• Using “5-1” Progressions To Enhance Your Playing

    in Chords & Progressions

    If you know anything about chord progressions, you’ll understand that each one has its own functions and roles. For example, one progression may be common for beginning a song, while another progression may be common for ending a song. Certain progressions are likely to be played during modulations to new keys while others aren’t. In other words, you want to understand the ROLES of chord progressions.

    (Oh, by the way, a chord progression is simply a series of chords played one after the other).

    To know a “2-5-1” chord progression, for example, but not know where to play it is useless when it comes to playing by ear. So in the next few lessons, we will explore different progressions and where to use them!

    The “5-1” Progression

    The “5-1” progressions will commonly end a song, chorus, or verse. Being that the “1” chord represents the actual key that you’re song is being played in, it makes sense for it to be the very last chord played.

    So again, in most cases, the “1” chord will end the song. However, there are times when other tones of the scale will end the song instead (like the sixth degree played as a major chord or the fourth degree played as a dominant chord in fast gospel songs). But for the purposes of this lesson, we will focus on the majority of songs that end on the “1” chord.

    Think of the “5-1” chord progression like this:

    If you were watching a live theatrical performance or even a musical concert of some sort, when would you know to clap? Isn’t it true that the audience as a whole always knows when to clap even though they’re not all musicians? How do they know when the song is over? How do we know when to clap?

    Because, we have already been trained to recognize “5-1” progressions whether we’re musicians OR not!

    The “5” chord by itself is that chord right BEFORE the end of the song. You know the song is about to end because you hear the “5” chord (and of course, I am referring more to slow songs than fast ones). Perhaps, the pianist will hold the “5” chord for a while … but you still don’t clap because you know it’s not the last chord. So, in essence, the “5” chord prepares us for the “1” chord. It creates such a strong pull towards the “1” chord that we can even predict how the next chord is suppose to sound in our mind.

    Imagine if a pianist was holding the “5” chord and all of a sudden gets up and walks away. The audience would totally be shocked because we would think he didn’t finish the song completely. That’s because the “5” gives us the feeling that something is about to end, but hasn’t quite ended yet (again, that’s why we don’t clap yet). And in cases where the song doesn’t actually end, it will alert us that the song is returning back to the beginning of the verse or chorus for another round.

    Examples of “5-1” endings:

    a) “Hap-py Birth-Day to You”

    Ending on the “5” in this example would be like not singing the final “you.” You’ve sung the “happy birthday to…” but until you say “you,” the song hasn’t ended.

    The “5” in this example is the word “to,” while the final “1” chord would be played on “you.”

    Are you following me?

    If not, feel free to post messages on our board about this lesson.

    b) “… Was blind, but now I see”

    This line is taken from “Amazing Grace.” Can you figure out where the “5-1” progression would be played in this line?

    If you’re having trouble, just think this to yourself…

    If I wasn’t a musician at all and simply listening to this song, at what point would I know the song is JUST about to end???

    The word “I” prepares you for the ending so it would definitely be accompanied by a “5” chord. But don’t think that a “5” chord only applies to the one last word before the ending. You can play a chord over multiple words.

    So in this case, I would say that the “5” chord begins on “now” and is held until “I” is sang. Finally, when “see” is sang, the song ends and obviously you’d play a “1” chord.

    Actual “5-1” Progressions You Can Play

    Here are some nice-sounding “5-1” progressions you can start playing right away. Make sure to listen for them in some of your favorite songs (especially slow ballads).

    These progressions will be based in the key of Db major. For simplicity, I will simply “spell out” each chord, one by one. Feel free to mix and match different chords from the “5” and “1” columns.

    A ” / ” slash means that the note to the right will be played on the bass (left hand).

    “5” chord ————————- “1” chord
    C + F + A / Ab ——————– Bb + Eb + Ab / Db
    Gb + Bb + Db + F / Ab ————- Eb + Ab + Db / Db
    C + E + Ab + B / Ab —————- B + Eb + Gb + Bb / Db
    Eb + Ab + Bb + C / Ab ————- Db + Eb + F + Ab / Db

    This concludes today’s Classroom Lesson.

    The following two tabs change content below.
    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!

    Attention: To learn more about this, I recommend our 500+ page course: The "Official Guide To Piano Playing." Click here for more information.


    1 junior

    You guys lesson are very interesting, but why don’t have a printer friendly page. at times we are on the run thank you

    2 Jermaine

    @Junior: For printer version, just click save as PDF up top and it will save as pdf. Then you can print. We’re working on making it easier.

    3 val

    I can play alittle and I play at church. My biggest problem is learning how to play shouting music and preaching chords. I do know how to transpose on my keyboard but this is something I have problems with. I play in about 3 keys but I feel comfortable playing in the key of C. Please help!

    4 gloria

    I really enjoyed your pictures and stories God has really blessed you . I want to thank you for your help.Im been learning myself to play the paino i can play songs thati know but i chord with my left hand and play the notes with my right hand .but i need to do know if u can help me add something in between the breaks in a song .Hope u know what i mean. Thank you Gloria

    5 Olusharmuel

    I really enjoy the lessons. On which key can i play the 5-1 chords progression? Is this chord a classical chord? Thank you!

    6 Louis Hammond

    I am playing my version of “Jesus Loves Me” Key of “C” for offertory Sunday, followed
    by “The Love of God” in the key of “E” flat.

    I would like to modulate from “C” to E” flat. Could you give me the progressions chords”

    Appreciation given
    Louis Hammond

    7 Chirag

    Jesus loves me in Eb

    Eb Gm Cm
    Jesus loves me this I know,
    Ab Eb
    For the Bible tells me so.
    Eb Gm Cm
    Little ones to Him belong,
    Ab Eb Bb Eb
    They are weak, but He is strong.

    Eb Ab
    Yes Jesus loves me,
    Eb Ab
    Yes Jesus loves me,
    Eb Ab
    Yes Jesus loves me,
    Eb Bb Eb
    The Bible tells me so.

    use the Bb dominant 7 chord for some variety (includes an Ab).
    if you want to get grooving use an Ab dominant seventh (includes an F#).
    Appreciation gladly accepted, brother!!

    8 Chirag

    if you have questions, email me at chiragokani@gmail.com


    I’m a ghanaian. .. I have been following the posts and comments for some days now and its awesome. .. I’ve enriched my playing skills. . however how do i get your lesson cd for advance learners to buy. .!?

    10 mariani

    I have just read your wonderful lessons and started practicing. I should have learned/practiced them much earlier. Thanks a lot. GOD bless you.

    11 henoc the ivorian

    thank you for your course! Please someone can explain to me these chords, why he used them?
    – = hold note
    (x) = melody note
    FF \ CFAC ….What
    EbD \ FACF ….a
    DBb \ EbGBbD ….friend
    DA \ EbGC ….we
    DbG \ CFA ….have
    BEb \ ADG ….in
    BbF \ ACDF …Je–
    BEb \ GBD ….sus
    CF \ GAC ….All
    ADb \ GCF …our
    DFA \ CFA (F) …sins and
    GF \CFAC (A) …griefs to
    CEBb \ CEG ….bear
    (Repeat “What a friend
    we” for “What a priv-i-“)
    ED \ BbDFA ….lege
    A \ BbDEG …to
    DD \ ACDF …car–
    EbEb \ GD (F) …ry
    CC \ FGAC ….ev–
    FDb \ GCF ….ry–
    BbD \ BbDFA (G) …thing
    BEb \ GCF …God
    CE \ GCE ….in
    EbEb \ GCF …prayer
    CC \ ADG …Oh
    DDb \ AbDbGb ….what
    ED \ GBDG (A) ….peace we
    -D \ CEBb (G) ….often
    FF \ CFA …for–
    -Eb \ CFAC …feit
    BbF \ FBbD …Oh
    ADbG \ CFAC (A)
    BEbA \ CFBb (A) …pain we
    CEbG \ BbDG …bear
    CE \ BbCE (passing
    FF \ CEA …All
    BEbA \ CFAC …be–
    CEbG \ EbCBbD (C)
    …cause we
    ADAb \ BbDFA …do
    ADbG \ BbDEG …not
    DD \ GCF ….car–
    EbEb \ GCF …ry
    ADb \ FGAC …Ev–
    FDb \ GCF …ry
    BbD \ BbDFA (G) …thing
    BDb \ GCF …God
    CE \ GCE …in
    EbEb \ GCF …prayer

    12 Chirag

    I’m pretty confused here too. And theoretically, if you play from chords, it would be easier to use “C” instead of CC/GCE. But what i wrote here is my best guess of how this is going to work out.

    Remember that anything left of the “\” is played with your LEFT hand and they are the bass notes. Anything right of the “\” is played with your RIGHT hand and they are higher notes that belong to the chord.
    It is pretty confusing and it takes a while to read chords like this, but just be patient.
    When there are two bass notes in a row, play them an octave apart. for example, EbEb, use your pinky on the lower Eb and stretch your thumb an octave higher to hit the higher Eb. This is how the bass notes will work.
    The only time this will end up sounding bad is when the bass notes say CE or EbG. Since these notes are only a 3rd apart, they’ll end up clashing if you play them down low. So play them higher up.

    For the notes that are RIGHT of the “\”, play them with your RIGHT hand. Some might sound weird and funky because some of these chords in the song are just like that. Just stick with it: it’s the same principle of the bass being applied to your right hand, but higher on the piano.

    So for the first word of the song, it goes:
    FF \ CFAC ….What
    This is the same thing as an F major chord. 2 F’s with the left hand (an octave apart), and a C, F, and A with the right hand. You don’t have to play the C at the end because you’ll be playing it with the same hand an octave lower.

    Another example (6th to last line):
    BbD \ BbDFA (G) …thing
    This is the same thing as a BbM7. The only difference from a regular Bb major chord is it has an A. For this, you’ll have to play the bass notes higher up so they don’t end up clashing lower on the piano. Raise them an octave up.
    Then with the right hand, play a Bb, D, F, and A. But i have NO IDEA what that
    “(G)” is supposed to mean….

    if you have any questions, just fire me an email at

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    like your style….good work….I enjoy your teachings they are very helpful…
    I am a beginer guitar picker and was wondering if the chords you give for piano are the same for the guitar ???….does the chord progressions work for guitar the same as the piano ??….
    thank you ..

    19 Valentin P

    Of course the chords are gonna be the same. There are 12 notes in total, and those 12 notes are the same on (almost) every instrument. They repeat just in different pitch as you move up and down octaves.

    I know this is common sense in the musical world but I know for some beginners this may be a revelation ;).

    20 Chirag

    They sure will work on guitar– just be sure that your tuning for the guitar is concert E-A-D-G-B-E. This means that if you hit an E on a piano and pluck an E on the guitar, they are the same note. Some guitarists will tune their guitars up or down depending on what key the other musicians are playing in. They’ll do this a lot if they’re playing with a sax or clarinet. I think it’s wimpy because they can only play certain chords, but if they’re good at it, it is fine!

    21 pdivine

    thank you sir,you are doing a great work here.i have just been playing major triads but i believe your free lessons will help me go a long way enhancing my playing.God bless you.

    22 kingsley

    Sir please, I’m a lil bit confused here..d chords u showed,u said it’s for Db..but I play Fmajor…can I still use dem??

    23 Chirag

    You’d have to transpose each chord up 4 semitones to play to play the song in F.

    24 able chords

    of course, just transpose the notes to the key you play, Bt try to play all keys

    25 Eric bamfo

    Hav also been following yur leassons everyday and GOD bless u for all yur thoughts i am havin a litle problem for preachings chords can u please tel me what preaching chords are and how to apply them or play them on the piano

    26 afanwi

    Hi i was wondering if you could help me. i have this problem with gospel passing chords. thanks

    27 able chords

    help out with wat

    28 able chords

    can I use this chords in a 7-3-6-2-5-1 progressions

    29 Zephaniah honesty

    Thank sir .your lesson are very helpfull to me , i wish i could have discovered this early them this..All thanks to God an you

    30 Zephaniah honesty

    Thank you sir .your lesson are very helpfull to me , i wish i could have discovered this early them this..All thanks to God an you..wish to recieve more on my gmail. Thnks

    31 Carolyn Clark

    Thank you Jermaine. I am really enjoying the blog.
    Thank you for allowing God to use you. Thank you
    for your patient. May God bless you.

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