• Mastering 2-5-1 Root Progressions On Your Left Hand Using Quartal Triads

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    Today, I’ll be showing you a smarter way of mastering 2-5-1 root progressions on your left hand using quartal triads.

    The 2-5-1 root progression is very important in music because most of the time it’s found at the ending of a song. In a previous post, we even learned how songs end with the 2-5-1 chord progression most of the time.

    Before we go into our topic for today, let’s do a review of the 2-5-1 root progression.

    A Note On The 2-5-1 Root Progression

    Every key (whether major or minor) has its traditional scale which outlines the number of notes in a given key.

    For example, the key of C major:

    …has seven notes.

    These seven notes put together when played in a scalar form has eight degrees, which are numbered from one to eight.

    C:

    …is the first.

    D:

    …is the second.

    E:

    …is the third.

    F:

    …is the fourth.

    G:

    …is the fifth.

    A:

    …is the sixth.

    B:

    …is the seventh, and C:

    …is the eighth scale degree.

    Bear in mind that the eighth tone is not often used, and that’s because it is the duplicate of the first scale degree. Consequently, it’s common to see the numbers one to seven used to represent the movement of chords.

    A root progression is the movement of the root note of chords, from one degree of the scale to another.

    The 2-5-1 root progression is basically a root movement from the second (aka – “supertonic”), to the fifth (aka – “dominant”), and then to the first degreeĀ (aka – “tonic”) in any given key.

    Attention: The terms supertonic, dominant and tonic are the technical names music scholars associate with the second, fifth, and first tones of the scale.

    The 2-5-1 root progression is important in music for a variety of reasons, however, the most common reason is that 95% of the time, songs end with the 2-5-1 root progression. Due to its importance, we’ll go ahead and learn an easy way to master it, using quartal triads.

    But before we get into that let’s take a look at quartal triad.

    “What Is A Quartal Triad?”

    Following traditional guidelines, Although chords are built in intervals of thirds (aka – “tertian harmony“) pursuant to traditional guidelines, there are also other classes of harmony in intervals of seconds, fourths, and fifths.

    In this lesson, we’re focusing on harmony in intervals of fourths. Using the C major scale:

    …a fourth from C:

    …is F:

    …another fourth from F is B:

    So altogether C-F-B:

    …is a quartal triad.

    A quartal triad is a collection of notes (aka – “chord”) related by a given scale and in fourth intervals. Quartal triads like C-F-B:

    D-G-C:

    …etc., are different from tertian triads like C-E-G:

    …D-F-A:

    …etc., because the interval between the chord tones a quartal triads are in fourth intervals versus thirds that are found in tertian triads.

    There are a variety of quartal triads, and the quality of a quartal triad depends on the quality of fourth interval it contains. Although there are three known qualities of fourths…

    • The perfect fourth
    • The augmented fourth
    • The diminished fourth

    …only two fourth qualities are commonly used – the perfect fourth and the augmented fourth intervals.

    In this lesson, we’ll be taking a look at the 7sus4 chord which is built of two perfect fourth intervals. In subsequent posts, we’ll be taking a look at all the permutations using two out of the three qualities of fourth intervals.

    Stacking three notes together that are a perfect fourth away from each other forms the 7sus4 chord.

    “Here’s How It Works?”

    A perfect fourth from C:

    …is F:

    …and a perfect fourth from F is Bb:

    Altogether C-F-Bb:

    …is the C 7sus4 chord.

    If you are familiar with perfect fourth intervals in all twelve keys, you can form the 7sus4 chord by stacking three notes that are a perfect fourth interval away from each other.

    “Let’s Take One More Example…”

    A perfect fourth from E:

    …is A:

    …and another perfect fourth interval from E-A:

    …is D:

    Altogether, the E-A-D:

    …is a quartal triad/7sus4 chord. Following the same procedure, you can form the 7sus4 chord in all twelve keys.

    Check out the 7sus4 chord in all twelve keys for your reference…

    C7sus4:

    C#7sus4:

    D7sus4:

    D#7sus4:

    E7sus4:

    F7sus4:

    F#7sus4:

    G7sus4:

    Ab7sus4:

    A7sus4:

    Bb7sus4:

    B7sus4:

    At this point, we’ll be taking this study to another level by learning how to master the 2-5-1 root progression using quartal triads. Need I remind you that the term quartal triad here refers specifically to the 7sus4 chord?

    Another Smart Way To Master The 2-5-1 Root Progression

    The 7sus4 chord can help you master the 2-5-1 root progression and I’ll be showing you how it works in this segment.

    The 2-5-1 chord progression is basically a cyclical progression. Cyclical progressions are chord progressions where the root movement is based on a definite interval. The interval between the root progression of the 2-5-1 is either in ascents of fourths or descents of fifths, hence, the term cycle of fourth or fifths.

    The 2-5-1 root progression in C, which involves D, G, and C, can either be seen as an ascent in fourths from D:

    …to G:

    …to C:

    …or as a descent in fifths from D:

    …to G:

    …to C:

    In this lesson, we’ll be looking at the 2-5-1 as an ascent of fourths because of the relationship it has with the 7sus4.

    “Hey! Pay Attention…So You Don’t Miss This”

    The goal of this study is to help you visualize the root movement of the 2-5-1 in the left hand using the 7sus4 chord. The C7sus4 chord:

    …consists of…

    C:

    …F:

    …and Bb:

    …which contains the root progression details of the 2-5-1 chord progression in the key of Bb.

    In the key of Bb major:

    C:

    …is the second tone, F:

    …is the fifth tone, and Bb:

    …is the first tone.

    So as a rule of the thumb, forming a 7sus4 chord in the second tone of the key you’re in, helps you visualize the 2-5-1 root progression.

    In the key of G:

    …where A:

    …is the second tone, the A7sus4 chord:

    …contains the details of the 2-5-1 root progression in the key of G.

    So the A7sus4:

    …consists of A:

    …D:

    …and G:

    …which are the second, fifth, and first tones of the G major scale.

    So this is basically how you can master the 2-5-1 root progressions on your left hand using quartal triads.

    Final Words

    Next time you’re playing a quartal triad (maybe the D7sus4 chord):

    …on the left hand, just know that you’re just outlining a 2-5-1 chord progression in a given key.

    In another lesson, we’ll be learning other smart ways to learning the 2-5-1 chord progression using suspended chords. I hope you enjoyed this lesson and are getting ready to invest a little time in practicing the 2-5-1 root progression on the left hand using quartal triads as a guide.

    See you in another lesson.

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    Onyemachi "Onye" Chuku 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.




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