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Two-Five-One Progression

Fraser Jarvis

Well-Known Member
Just been going through these and notice they all seem to follow a m7-dominant7-major7 pattern, do you have to follow this pattern of chord choices or are we able to use any chords we like?


Well-Known Member
Can you elaborate a bit? Those are the diatonic (ie using only the notes of the scale) seventh chords on ii-v-i in a major key. In a minor key, you ususally get half-diminished, dom 7 flat 9, minor 7 (or minor with maj 7). Or am I misunderstanding the question?

Pete Thomas

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If you just say 2 5 1 , then it will generally mean a diatonic 2 5 1, exactly as Bigmartin says.

However if you also include chromatic chords, then the II chord could be a dominant type chord. This is called a secondary dominant and is often the dominant of a dominant:

D7 G7 C major 7.

Normally when people talk about a 2 5 1, the V chord is always a dominant in major or minor (perfect cadence).

An exception might be if the sequence is modal, in an Aeolian mode a diatonic 2 5 1 would be Bm7b5, Em7, Am7. But if that was the case, people would say so, this is not what is typically meant by the term 251.

Morgan Fry

Senior Member
ii-V7-I is by far the most common version in a major key. They're diatonic, also perhaps more importantly they follow a subdominant to dominant to tonic pattern (we've been using this cadence for like 500 years or more. It still works). Typically in a minor key they won't be strictly diatonic (as Pete alluded to), the V will be dominant.

Probably the most common variation is using the dominant 2 chord instead of minor. Much more common in pre-war jazz than in bebop and later styles.
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