• A Study On The Classic 6-2-5-1 Turnaround And Its Variations

    in Chords & Progressions,Contemporary Music,Experienced players,General Music,Gospel music,Jazz music,Piano

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    You arrived at this page because you’re interested in the classic 6-2-5-1 turnaround progression and its variations.

    The turnaround progression is commonly found in American popular music styles; most especially in Jazz, Gospel, R ‘n’ B, etc., and that’s why we’re dedicating this lesson to extensively break it down and also cover its variations.

    Now, let’s get started by assuming that you know nothing about the classic 6-2-5-1 turnaround progression.

    A Quick Review On The Classic 6-2-5-1 Turnaround Progression

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

    Every tone of the scale in any key is considered as a degree and is assigned a number. In the key of C major:

    C is the 1

    D is the 2

    E is the 3

    F is the 4

    G is the 5

    A is the 6

    B is the 7

    So, the 6-2-5-1 turnaround progression consists of the movement of chords from the 6-chord, to the 2-chord, to the 5-chord, to the 1-chord.

    In the key of C major:

    …a 6-2-5-1 root progression will progress from A (which is the sixth tone):

    …to D (the second tone):

    …then to G (the fifth tone):

    …then to C (the first tone):

    “Here Are The Chords…”

    Example #1 – For Intermediate Players

    The 6-chord (A minor seventh chord):

    The 2-chord (D minor seventh chord):

    The 5-chord (G dominant seventh chord):

    The 1-chord (C major seventh chord):

    Example #2 – For Advanced Players

    The 6-chord (A minor eleventh chord):

    The 2-chord (D minor eleventh chord):

    The 5-chord (G altered chord):

    The 1-chord (C major ninth chord):

    Variations Of The Classic 6-2-5-1  Turnaround Progression

    The classic 6-2-5-1 turnaround has variations and the harmony and approach largely depends not only on the music style but on the keyboardist.

    Let’s consider some of these variations.

    Variation #1 – Jazz

    In this variation, dominant seventh [flat ninth] chords are used extensively. Most importantly, you need to notice the descent of the right hand diminished seventh chord in half-steps.

    “Here Are The Chords…”

    The 6-chord:

    …is the A dom7 (b9).

    The 2-chord:

    …is the D dom7 (b9).

    The 5-chord:

    …is the G dom7 (b9).

    The 1-chord:

    …is the A dom9 (add13).

    Variation #2 – Blues

    This variation of the classic 6-2-5-1 turnaround progression sounds bluesy and energetic. The first two chords are dominant ninth chords while the last two chords in the turnaround are dominant ninth [add thirteenth] chords.

    “Here Are The Chords…”

    The 6-chord:

    …is the A dom9.

    The 2-chord:

    …is the D dom9.

    The 5-chord:

    …is the G dom9 (add13).

    The 1-chord:

    …is the C dom9 (add13).

    Variation #3 – Gospel

    The gospel approach to the classic 6-2-5-1 turnaround progression is unique because of the resolution of the 6-chord to a sophisticated minor 11th 2-chord. The progression from the 5-chord to the 1-chord will also turn heads.

    “Here Are The Chords…”

    The 6-chord:

    …is the A dom7 (b9).

    The 2-chord:

    …is the D min11.

    The 5-chord:

    …is the G dom7 (#5).

    The 1-chord:

    …is the C 6/9.

    Variation #4 – R ‘n’ B

    You’d love this turnaround progression because it sounds warm and sophisticated at the same time. When played with an e-piano voice on the keyboard, you’ll sound like one of the top keyboardists you admire.

    “Here Are The Chords…”

    The 6-chord:

    …is the A min9.

    The 2-chord:

    …is the D min9.

    The 5-chord:

    …is the G 13sus4.

    The 1-chord:

    …is the C maj9.

    Variation #5 – Smooth Jazz

    This variation of the classic 6-2-5-1 turnaround progression sounds sentimental. The use of an altered chord as the 6-chord gives the turnaround the right energy to get started with. You’d sure love this.

    “Here Are The Chords…”

    The 6-chord:

    …is the A dom7 (#9,#5).

    The 2-chord:

    …is the D min9.

    The 5-chord:

    …is the G dom9 (add13).

    The 1-chord:

    …is the C 6/9.

    Final Words

    I’m doubly sure that your chordal vocabulary will improve considerable with the variations of the classic 6-2-5-1 chord progression that we’ve covered in this blog.

    I recommend that you practice playing these variations in all twelve keys.

    See you in the next lesson.

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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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