People hear the words “jazz theory” and immediately freak out a little. The concept of jazz theory sounds so difficult and elusive, that I think is inhibits a lot of people from trying to learn jazz piano. From a functional perspective, jazz theory isn’t any different from classical theory. We just look at things a little bit differently. In this tutorial, I am going to teach you the 2-5-1 Progression in Major.
To get started, let’s take a look at the basics. If we play four note chords up the C major scale, this is what we end up with. These chords are referred to as “diatonic chords”, because each of the notes are diatonic. That is, coming from the scales. By harmonizing each scale degree with the notes that naturally come from the scale, we are learning how the harmony works in any major key.
The origin of the jazz 2-5-1 chord progression
Diatonic Seventh Chords
When we stack diatonic thirds on top of each scale degree, this is what we end up with.
The chord qualities on each scale degree will be the same in every key.
What is a chord progression?
The 2-5-1 progression is the most commonly used progression in straight ahead jazz, therefore making it the primary harmonic concept we are going to work on in this course. Once you can spot and play 2-5-1’s, you will notice a lot more ease when playing jazz standards.
Ex #2 The 2-5-1 Progression in Major
The 2-5-1 progression is a diatonic progress, which means that all of the chord tones come from the scale. We start with the 2 chord, which is a minor seventh chord, followed by a 5 chord, which is a dominant seventh. Then we resolved the chord to the tonic, which in this case will be both the major seventh and the major sixth. The major seventh and major sixth chords function exactly the same – only the top note is different. It is helpful to be comfortable playing both of those chord qualities.
Protocol to practice the 2-5-1 Progression:
- Figure out the key signature and play the diatonic seventh chords up the scale.
- Name the chords in the progression
- play the Chord in the RH while the LH plays the bass note.Say the names of the chords
- Do #3 again while singing the chord names on the bass note pitches.
- LH walking bass RH Chord
- LH walking bass, RH comping.
How to practice the 2-5-1 Progression
Practice the 2-5-1 progression via the Circle of 5ths, up and down by half steps and down by whole steps.
Make sure to check out the next tutorial: The 2-5-1 progression in minor!
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