• Mastering The 2-5-1 Progression Using Skeleton Voicings

    in Chords & Progressions,Piano

    2-5-1 progression

    In this post, we’ll be mastering the art of playing the “A-B-A” 2-5-1 progression using the skeleton voicing technique.

    Attention: If you’re reading this post and you’re not deeply rooted in the knowledge of skeleton voicings and “A & B” voicing techniques, I want you to redirect to the following pages:

    …before continuing with this post.

    Reading beyond this point is for those who are familiar with the basic concepts we’ve covered in previous posts and want to master and effortlessly play them in all keys.

    General Review

    Before we get into the main business, let me refresh your mind by reviewing some of the concepts we covered in the past.

    Review of Skeleton Voicing

    Suggested Reading: Skeleton voicing

    As humans, we all have a skeletal system that consists of 206 bones that provide us support and rigidity.

    Chords also have skeletons.

    The third and seventh tone of a chord is its skeleton. It’s called the skeleton because even when other notes are omitted, even the root, you can still recognize what chord it is.

    Check out the skeleton voicing of various seventh chords below…

    C major seventh:

    C minor seventh:

    C dominant seventh:

    Review of A & B Voicing

    Suggested reading: A & B Voicing Styles of the 2-5-1

    Voicing is the consideration of the notes of a chord as voices.

    Owing to this consideration, the notes are often times rearranged and these rearrangements are known as voicings.

    A & B voicings are rearrangements that focus on the order of the third and seventh tones of the chord (aka – “skeleton”).

    The A voicing is the default arrangement of seventh chords. The third comes before the seventh. Here’s the A voicing of C major seventh:

    The B voicing is a rearrangement that reverses the order of the “skeleton in the chordboard.” When a chord is played in B voicing, the seventh comes before the third. Check out the B voicing of C major seventh:

    Review of 2-5-1 Chord Progression

    Suggested reading: 2-5-1 Progression: “A & B” Voicing Technique vs Skeleton Voicings

    The 2-5-1 chord progression is a chord movement from the second to the fifth degree of the scale, then to the first degree of the scale.

    In the key of C major, the 2-5-1 chord progression will connect the following chords:

    • D minor seventh
    • G dominant seventh
    • C major seventh

    Using the “A-B-A” style, here’s the 2-5-1 chord progression in the key of C major…

    Chord 2:

    Chord 5:

    Chord 1:

    2-5-1 Chord Progression: A-B-A Style Using Skeleton Voicings

    The 2-5-1 chord progression can be played in A-B-A style.

    A voicing of Chord 2
    B voicing of Chord 5
    A voicing of Chord 1

    The goal of this post is to show you what it takes to play this progression in all keys with absolute ease and here are two aspects that can help you achieve that:

    • How to move from chord 2 to chord 5
    • How to move from chord 5 to chord 1

    Let’s get started.

    “How do I move from chord 2 to chord 5?”

    Here’s the movement from chord 2 to chord 5 in the key of C:

    Chord 2:

    …to chord 5:

    Let’s analyze the difference between the skeletons of both chords.

    The third of chord 2 is the seventh of chord 5

    The third tone of the D minor seventh chord is F and this is also the seventh tone of the G dominant seventh.

    The F tone that is repeated in both chords is what I call the immovable joint of the skeletons (an informal term).

    Now that you know the immovable part of the skeleton, let’s look at the movable joint of the skeletons.

    Lowering the seventh of chord 2 by a half step would produce the third of chord 5

    The seventh tone of the D minor seventh chord is C.

    Lowering it by a half step would take us down to B:

    Considering that there’s movement in the skeletons, I use the informal term the moveable joint of the skeleton to refer to the connection between the seventh of chord 2 and the third of chord 5.

    If you’re given the skeleton voicing of chord 2 to produce chord 5 in any key, you’ll have to determine the moveable and immovable joints, then apply the principle above.

    Attention: The third of chord 2 is the immovable part while its seventh is the moveable part.

    Example # 1 – Given the skeleton voicing of chord 2 in G major, determine chord 5.

    Chord 2 in G major is the A minor seventh chord.

    Given the skeleton voicing of A minor seventh chord:

    The first thing that should come to your mind is that the third tone (which is C in this case) is immoveable.

    Lowering the seventh tone (G) by a half step would produce the skeleton voicing of chord 5. Check it out:

    Given C-G:

    If G is lowered by a half step, this will produce C-F#:

    If played over D on the bass:

    …this will produce the skeleton of chord 5.

    After mastering the concepts I’m showing you in this post, you can now go ahead and imbibe proper spelling guidelines for chords.

    If you go ahead and apply that in all the keys, you’ll have the 2-5 chord progression.

    Let’s consider the 5-1 chord progression even as we begin to round up.

    “How do I move from chord 5 to chord 1?”

    Here’s the movement from chord 5 to chord 1 in the key of C:

    Chord 5:

    …to chord 1:

    I trust that you are already familiar with the analysis we did earlier in this segment. It’s similar to what we also have here.

    The third of chord 5 is the seventh of chord 1.

    The third tone of the G dominant seventh chord is B (which is also the seventh tone of the C major seventh chord.)

    That makes the B tone the immovable joint of the skeleton.

    Lowering the seventh of chord 5 by a half step would produce the third of chord 1.

    The seventh tone of the G dominant seventh chord is F.

    Lowering it by a half step would take us down to E:

    This is the moveable joint of the skeletons of chord 5 and chord 1.

    Determination of the moveable and immovable joints and the application of the principle above, will help you move from chord 5 to chord 1 with the greatest ease.

    Attention: The third of chord 5 is the immovable part while its seventh is the moveable part.

    Considering that the skeleton of chord 5 is played in B voicing:

    This means that the seventh (moveable joint) comes before the third (immovable part).

    Example # 1 – Given the skeleton voicing of chord 5 in G major, determine chord 1.

    Chord 5 in G major is the D dominant seventh chord.

    Given the skeleton voicing of D dominant seventh chord:

    Lowering the seventh tone (C) by a half step would produce the skeleton voicing of chord 1. Check it out…

    Given C-F#:

    If C is lowered by a half step, this will produce B-F#:

    If played over G on the bass, this will produce the skeleton of chord 1.

    Following the same procedure, the 5-1 chord progression can be played in all the keys.

    Let’s round up by putting it together.

    Putting it together

    To effectively play the 2-5-1 chord progression in all keys, all you need is to determine the moveable joint of the skeletons.

    In the key of C, moving from chord 2:

    …to chord 5:

    …is as easy as lowering C to B (movable joint), while F remains (immovable joint).

    Then from chord 5:

    …to chord 1:

    …you’ll lower F to E (movable joint), while B remains (immovable joint).

    Do you see what I see?

    The third of each chord is always retained (immovable) while the seventh is always movable in 2-5-1 progressions.

    If you master the movable and immovable joints of the skeletons, you can play the 2-5-1 chord progression with the slightest effort.

    See you next time!

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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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    { 2 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 Vinciane Baudoux

    Hi your articles are great but why don’t you also put the notes for the examples you are giving? I know that many folks here are playing the piano mainly by ear, but for people who can also read the notes like me, it is quite frustrating to have only the chord diagrams for the examples. Thznks, Vinciane

    Reply

    2 Jermaine Griggs

    Hi,

    Thanks for your comment. We are now only beginning to delve into teaching sheet music and sight reading at http://www.SightPiano.com. But for 16 years, our core advantage and unique proposition was to the non-reader who had very little resources to turn to at the turn of the century when we began (2000). Thus, we would vow to make it easy for them. With our new vision to incorporate sheet music, this may change but for now, the blog is dedicated to principles and techniques that don’t necessarily require reading sheet music. And doubling preparation time to incorporate sheet music for a largely non-sheet music audience wouldn’t be best use of time (right now, at least). Hope this makes sense.

    Thanks,
    JG

    Reply

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