• Opening and closing your songs with “2-5-1” progressions!

    in Chords & Progressions

    If you listen to music, you’ve definitely heard a “2-5-1” progression. They are found in just about any type of music — regardless of style, genre, or rhythmical pattern. It is commonly the series of chords that end a song. However, it can be used in several situations (I can only go over a few in this lesson but encourage you to visit: https://www.hearandplay.com/course.html for further instruction).

    In this chord progression, the 2 chord (you’ll learn what this is later on in this lesson) leads to the 5 chord which in turns, produces a strong pull towards the ending chord (which is usually the 1st major chord of the scale).

    First, let me start by showing you what chords correspond to each tone of a major scale:

    1 tone – Major
    2 tone – Minor
    3 tone – Minor
    4 tone – Major
    5 tone – Major (dominant when a 7th chord)
    6 tone – Minor
    7 tone – Diminished (half-diminished when a 7th chord)

    To understand the chart above, you must understand that each tone of a major scale has a chord which goes along with it. For example, the following is a C major scale:

    [C — D — E — F — G — A — B — C]

    Each tone above has a matching chord. Simply add the endings of the chart above to the scale as shown below:

    [C MAJOR]
    [D MINOR]
    [E MINOR]
    [F MAJOR]
    [G MAJOR / DOM]
    [A MINOR]

    To further understand progressions, lets number each chord:

    1 = C major
    2 = D minor
    3 = E minor
    4 = F major
    5 = G dominant
    6 = A minor
    7 = B half – diminished
    8 = C major

    “2-5-1” Chord Progressions

    Now, to create a “2-5-1” chord progression (or any numbered chord progression), simply take the 2, 5, and 1 chord out of the entire series of chords above. That is, we would not use the 3,4, 6, or 7 chord.

    The 2 chord is D minor; the 5 chord is G dominant; and the 1 chord is C major.

    This right here is the most basic “2-5-1” chord progression you’ll ever see:

    Dmin — Gdom — Cmaj

    min = minor
    dom = dominant
    maj = major


    D minor chord = [D] + [F] + [A]
    G dominant chord = [G] + [B] + [D] + [F]
    C major chord = [C] + [E] + [G]

    Example: To play a Dmin chord simply play all three of the notes shown above at the same time (D+F+A)

    Moving on…

    Now that we have covered some theory (I’m glad that’s out of the way), let me just show you a few chords that I love to play. I will try not to be as theoretic … I will simply give you the chord changes and you’ll have to apply them to your understanding of chords and alterations. All of these progression will be shown in the key of C major:

    1) “Churchy 2-5-1 Chord Progression” Style #1

    D7 (b9) — G13 —- Cmaj (pronounced “D seven, flat nine —– G thirteenth — C major”)

    D7 (b9) = Bass * Play “D” ——— F# + A + C + D#
    G13 = Bass * Play “G” ———- F + A + C + E
    Cmaj = Bass * Play “C” ———– E + G + C (1st inversion)

    Example: For D7 (b9), we would play F# + A + C + D# with “D” on the bass (left hand).

    Inversion just refers to the way the chord is played. Since “C” is the highest note, it is said to be played in its “first inversion”

    Note: I love playing this chord progression in gospel music. You try playing it and let me know what you come up with!

    2) “Churchy 2-5-1 Chord Progression” Style #2

    For this progression, every chord will be the same except for the D7 (b9). We will simply play a regular D9 chord.

    D9 = F# + A + C + “E” (not D#)

    Notice: The only difference in a D9 and a D7 (b9) is the difference in the “ninth” tone. Since we are not flatting the 9th tone, we use “E” instead of “D#.”

    D9 = Bass * Play “D” ——— F# + A + C + E
    G13 = Bass * Play “G” ———- F + A + C + E
    Cmaj = Bass * Play “C” ———– E + G + C

    3). “Contemporary 2-5-1 Chord Progression” Style #1

    For this progression, we are going to use:

    D9 add 6 —> G13 —> Cmaj

    D9 add 6 = Bass * Play “D” ——— F# + B + C + E
    G13 = Bass * Play “G” ———- F + A + C + E
    Cmaj = Bass * Play “C” ———– E + G + C

    4.) “Contemporary 2-5-1 Chord Progression” Style #2

    This progression will follow the same exact pattern as #3 with the following chord alteration:

    D9 b5 —> G13 —-> Cmaj

    *** You are going to have to extend your fingers for this one!

    D9 b5 = Bass * Play “D” ——— F# + B + C + E + A#
    G13 = Bass * Play “G” ———- F + A + C + E
    Cmaj = Bass * Play “C” ———– E + G + C

    This concludes today’s online classroom lesson.

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    Hi, I'm Jermaine Griggs, founder of this site. We teach people how to express themselves through the language of music. Just as you talk and listen freely, music can be enjoyed and played in the same way... if you know the rules of the "language!" I started this site at 17 years old in August 2000 and more than a decade later, we've helped literally millions of musicians along the way. Enjoy!

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