Beginner Question For 251 Progression - Major & Minor II V I

(Marcol) #1

Hello to everyone

I am a beginner and I download the foundation jazz resources. I do not understand why the II V I major pdf file has three tones, and the II V I minor pdf file has five tones.
Is there any pdf file with the II V I major with 5 tones ?
Thank you.

(Hayden Hill) #2

Hi Marc,

Brilliant question!

Here’s an in-depth answer for you:

Firstly, here’s a little background on the 251 progression:

The 251 progression is the most common progression in jazz muic, and so spending the time to learn them in all 12 keys is a priority for us as students of jazz piano.

Pretty much every jazz standard will contain a major or minor 251 in some form and so learning these progressions will help you to learn tunes quickly, and better your understanding of harmony.

Now Onto Your Questions:

The 3-Note Major 251 Progression:

The 3 note voicings file that you are referring to is the simplest way to play the major 251 progression. This is the first type of 251 progression that we should learn because it is the 251 in its most basic form… just the root, the 3rd, and the 7th:

Here is the full download file in all 12 keys:

3 Note 251_final.pdf (2.1 MB)

It is recommended that we first start with the major 251 progression. The major 251 progression is much simpler than the minor 251 progression, and so it makes sense for us to learn this progression before we advance onto the more complicated minor 251.

Type A & Type B Major 251

For every major 251 progression, there are 2 important inversions that we must learn and memorise.

Here they are in the key of C Major:

The “Type A” Major 251 Progression always starts with the b3rd on the bottom in the right hand. Notice in Type A, the D-7 chord has the b3rd (F) on the bottom.

The “Type B” Major 251 Progression always starts with the b7th on the bottom in the right hand. Notice in Type B, the D-7 chord has the b7th (C ) on the bottom.

However, despite the different order of notes, the movement is exactly the same, the b7th of the chord, drops by half a step to become the 3rd of the next chord. You must be able to visualise this b7th --> major 3rd voice leading in all 12 keys!!

Now, there are many different ways to play the major 251. The examples above are the absolute foundation of the harmony, and so by learning these simple example, you will then have strong foundations to build more interesting and harmonically complex 251 progressions.

Next Onto The Extended 251 Progression:

At this stage, once we have learnt the 3-note major 251 voicings, we can then start to add in some upper extensions to create rich jazzy textures.

If you watch this practice drill tutorial, you will see that we take those simple 3-note voicings and turn them into 5-note 251 voicings:

We can also add more notes. But at this stage it’s important for us to learn that 5-note progression in all 12 keys, just like I demonstrated in the lesson.

In the above lesson, for “Type A” we are playing:

  • ii-9 : Root in the left hand, and then b3-5-b7-9 in the right hand.
  • V13 : Root in left hand, and then 3-13-b7-9 in the right hand
  • Imaj9 : Root in the left hand, and the 3-5-7-9 in the right hand

And then for “Type B” we would have:

  • ii-9 : Root in the left hand, and then b7-9-b3-5 in the right hand.
  • V13 : Root in left hand, and then b7-9-3-13- in the right hand
  • Imaj9 : Root in the left hand, and the 7-9-3-5 in the right hand

Again we are playing the exact same notes for Type A and Type B, just in a different order. Again we must learn both Type A and Type B and this gives the freedom to voice 251 progression in virtually all situations in jazz standards and on lead sheets.

Then We Have Rootless Voicings For Major 251s

I have created an in-depth post on rootless voicings here, and explain why we use them.

To save repeating myself, here is the post:

We have a whole course dedicated to rootless voicings, you can find it here:

This Then Leads Us Onto The Minor 251 Progression

Minor harmony is a lot more complex than major harmony.

With the minor 251 progression, it’s common to use a rootless voicing for the V7 chord, and this is why you should first become familiar with the rootless major 251, so that you are comfortable visualising these chords without the root at the bottom.

This is why the PianoGroove method recommends the following order for learning 251 Progressions:

  • Step 1. The 3-Note Major 251 Progression
  • Step 2. The Extended Major 251 Progression
  • Step 3. The Rootless 251 Progression
  • Step 4. The Minor 251 Progression

Mastering these progression in all 12 keys takes months, perhaps even years of work Marc.

This is not something that happens overnight and you will be constantly be revising these important progressions throughout your study of jazz piano.

However, once you have learnt these progressions, you will be well on your way to becoming a proficient jazz pianist.

Try to spend 2 hours per day following our practice plans, and within the space of 6 months, you will see real and noticeable improvements in your playing, and your understanding of jazz harmony.

I hope this helps give you some direction Marc, any further questions just let me know.

(Anita Desimone) #3

So, I read your explanation of the Type A Voicing of 251 where the 3rd is always on the bottom of the right hand. How does G7 fit that where F is the 7th not the 3rd?

(Hayden Hill) #4

Hi Anita… good question!

I should have been clearer there, I meant the 251 always starts with the 3rd on the bottom

So for any Type A Major 251, we start on the ii-7 chord with the b3rd on the bottom

And for Type B Major 251, we always start on the ii-7 chord with the b7th on the bottom.

I will add this detail into the original post above.

Thanks for spotting this!

(Anita Desimone) #5

Thanks, I was wondering what I missed!

(Hayden Hill) #6

Yes that was an important point to miss out Anita… Great spot! :grinning:

A bit of further insight…

I see those tones (b3 or b7) as ‘guideposts’ … if I’m looking to find a rootless voicing in my left hand, I will typically look for that bottom note of the ii-7 chord as either the b3 or the b7. There are many other ways to voice the major 251s, but these 2 ‘starting points’ are important to learn.

From playing the rootless major 251s over and over, this has become an almost instinctive reaction where my hand will instantly gravitate towards one of those voicing shape without me having to think about it at all.

However, in moments of hesitation, perhaps if it’s an unusual key signature, or if the melody gets in the way of my typical voicing choice, my eyes will scan for the b3 or b7 of the ii-7 chord, and then everything else falls into place from muscle memory of the voicing shapes.

Hope this helps!


(Marcol) #7

Hi hayden,

I thank you very much for your answer in depth. Your message is very useful about learning this famous progression in depth.

For the moment, I am going to learn the II V I progression in its basic form ( type A et type B) in three keys and after, I am going to learn “TUNE UP” to practice them.


(Hayden Hill) #8

My pleasure Marc.

I’d recommend that you also check out the other jazz standard lesson in the course on “Just Friends”:

This lesson is great for understanding the 25 and 251 progression in context of a jazz standard. You can work on multiple jazz standards at the same time and I recommend dedicating half of your practice time to jazz standard study and application.

I will be making more of these R-3-7 arrangements to accommodate for our beginner students.

Enjoy working on those 2 tunes! :sunglasses: