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Can someone please just chart out a simple 2-5-1?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by cire113, Apr 29, 2010.

  1. cire113


    Apr 25, 2008
    Ok i know what 2-5-1 is.....

    But can someone give me a quick chart to what a simple example would be like??

    For example something like this... this? the key of C 2-5-1 is

    D //// G//// C//// im confused at this point... does it stay on the C

    for another measure?? when does it restart on the D?

    I know every song is different but just a simple standard is it just D G C repeating over and over?

    Im just trying to understand the bare basics of how this progression is used..

    Sorry if this was a stupid q uestion
  2. Dminor 7 G7 Cmajor 7....there are entire books written on 251 and sitting down and working it out is the best plan
  3. A 2-5-1 is any progression of that character. The most common one is Dm7-G7-Cmaj7.

    I think you should study som basic music theory to learn your dominants and subdominants.

    A 2-5-1 progression can occur anywhere in a song, starting from any Xm7-chord. They are often used to modulate to a temporary key. There is no rules for how it is repeated or not. However, as the end of a song, the 6-2-5-1 progression is often repeated as the singer or melody playing instruments repeats the last line. Don't get locked by thinking a 2-5-1 is always the second step in a scale/key. They can start from any step in the scale, as a 2-5-1 is used to describe not only that exakt progression from the scale steps, but in general that progression starting from wherever.

    Could you specify your question a bit more? I would be happy to answer any question.
  4. JTE

    JTE Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    You need to understand and work out for yourself what the harmonized scale is. That's where the chords come from, and doing it yourself will open this all up for you in a way that being spoon-fed never can.

    So, assuming you know how to determine what the basic major, minor, dominant, diminished, and augmented chords are out to the 7th...

    Write out a major scale, using the correct enharmonics.

    C D E F G A B C

    Then write it out again, stacking the thirds on top to get...
    E F G A B C D E
    C D E F G A B C

    And again with the next third on top...
    G A B C D E F G
    E F G A B C D E
    C D E F G A B C

    And one more time to get the 7ths...
    B C D E F G A B
    G A B C D E F G
    E F G A B C D E
    C D E F G A B C

    Now, analyze each of those stacks. Those ARE the chord in the key of C. What's the chord built on the second note? You gotta know WHY it's a Dmin7, not just a D. And the one built on the fifth note- again know WHY it's a G7, not a Gmaj7 nor a Gmin7.

    OK, after that, look at the notes you used. See how they're ALL the notes from the key of C, and ONLY the notes from C? Not only does the root motion of a ii V I pull your ear towards the C tonic, the chords use all the notes of the scale. Those two reasons are why a ii V I defines a key center. If you're playing a song written in the key of G, but in the middle there's a section where it goes Dmin7 G9 C6, for whatever section those three chords in that series cover, you're in the key of C.

  5. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006

    You may be coming from an understating of the blues as a I-IV-V.
    In such a case a simple blues can be charted out and described simply by those three chord symbols.
    so it makes sense to ask "where does the I repeat? how long do we hang on the V?" etc

    The ii-V-I progression is not a complete generalized song form, like the blues.
    It's a harmonic fragment, a phrase, that shows up peppered all over jazz tunes, in a variety of flavors.
    So asking " Does it stay in C? where does it restart on Dminor?" is a little less useful.
    It depends entirely on the individual song.

    some times its' ii -V7 in one measure, and I for another
    sometimes its one measure each
    sometimes is just ii- V7 and the next chord is something other than I...
    sometimes it's a ii -V from another key that just happens "land " on a chord that's in the key
    sometimes the V7 is substitued with the 7th chord a tritone away( Dmin-Db7-Cmaj7)

    and so on...and the flavors of the chords will often be extended or altered in one way or another...

    you have to keep your eyes open and look for the ii-V-I's where they may crop up. Memorizing the circle of fifths is helpful for that.

    No such thing...true stupidity lies in NOT asking.

    communication tip:
    numerals (251) refer to scale tones or chord tones,
    roman numerals (ii- V -I ) refer to chords.
    -caps = major chords, lowercase = minor chords
    (in general, not an absolute rule)

  6. Here ya go, annotated to show the ii V I you're looking for; this is pretty vanilla as far as standards go.


    Worth taking note of the last 4 chords on line one as well and how they lead back to Am7 (ii-7) on line two and continue to the Imaj7 again; classic iii vi ii V I motion (starting from the B7) with the iii changed to a dominant (B7) which support the sense of resolution much better than iii-7. Also a similar thing going on in the melody both parallel to, and in support of the accompaniment. But, I'd say, don't get hung up on that right now if you're focused on getting a grasp on the other - someone can explain the rest when you're ready for it.

  7. 251


    Oct 6, 2006
    Metro Boston MA
    Well said, Mambo man. :cool:
  8. Never have seen it done this way. Interesting
  9. JTE

    JTE Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    Really?!? That's the very heart of what basic harmony is. Stacking thirds in the scale to get the harmonized scale. It's where the whole concept of ii V I, I IV V, etc. comes from. I'm quite surprised you've never seen it done that way.

    Of course, it's most often done in basic harmony text using standard notation, but I don't have the tools to create and post standard notation on TB. Besides, given the jaundiced view some folks have of standard notation, it wouldn't communicate the lesson.

  10. Does it typically move down to the from the ii to the V, or does it move up, or both/ either depending on the song? I mean, should I go from d minor down to G dom7 or up to it, or both /either?
  11. There's no hard-fast rule, if it's new to you I'd recommend ii-7 --up a 4th--> V7 -- down a 5th --> Imaj7. That's real generic but will let your ear really hear it. Ultimately regardless of which direction you move it's really the same thing, i.e. Down a 5th and/or up a 4th are the inverse of each other, you'll hear the resolution either way.

  12. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    Since studying ii-V-I's is generally for the sake Jazz, the bass lines that apply to them are generally improvised walking lines...so yeah, moving in 5ths up or down is really matter of Individual taste /ears. Learn how it sound both ways.
  13. wade_b


    Jul 8, 2008
    Why does the first measure only contain 3 quarter notes?

    That threw me off big time when I sight read the piece just now: do I come in on the "2", assuming a quarter note rest, or something else?

    Also, how do I interpret "medium swing"?

    I'm just counting quarter notes "1, 2, 3, 4" - where should the "swing" go - a "long" 1?

    I'm rather pleased to discover that I sightread this piece rather easily - I guess my reading isn't bad as I had previously thought it would be.

    Really the deal is I haven't given serious/focused attention to reading music in 25 years or so.....
  14. This was a great post. Thank you.
  15. That's an anacrusis (lead in), interpret it as the last xx of the measure - so, yeah, last 3 quarter notes in this instance. So, silently= 3,4,1 now play, 2,3,4 -> 1 (first [full] measure).

    Medium tempo swing - the 'medium tempo' is simple enough, swing is a little more ambiguous - it's a feel thing, from a notation perspective (using 8th note examples) I've seen it written as dotted 8th followed by a 16th and/or eighth note triplet with an 8th note rest on the middle note. Rather, I'd recommend giving this a listen:
    Coltrane Quartet doing Impressions listen to Elvin (drummer) that's about the best reference to 'swing' I can give ya off-the-cuff.

    And yes, long!!! Always long quarter notes on a walking line in jazz. For sure!!!!

  16. So according to JTE and Bummer, if I'm following this correctly, you could solo over the whole 2-5-1 proggression in the 1 key, and all the notes should work with the chords?
  17. Febs

    Febs Supporting Member

    May 7, 2007
    Philadelphia, PA
    In addition to what PlanetEarth wrote, note that pickup notes are often "borrowed" from the last measure of the song. Look at the last measure, and you'll see that there is only 1 beat.
  18. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    yes and no.

    If you mess around with the scale for the I while the chords are being played, you will probably come up with something that works quiet well. But not every note will sound good over every chord. For example F is in the key of C major but is commonly thought of as something to avoid over a C major chord.

    The real "trick" is knowing your chord tones(in the form of arpeggios and inversions), and aiming for those on the strong beats while improvising the passing tones on the weak beats. The basic idea seems too simple, but using your ears and hands to do it artfully takes practice and experience.

    again, assuming a jazz context...
  19. JTE

    JTE Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    The F could sound pretty nasty over the I chord, or if it's in the right place melodically, rhythmically, and harmonically, it could be perfect. If you play the F note right on the 3rd beat of the measure and then play G on beat four, it's probably going to clash and sound funny to the paying customers. But, if you slip it in as an eighth note between a G note on beat 3 and D on beat four, it could sound right.

    That's why I don't look at scales as anything more than a framework. The chord tones are the primary way to determine which notes you need for your main notes. That doesn't mean (no straw men please!) you ONLY use chord tones, and having a defined key center doesn't mean you can NEVER use chromatic notes. It means you target your chord tones on the strong beats of the rhythm and you pay attention to the key center for your passing tones.

    For example, normally you'd never use an F# under a Dmin7 chord, but if the harmonic flow is fast and you're creating a LINE that pulls the ear to the V chord, that F# might sound perfect- playing F on beat 3, F# on beat 4 and G on beat 1 as the progression changes from the ii to the V might sound great. The key is knowing exactly where you've been, where you are and where you're going.


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