Author Topic: No__74___Chord Progressions 5-1 & 2-5-1  (Read 287 times)

Peter Anderson

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No__74___Chord Progressions 5-1 & 2-5-1
« on: March 22, 2017, 10:24:38 AM »
How to Use   “5-1”   Progressions To Enhance Your Playing

Here we are going to discuss Chord progressions, so first of all, what do we mean by a Chord Progression?     It is simply a series of chords played one after the other.
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 need to understand the roles of chord progressions.

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

Peter .. I hope you don't mind me putting my oar in at this point.  Hopefully I won't rock the boat!

When reading your articles, one has to have to have a mental picture of what you are saying.  Now I understand that by using the 5 - 1 terminology you are covering every situation in every key.  But I never play a '2' chord, a '5' chord or a '1' chord.  I play a 'C' chord, an 'F' chord or a 'G' chord etc.  I can relate to music theory, and don't have to think twice about it so long as it is based in the key of C.  As I do know what the notes are in the scale of C, it doesn't take much effort to translate your '1', '2', '3' etc. into lettered chords in C.  I couldn't do this if the '1' was an F# or an Ab.  So I shall have to translate all your ones, twos and threes into lettered notes in the scale of C in order to fully understand what you are saying. 

The “5-1” Progression  (G - C .. Hugh)

You are quite correct, Hugh.
Using the numbers 1 to 7, is just another way of defining the chord we are talking about, but in a generic fashion to include all the scales.
To help us 'think' in the different keys, we can refer to our old friend, The Circle Of Fifths, and I will make this link in this topic in a few Replies time.
Throughout, I have and will continue to use the Key of C for my examples, which makes it, hopefully, easier to assimilate the ideas we are considering.

To read more about this see Peters Pearls No  61       You can open that in a new window, by clicking this link:

So back to our original subject....

The   5-1 progressions   will commonly end a song, a chorus, or a verse.  Being that the   1 chord   represents the actual key that your song is being played in, it makes sense for it to be the very last chord played.   It also ensures we have a 'comfortable' harmony  to end on.
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   (for example:   the sixth degree played as a major chord or the fourth degree played as a dominant chord in fast gospel songs are very common).                             But for the purposes of this posting, 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 the right time 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?

The answer is 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, immediately 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.      The   5 chord creates such a strong pull towards the   1 chord that we can even predict how the next chord is supposed to sound in our mind.
Imagine if a pianist was holding the  5 chord and all of a sudden, they get up and walk away.     The audience would be totally shocked.   Why?      Because they would think that the pianist didn’t finish the song completely. That’s because the  5 chord  gives us the feeling that something is about to end, but hasn’t quite ended yet (again, that’s why we don’t clap then).      And in cases where the song doesn’t actually end at that point, that same chord will alert us that the song is returning back to the beginning of the verse or chorus for another round.

Here are some examples of “5-1” endings, to explain what we are discussing:
i)       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 replies below.

ii)       … Was blind, but now I see
This line is taken from the well known hymn 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 last but one word, just before the ending.       You can play this chord over multiple words.
So in this case, I would say that the     5 chord     begins on now and is held until   I   is sung.     Finally, when   see    is sung, the song ends and obviously you would play a   1   chord.

We extend this in the following postings.


Peter Anderson

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Re: N0___74____Chord Progressions
« Reply #1 on: April 02, 2017, 12:45:23 PM »
Now we will explore    2-5-1   chord 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 often the series of chords that end a song or phrase, but it can be used in several other situations.

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

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)
6 tone – Minor
7 tone – Half Diminished

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 the C major scale:
C — D — E — F — G — A — B — C

Each tone above has a matching chord.

They are listed below, and to  further understand progressions, I've numbered each chord:

(You can start a major scale anywhere on the keyboard, of course, but for ease of explanation I am using the scale of C major.)

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

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, for this progression, 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 is the most basic  2-5-1   chord progression you’ll ever see:
Dmin — Gdom — Cmaj

          min = minor
          dom = dominant
          maj = major

So we play:
D minor chord = (D) + (F) + (A)
G dominant chord = (G) + (B) + (D) + (F)
C major chord = (C) + (E) + (G)

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

Now let me show you a few chords that you can explore.   
I will simply give you the chord changes and you can apply them to your understanding of chords and variations.     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”
This chord progression is very satisfying, so why don't  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” (i.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

Please Note:      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

Well, that’s it for now. Read on for longer chord progressions.

Please add your comments about this below.
Did you like the chords I have shared?
Have you tried them out?
Have you some more of your own    2-5-1’s to share?


Hugh Wallington

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Re: N0___74____Chord Progressions
« Reply #2 on: April 03, 2017, 12:20:33 PM »

I have added a comment into your first posting .. in green.

Another comment.  I am not familiar with the word 'dominant'.  Is this the same as 'fifth'?  So in the scale of C, the 'dominant'/'fifth' would be G?  I have discovered that eg. C7 is actually called a Dominant Seventh chord.  You have referred to it just as the 'dominant'.  Because of the way it is written (in letters) I just call this a 'seventh chord'.  The C 'seventh' chord.  C E G and Bb.  Which would 'lead you into F'.  It would be G7 that leads you into C.

I am very confused!

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Peter Anderson

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Re: N0___74____Chord Progressions
« Reply #3 on: April 05, 2017, 03:40:17 PM »
Hugh,      If you look at the posting on The Circle Of a Fifths, Page 2 and the very first Reply, you will see the references to the Dominant.   
The Fifth is the Dominant of the Root or Home key chord.

Click on this link to open the page in a new window:

More information, and I am sorry if this sounds a little technical, but here goes.

In music theory, a dominant seventh chord, or major minor seventh chord, is a chord composed of a root, major third, perfect fifth, and minor seventh.

It can also be viewed as a major triad with an additional minor seventh.

When using popular-music symbols, it is denoted by adding a superscript "7" after the letter designating the chord root.

The dominant seventh is found almost as often as the dominant triad.    In Roman numerals it is represented as V7.

Of all the seventh chords, perhaps the most important is the dominant seventh.     It was the first seventh chord to appear regularly in classical music.     The name comes from the fact that it occurs naturally in the seventh chord built upon the dominant (i.e., the fifth degree) of a given major diatonic scale. 

Take for example the C major scale (C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C):       The note G is the dominant degree of C major—its fifth note.

When we arrange the notes of the C major scale in ascending pitch and use only these notes to build a seventh chord, and we start with G (not C), then the resulting chord contains the four notes G–B–D–F and is called G dominant seventh (G7).   The note F is a minor seventh from G, and it is also called the dominant seventh with respect to G.

In like fashion, yes C7 is a dominant chord, but as you correctly point out, of the key of F major.

I hope this clears it up for you.


Peter Anderson

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Re: N0___74____Chord Progressions
« Reply #4 on: April 08, 2017, 10:55:05 AM »
As we have learned, the 2-5-1 chord progression  is the harmonic movement to the first degree, from the second and fifth scale degrees.

The 2-5-1 chord progression is one of the most important progressions in music, because it can and normally does end most of all songs.

Yes, there are songs that don’t follow the “2-5-1” ending and that’s because from time to time, composers tend to break rules or want to do something different.

It would pay you to learn how to play this  2-5-1 chord progression in every key, the following explains exactly how to do that!

We have to utilise our old friend The Circle Of Fifths.

If you are not familiar with this, then click on this link to open the subject in a new window:

"Lost Without You" is a pop ballad written by Bridget Benenate and Matthew Gerrard, produced by Gerrard for Delta Goodrem's first album Innocent Eyes (2003) and was released as the album's second single on 28 February of that year.

Here is a YouTube link to that song:

I want to show you a simple way to play the chords of “Lost Without You” in all 12 keys!

First, let’s review the four chords that dominate this song.

Here are the four chords, for what is called a 2-5-1-4 chord progression.

I have shown them as three essential notes to form the chord, with the other one in brackets.

Dmin7      D   C   (A)   F
G7            G   B   (D)   F
Cmaj7      C   B   (G)   E

Fmaj7      F   A   (C)   E

The reason for this is to help you remember how to  play them in sequence.

When moving from the first chord in the series, move the second note down one          i.e.  C to B.
When moving from the second chord in the series, move the fourth note down one      i.e.  F to E.
When moving from the third chord in the series, move the second note down one        i.e.  B to A.

OK, here is why we call this a “2-5-1-4” chord progression.     Because if you compare the bass notes of the 4 chords listed above to the C major scale, the key this progression is in, you’ll find that

D    is the 2nd tone of the scale
G    is the 5th tone of the scale
C    is the 1st tone of the C major scale, of course —           and
F    is the 4th tone of the scale.

So the numbers come straight from the scale.                      It is that simple.

In the next Reply, we'll focus on the   2 - 5 - 1   part of this chord progression and playing them in all 12 keys.


Peter Anderson

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Re: N0___74____Chord Progressions
« Reply #5 on: April 18, 2017, 03:23:49 PM »
But for now, we are only going to focus on the “2-5-1” part of the chord progression. As has already been said, this is probably one of the most commonly used chord progressions in music history!    You will find it hard to come across a tune that does not have this chord progression in it.

They’re used to end songs because of the strong pull and resolution back “home.” 

Basically, you get a feeling of “ending” when you play a “2-5-1” progression.    It’s as if that “2” chord is sort of away from home.    But when it progresses to the “5” chord, it tells your ear, “OK, we’re getting ready to go back home.”      And finally when you hear any kind of “1” chord, whether you’re a musician or not, your ear tells you, “At last, we’re home!”   
That’s basically the whole concept.

Music is a combination of tension (being away from home) and release (coming back home).  If you think about it, everything in life is a combination of tension and release.  You go through something in life - tension… and then you overcome it - release.    But you had better not get too comfortable because something else will inevitably turn up.    That’s just how chord progressions are.      It is also the basis for films, books, driving, marriages, sports, etc — that’s how everything is!

So how can we learn this same exact “2-5-1” progression in every key?
It’s simple. We’re going to use the famous circle of fifths chart!

Here it is for you:

If you look closely at this circle, our “D to G to C” progression lies on the right side, going counter-clockwise.

If you compare this chart to a clock, “D” is at 2 o’ clock, G is at 1 o’ clock, and C is at 12 o’ clock.

Here’s the secret…
This circle is filled with every “2-5-1” chord progression you’ll ever want to play. What do you do to find them?

Just circle any 3 neighboring tones on this circle and move in a counter-clockwise direction. The last note circled in that direction will be your “home” chord just like “C” is our home chord in the example above.

If we want to play a “2-5-1” chord progression in Bb major, we do the same thing.    Circle “Bb.” Then circle the note right next to it, going clockwise = “F” — then circle the note right next to that = “C.”   

Always remember that these kind of progressions always work in a counter-clockwise direction when you use this circle.     In other words, it’s like telling time backwards.     To play the correct progression going in the opposite direction to your clock, but to find the series of chords, work back from your home Key.

If we want to play a “2-5-1” in “A major,” the process is the same.    Circle the note “A.”    Then back up and circle the note right next to it, “E” — then the note right next to it, “B.”      This is so simple.

Next time I'll show you how to move from one set of 2-5-1 chords to the next, in an easy and logical fashion.


Peter Anderson

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Re: N0___74____Chord Progressions
« Reply #6 on: April 25, 2017, 03:18:59 PM »
So, with that in mind, here’s how to play these chords in all 12 Keys.

We'll start with C major
From what we have stated earlier here are our first 3 chords

Dmin7      D   C   (A)   F
G7            G   B   (D)   F
Cmaj7      C   B   (G)   E

Now we have to convert that CMaj7, into a minor chord, so that we can use it as a "2" chord in the next key.
To do this move both the second and fourth notes down one.

So     C major 7       turns into        C minor 7
          Cmin7            C   Bb   (G)   Eb

Then you just repeat the same pattern, except now, “C minor 7” is the beginning of your chord progression. You’ll lower its second note and it will take you to an F dominant 7.   Just like you did in the first example, you’ll then lower its fourth note and it will take you to a Bb major 7.   So now we’ve just played a “2-5-1” in the key of Bb major.
Namely   Cmin7      F7      Bbmaj7

Notice, that all we are doing is following the circle of fifths.
What was once D to G to C is now C to F to Bb.     
The next one will be Bb to Eb to Ab,  all in alignment with the circle.

Once you know the Circle Of Fifths, you’ve opened the door to tons of musical shortcuts!

After we’ve successfully played Bb major 7, we lower both of its 2nd and 4th notes so that it becomes Bb minor 7.   It now operates as a “2” chord for our next progression. It’s an unending cycle, basically!