Tutorials

2-5-1 progression

MartinL

Member
Messages
378
Location
Bilston, United Kingdom.
Hi

So this is going to sound stupid but i was reading about Jazz Sax on the net and came across the phrase "2-5-1 progression", I'm not sure what it is. I tried to Google the phrase and I get bogged down in music theory. Can anyone explain what a 2-5-1 progression is, in simple terms please.

Thanks
 

Chris98

Senior Member
Messages
1,076
Hi

So this is going to sound stupid but i was reading about Jazz Sax on the net and came across the phrase "2-5-1 progression", I'm not sure what it is. I tried to Google the phrase and I get bogged down in music theory. Can anyone explain what a 2-5-1 progression is, in simple terms please.

Thanks
Hi Martin,

I've got a grasp of it but would struggle to say it as clearly as Pete has on his site:

JAZZ THEORY FOR BEGINNERS 1
JAZZ THEORY FOR BEGINNERS 2

All the best,

Chris
 

half diminished

Senior Member
Messages
1,361
Location
Buckinghamshire
It's a 'typical' chord progression in jazz.

Take a tune written in a singe key - say D major for example. The notes within the key/scale are: D, E, F#, G, A, B, C#.

The 'melody' typically follows this but there will also be an underlying 'harmony' or 'harmonic structure' that the musicians follow and this is where the 2,5,1 comes in.

With a 2, 5, 1 progression or more accurately a II, V7, I progression, you use the same notes as above but follow a progression as follows:

II - E, F#, G, A, B, C#, D - this is based on the 2nd degree of the major scale/key (and is a dorian minor scale)

V7 - A, B, C#, D, E, F#, G - this is based on the 5th degree of the major scale and is a dominant 7th scale)

I - D, E, F#, G, A, B, C# - based on the root of the major scale

The main chord 'notes' and the first, 3rd, 5th, 7th of each scale but of course you can play them in any sequence/order.

Check out Pete's main website for more info. Unfortunately it does take a bit of getting used to.
 

RSPINDY

New Member
Messages
19
Hi

So this is going to sound stupid but i was reading about Jazz Sax on the net and came across the phrase "2-5-1 progression", I'm not sure what it is. I tried to Google the phrase and I get bogged down in music theory. Can anyone explain what a 2-5-1 progression is, in simple terms please.

Thanks
Martin, your question is NOT stupid. But, in the end, there is no hugely simple answer without theory simply because this is theory. "Half-diminished" did a good job of explaining, but let me give you another slightly different view point.

The "2-5-1" (usually written in Roman Numerals as II - V - I) represents first a harmonic progression (chords in succession) and their related scales.

The harmonic progression represents chords built on scale step 2, scale step 5 (dominant) and scale step 1 (tonic) of a key. In the key of C major

C D E F G A B C is the scale
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 1 are the scale steps.

In C minor (harmonic)

C D Eb F G Ab B C is the scale
1 2 (b)3 4 5 (b)6 7 1 are the scale steps.

Thus, in the Key of C (major or minor) the roots of the harmony, which is very likely what is going on in the bass part, will be D - G - C and therefore the scales used to create the melodies will be based on these 3 notes.

In the most basic instances, you develop a melody around the scale starting with the bass note, and that scale is the scale of the key starting on that note. But what we have been seldom told, if you are doing the C maj scale from D to D (Dorian Mode for the II), then the important notes (the ones that need to generally be at strong points in the rhythm) are D F and A -- they need to be featured, while if you do the C major scale from G to shining G (Mixolydian Mode for the V) then G, B, D, and F are the important notes. And then when you do C to shining C, the important notes are C E G.

The modes that you may or may not have heard of are more than just playing a scale starting on a different note.

Now. If we are working in the above minor, the scales that you use change, because C harmonic minor has Eb and Ab. So that D now uses those and the Ab replaces the A above.

One more little wrinkle is that our II chord is not particularly tied to a particular chord type or scale regardless of key. It is very common for the II in major to be changed from the D minor (dorian) to a D mixolydian by raising the 3rd. Thus what would have been D E F G A B C above, becomes D E F# G A B C. You are still in C, you have simply heightened the movement to G.

In practicing, first learn the "important notes" for each step, using the target scale as the guide. These "important notes" are the chord notes. Thus the II chord in C major is D F A and these notes should be in strong rhythmic positions (for now, on beats 1 and 3 in 4/4 time -- there are other ways to make them strong, but if you mostly get them placed there now, you will have the time to learn these other ways.) The V chord in C major is G B D (and F). In C minor, you alter the appropriate Eb or Ab of those chords.

Try translating this to other keys. When you get used to playing around with these diatonic versions, then experiment with other possible changes (remember, I already said that the II could use F# in C for no logical reason). The notes that are not specified as important are most of the time (not always does it sound good) variable. But treat it as a "theme and variations".

Scott
 

kevgermany

ex Landrover Nut
Subscriber
Messages
21,982
Location
Just north of Munich
Shining?

This is interesting, but I'm a newbie and am having a lot of difficulty tieing it back to the little I understand, can someone put it a little more simply please.

Off to read Pete's pages now.
 
OP
MartinL

MartinL

Member
Messages
378
Location
Bilston, United Kingdom.
Thanks,

You have both done a great job in explaining it, I'm trying to get my head around it but I am struggling. I'm ok with the first bit.


"Martin, your question is NOT stupid. But, in the end, there is no hugely simple answer without theory simply because this is theory. "Half-diminished" did a good job of explaining, but let me give you another slightly different view point.

The "2-5-1" (usually written in Roman Numerals as II - V - I) represents first a harmonic progression (chords in succession) and their related scales.

The harmonic progression represents chords built on scale step 2, scale step 5 (dominant) and scale step 1 (tonic) of a key. In the key of C major

C D E F G A B C is the scale
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 1 are the scale steps.

In C minor (harmonic)

C D Eb F G Ab B C is the scale
1 2 (b)3 4 5 (b)6 7 1 are the scale steps.

Thus, in the Key of C (major or minor) the roots of the harmony, which is very likely what is going on in the bass part, will be D - G - C and therefore the scales used to create the melodies will be based on these 3 notes."



After this I get confused, but I'm trying.

You guys have both put a lot of effort into your mail, i appreciate it. Thanks..


Off to read Pete's pages now.

Me Too, Again.... :))
 

RiceBag

Member
Messages
64
From an unlearned newbie

Martin,

First things first:

-----------------------
1. You have to choose what KEY you are going to play the progression on.
---------------------------------------------
2. If you choose the key of F, then

the F chord = I ;
the G chord = II ;
the C chord = V.

Why so? Because the roman numeral match the notes of the F scale in the above. The F (major) scale is made of the notes:

[F] [G] [A] [Bb] [C] [D] [E] which, using ordinal numbers is:
[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7].

So you can easily see that (in the key of "F") , F = 1, G = 2, and C = 5, just by counting.
------------------------------------

In a "chord progression", the Roman numerals represent CHORDS, whereas above, the SCALE of NOTES is shown with ordinal arabic numbers, but they relate on a one to one basis to the Roman numerals. Also, the scales loop around like a circle, so after the [7] follows the [1] and the actual note names do the same correspondingly.

A chord progression means that you play the chords specified by the Progression, in the KEY you chose.

A CHORD PROGRESSION IS A SEQUENCE OF GROUPS OF NOTES and EACH GROUP IS KNOWN AS A "CHORD", and given a Roman Numeral. You play a group one after the other (in the order the Sequence specifies).

If you pick a different KEY than F as shown above, then that KEY takes the number 1 or "I", and you shift the scale up or down in a linear fashion.

I read there where Pete explains all this quite well in the web pages cited by posters here.

So, since a single sax can not play chords, he says you play a chord in sequence of notes (arpegio-like?) to suite the needs. Example, for each chord in the sequence, you can use any of its 3 notes, and I suppose you can alter the order of the notes somehow. Maybe you can play only 1, or 2, or all the 3 notes of a chord, but always one note at a time; AND one chord at a time and in the sequence specified. That's why it's called a "chord sequence". In a piano, we can strike the 3 notes of a chord at once, or also in an arpegio-like manner.

So, first, pick a KEY and WRITE down the 7 notes of the major scale for that key, and number them 1 to 7.

The KEY is the KEY in which a song is written, played, or sung. Or, a key in which you wish to practice.

If the KEY of the song is in C, then C = 1, D = 2, etc. It's the easiest KEY to start with because most everyone knows the C scale order by memory, since kids.

I don't think the question is unimportant. Quite contrary, I feel it is very important that it be really clear. Don't think, also, that I know much beyond this, for I am even less than newbie and have been learning here and there, also by asking these questions. So, from a low view-point, it might help make sense?

Best of all.:)
 
Last edited by a moderator:

RiceBag

Member
Messages
64
From an unlearned newbie

Martin,

First things first:

-----------------------
1. You have to choose what KEY you are going to play the progression on.
---------------------------------------------
2. If you choose the key of F, then

the F chord = I ;
the G chord = II ;
the C chord = V.

Why so? Because the roman numeral match the notes of the F scale in the above. The F (major) scale is made of the notes:

[F] [G] [A] [Bb] [C] [D] [E] which, using ordinal numbers is:
[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7].

So you can easily see that (in the key of "F") , F = 1, G = 2, and C = 5, just by counting.
------------------------------------

In a "chord progression", the Roman numerals represent CHORDS, whereas above, the SCALE of NOTES is shown with ordinal arabic numbers, but they relate on a one to one basis to the Roman numerals. Also, the scales loop around like a circle, so after the [7] follows the [1] and the actual note names do the same correspondingly.

A chord progression means that you play the chords specified by the Progression, in the KEY you chose.

If you pick a different KEY than F as shown above, then that KEY takes the number 1 or "I", and you shift the scale up or down in a linear fashion.

I read there where Pete explains all this quite well in the web pages cited by posters here.

So, since a single sax can not play chords, he says you play a chord in sequence of notes (arpegio-like?) to suite the needs. Example, for each chord in the sequence, you can use any of its 3 notes, and I suppose you can alter the order of the notes somehow. Maybe you can play only 1, or 2, or all the 3 notes of a chord, but always one note at a time; AND one chord at a time and in the sequence specified. That's why it's called a "chord sequence". In a piano, we can strike the 3 notes of a chord at once, or also in an arpegio-like manner.

So, first, pick a KEY and WRITE down the 7 notes of the major scale for that key, and number them 1 to 7.

The KEY is the KEY in which a song is written, played, or sung. Or, a key in which you wish to practice.

If the KEY of the song is in C, then C = 1, D = 2, etc. It's the easiest KEY to start with because most everyone knows the C scale order by memory, since kids.

I don't think the question is unimportant. Quite contrary, I feel it is very important that it be really clear. Don't think, also, that I know much beyond this, for I am even less than newbie and have been learning here and there, also by asking these questions. So, from a low view-point, it might help make sense?

Best of all.:)
 

cwillsher

Member
Messages
126
Location
Southampton, UK
Hi

So this is going to sound stupid but i was reading about Jazz Sax on the net and came across the phrase "2-5-1 progression", I'm not sure what it is. I tried to Google the phrase and I get bogged down in music theory. Can anyone explain what a 2-5-1 progression is, in simple terms please.

Thanks
Back to the original post, let's try and keep this as simple as possible and try a slightly different approach....forgive me Martin if any of the following comes across as condescending though! (or if I've repeated what has already been said - this is all my own work honest!).

First and foremost, you need to know your scales - or at least one in order to understand what a II-V-I progression is. So let's take C Major as our example:

As Scott mentioned you can label each note in the scale with a number:
C D E F G A B C
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

But as you progress it will also be useful to imagine this scale as a continuous pattern, like the notes laid out on a piano:
C D E F G A B C D E F G A B
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 (you'll have to line those numbers up yourself!)

Notice that as we extend the scale beyond 8 notes, we get the same notes repeating in an upper octave but labeled (9-14)? Don't let this confuse you, just try and get used to the fact that 2=9, 3=10, 4=11 etc. as it will become useful when you start seeing extended chords like: G7 #9 b13. It's also a good idea to practice playing your arpeggios (chord tones) beyond four notes at a time and getting used to the sound of those extended chords.

But I digress (just a little bit and it won't happen again!)...back on topic....

Now if we start at C and take every other note, we can form a chord (such as might be played on piano or guitar). Clearly saxophones can't sound four notes simultaneously but it is important to know these chord tones, so that we can describe or complement the harmony when playing a solo.

Our first chord then will consist of the following notes:
C E G B
1 3 5 7 - This is chord I (one) and in this case is called C Major 7.

Now let's do the same thing staring on D (the second note in the scale). We get:
D F A C - This is chord II - D Minor 7.

Starting on the fifth degree of the scale (G) we get:
G B D F - This is Chord V (5) - G7 (or G dominant 7th).

So we have constructed the chords we are interested in, now try playing them as arpeggios in the correct order: II (D minor 7), V (G7), I (C Major 7).
Try them going up, coming down, alternating and simply moving to the nearest note in subsequent chords.

Regardless of the Major scale you are working in the harmony of the chords remains the same. Chord II is always a Minor 7th, Chord V is always a Dominant 7th and Chord I is always a Major 7th. For minor keys the chords are different because the scale is constructed differently. If you're interested, try it out!

This is the most common harmonic sequence in jazz (and most styles of music), hence it's importance. The more you play with it, the more you will begin to discover about the relative movement of the chord tones, which is really useful for picking out nice smooth lines between the chords. Once you begin to recognise the II-V-I in popular tunes, you can use your new found knowledge and practice to find your way through those solos.

I would suggest that the next stage would be to build these chords (arpeggios) in all the major keys and become comfortable with them. Play them as part of your warm up - there are some good exercises using these on the site. Then work on the minor keys too.

Then you can start thinking about 'modal' playing....but that's another (related) story.

I hope this is just a little clearer. It's easier to do than to explain, that's for sure. :D
 

Morgan Fry

Senior Member
Messages
447
Location
Leeds
Please don't take this the wrong way, but you guys are looking at this all wrong. Forget about modes. 2-5-1s have nothing to do with modal music. It is the standard turnaround in traditional song forms with chord changes. Look at the chords. You're making improvising music much harder for yourselves than it needs to be.

To answer the OP,
2-5-1 is the diatonic (usually 7th) chords built form the 2nd, 5th, then root.
so in C, it's Dmin7-G7-CMaj. Others have spelled out the chords correctly (if unconventionally) for you.

It is a strong and therefore much used cadence in large part because of the chromatic movement in the 3rds and 7ths of the chords:
C-B-C (7th of Dmin7, 3rd of G7, root of CMaj)
F-F-E(3rd of Dmin7, 7th of G7, 3rd of CMaj)

The other 10 notes are just color or passing or neighboring tones depending on usage. This 3-7-3-7-3-7 movement is by far the most important thing to understand about playing changes.
 
support Tutorials CDs PPT mouthpieces
Top Bottom