• A Lesson On The Minor 2-5-1 Chord Progression Using Mutual Intervals

If you’re interested in learning an alternate approach to the minor 2-5-1 chord progression, this lesson is for you.

We’ve already learned a lot about the major 2-5-1 chord progression in previous lessons, giving the minor 2-5-1 chord progression little or no attention.

But in today’s lesson, we’ll be focusing on how the minor 2-5-1 chord progression can be played with mutual intervals. But before then, let’s do a thorough review on the minor 2-5-1 chord progression.

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

Every key (whether major or minor) has eight degrees:

The first degree is the tonic

The second degree is the supertonic

The third degree is the mediant

The fourth degree is the subdominant

The fifth degree is the dominant

The sixth degree is the submediant

The seventh degree is the subtonic

The eighth degree is the octave

The harmonic movement of chords from one degree in the key to another creates a chord progression. For example, in the key of C major:

…the movement from the C major triad (which is the chord of the first degree):

…to the E minor triad (which is the chord of the third degree):

…produces a 1-3 chord progression. It’s a 1-3 chord progression because of the harmonic movement from chord 1 to chord 3.

The Minor 2-5-1 Chord Progression – Explained

The harmonic movement from the chord of the second degree to the chord of the fifth degree, then to the chord of the first degree in a minor key produces a minor 2-5-1 chord progression.

The most important thing to note is that the minor 2-5-1 chord progression is in the minor key. So, simply put, the minor 2-5-1 chord progression can be defined as a 2-5-1 chord progression in a minor key.

In the key of A minor:

…a 2-5-1 root progression entails a movement from B (the second degree):

…to E (the fifth degree):

…to A (the first degree):

“Here’s The Minor 2-5-1 Chord Progression Using Seventh Chords…”

Using the scale degree seventh chords of the A harmonic minor scale:

…and the A natural minor scale:

…the minor 2-5-1 chord progression can be played by progressing from the B half-diminished seventh chord:

…to the E dominant seventh chord:

…then to the A minor seventh chord:

A Short Note On The Concept Of Mutual Intervals

Every chord, irrespective of its size, class, and quality, can be broken down into intervals. For example, the C major seventh chord:

…can be broken down into the following intervals:

C-E:

…a major third interval.

C-G:

…a perfect fifth interval.

C-B:

…a major seventh interval.

The Breakdown Of A Seventh Chord Into Mutual Fifth Intervals

The intervals that a chord can be broken down into are known as its intervallic components, and a seventh chord can be broken down into mutual intervals. For example, the C major seventh chord:

…can be broken down into two mutual perfect fifth intervals:

C-G:

…a perfect fifth interval.

E-B:

…which is also a perfect fifth interval.

In the same vein, all seventh chords can be broken down into mutual fifth intervals, and can be applied to the minor 2-5-1 chord progression. Proceed to the next segment to learn more.

How To Play The Minor 2-5-1 Progression Using Mutual Intervals

The minor 2-5-1 chord progression can be played using the concept of mutual intervals. With that, two notes are played in each hand.

For example, chord 2 – the B half-diminished seventh chord:

…can be played using these two mutual intervals:

The D perfect fifth interval:

…played over the B diminished fifth interval:

Altogether, that’s the B half-diminished seventh chord:

Chord 5 – the E dominant seventh chord:

…can be played using these two mutual intervals:

The G# diminished fifth interval:

…played over the E perfect fifth interval:

Altogether, that’s the E dominant seventh chord:

Chord 1 – the A minor seventh chord:

…can be played using these two mutual intervals:

The C perfect fifth interval:

…played over the A perfect fifth interval:

Altogether, that’s the A minor seventh chord:

“But There’s More…”

Playing the minor 2-5-1 chord progression using the mutual intervals approach is not smooth either when played or heard. Consequently, we’ll need to apply certain voice-leading principles that will aid smoothness in the chord progression.

Voice-leading Considerations For The Minor 2-5-1 Chord Progression

In music theory, it’s no longer a secret that in a cyclical chord progressions (where the root movement is in fourth or fifth intervals), successive chords have notes in common. For example, the B half-diminished seventh chord:

…and the E dominant seventh chord:

…have B and D:

…in common – and that’s two notes.

Consequently, in the chord progression from the B half-diminished seventh chord to the E dominant seventh chord, the notes both chords have in common are retained, while other chord tones move to the nearest possible options. The retention of B and D:

…in the B half-diminished seventh chord:

…entails the downward movement of the upper chord tones (F and A):

…to E and G#:

…which are the nearest possible options, to form the E dominant seventh chord:

“Let’s Apply This Voice-Leading Consideration To The Minor 2-5-1 Chord Progression Using Mutual Intervals…”

In the minor 2-5-1 chord progression we learned earlier, the B half-diminished seventh chord:

…progresses to the E dominant seventh chord by the retention of B and D:

…and the downward movement of F and A:

…to E and G#:

Before the movement of all the voices to the A minor seventh chord:

“Altogether…”

Chord 2:

…the B half-diminished seventh chord, progresses to chord 5:

…the E dominant seventh chord, then to the A minor seventh chord:

Final Words

Using the concept of mutual intervals, the minor 2-5-1 chord progression can be played effortlessly in all minor keys and this is because of every chord is reduced to an interval in each hand.

In a subsequent post, we’ll explore other interesting approaches to playing the minor 2-5-1, until then, do your best to practice what we’ve learned in all twelve minor keys.

The following two tabs change content below.

Chuku Onyemachi

Head of Education at HearandPlay Music Group
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.