s possible to start the Dorian scale on its first, third, fifth, and seventh tones:

    1st tone is D:

    3rd tone is F:

    5th tone is A:

    7th tone is C:

    The Dorian Bebop Scale

    In between the third and fourth tone of the Dorian scale is a chromatic note. In the D Dorian scale:

    …in between F and G (which are the third and fourth tones):

    …is F# (a chromatic tone):

    The addition of the chromatic tone to the Dorian scale produces the Dorian bebop scale. Here’s the D Dorian bebop scale:

    …with the chromatic note (F#):

    Attention: Join the Jazz Intensive Training Center to learn more about this.

    Multiple Major Pentatonic Scales (1, 4, and 5)

    There are multiple pentatonic scales that can be played over the 2-chord. But we’ll be focusing on the major pentatonic scales of the first, fourth, and fifth tones of the key you’re in.

    In the key of C major:

    …the following pentatonic scales can be played over the 2-chord:

    The C major pentatonic scale:

    The F major pentatonic scale:

    The G major pentatonic scale:

    …and these are the major pentatonic scales of the first, fourth, and fifth tones respectively.

    These pentatonic scales can be played over any of the following 2-chords in the key of  C major: the D minor triad, the D minor seventh chord, the D minor ninth chord, and the D minor eleventh chord.

    The Melodic Minor Scale

    The ascending form of the D melodic minor scale:

    …can be used as a scale option to improvise over the 2-chord in the key of C major.

    Scale Options For The 5-chord

    The 5-chord in the key of C major:

    …is not limited to any of the following:

    The G major triad:

    The G dominant seventh chord:

    The G dominant ninth chord:

    Let’s look at the scale options for the 5 chord.

    The Mixolydian Scale

    The G mixolydian scale:

    …is a great scale option for the 5-chord in the key of C major.

    Don’t forget to start and end the scale on the first, third, fifth, and seventh tones of the scale which are G, B, D, and F:

    G:

    B:

    D:

    F:

    …to produce the following varieties:

    From the first tone (which is G):

    From the third tone (which is B):

    From the fifth tone (which is D):

    From the seventh tone (which is F):

    Attention: Join the Jazz Intensive Training Center to learn more about this.

    The Mixolydian Bebop Scale

    There’s a chromatic note between the seventh and eighth tone in the Mixolydian scale. Using the G Mixolydian scale as a reference:

    …the chromatic tone between the seventh tone (F):

    …and eighth tone (G):

    …is F#:

    Adding the chromatic tone to the Mixolydian scale produces the Mixolydian bebop scale. Here’s the G Mixolydian bebop scale:

    …with the chromatic tone (F#):

    The Lydian Dominant Scale

    The Lydian dominant scale is the fourth mode of the melodic minor. Raising the fourth tone of a Mixolydian scale by a half-step produces the Lydian dominant scale.

    The G Mixolydian scale:

    …can be used to form the G Lydian dominant scale by raising the fourth tone of the G Mixolydian scale (which is C):

    …by a half-step (to C#):

    …produces the G Lydian dominant scale:

    …which is compatible with the 5-chord in the key of C major.

    Attention: Join the Jazz Intensive Training Center to learn more about this.

    The Spanish Phrygian Scale

    The fifth mode of the harmonic minor scale is the Spanish Phrygian scale. The G Spanish Phrygian scale:

    …is a great scale option for the 5-chord; especially for the dominant seventh [flat ninth] chord.

    Try playing the G Spanish Phrygian scale:

    …over the G dominant seventh [flat ninth] chord:

    …and let me know what you think.

    The Octatonic (H-W) Scale

    The Octatonic (half-whole) scale is a suitable scale option for the 5-chord. In the key of C major:

    …the G octatonic (half-whole) scale:

    …can be played over any of the 5-chord options: the G major triad, the G dominant seventh chord, the G dominant ninth chord, etc.

    Scale Options For The 1-chord

    In the key of C major:

    …the 1-chord can be any of the following (but not necessarily limited to):

    The C major triad:

    The C major seventh:

    The C major ninth chord:

    Let’s explore some of the essential scale options for the 1-chord using the key of C major as a reference.

    The Lydian Scale

    The C Lydian scale:

    …is a scale option for the 1 chord. Raising the fourth tone of the major scale by a half-step produces the Lydian scale.

    So, raising the fourth tone of the D major scale:

    …which is G:

    …by a half-step (to G#):

    …produces the D Lydian scale:

    The D Lydian scale is a suitable scale option for the 1-chord in the key of D major:

    …which include (but is not limited to) the following:

    D major triad:

    D major seventh:

    D major ninth:

    D major ninth [sharp eleventh]:

    So, if you’re looking for that scale option for the 1-hord that doesn’t have an avoid tone, the Lydian scale is your best bet.

    The Major Bebop Scale

    Adding the chromatic tone between the fifth and sixth tone of the major scale produces the major bebop scale. Using the C major scale (as a reference):

    …the chromatic tone between G and A (which are the fifth and sixth tones):

    …is G#:

    Adding G# to the C major scale produces the C major bebop scale:

    …which is a scale option for the 1-chord in the key of C major.

    Multiple Major Pentatonic Scales (1, 2, and 5)

    There are multiple pentatonic scales that can be played over the 1-chord. But we’ll be focusing on the major pentatonic scales of the first, second, and fifth tones of the key you’re in.

    In the key of C major:

    …the following pentatonic scales can be played over the 1-chord:

    The C major pentatonic scale:

    The D major pentatonic scale:

    The G major pentatonic scale:

    …and these are the major pentatonic scales of the first, second, and fifth tones respectively.

    Attention: Join the Jazz Intensive Training Center to learn more about this.

    Final Words

    I have no doubt that using the scale options covered in this lesson you can have a better melodic vocabulary while improvising over the major 2-5-1 chord progression.

    In a subsequent lesson, we’ll be learning the scale options for the minor 2-5-1 chord progression.

    Keep up the great work.

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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.

    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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    { 1 comment… read it below or add one }

    1 James Singer

    I just reviewed the Jazz Improvisation. “Wowwww” I felt like a true jazz musician. The explanation of how various scales could be played on top of the 2-chord gives great empowerment toward improvising. And then the 5-chord, reminding us about the essential “modes” within a scale, the Mixolydian, Lydian, etc. All of this information is essential for improvisation. GMTC you got it going on!

    Reply

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