2 5 1 Mastery – Super Jazz Theory Shortcuts

2 5 1Today you’re going to dive into some awesome 2 5 1 jazz theory shortcuts!

Does learning useful shortcuts to the most common chord progression in jazz interest you?

If so, you’re in the right place.

2 5 1 is the most common chord progression in jazz. We’re going to dive deep into the pattern behind this powerful chord progression in today’s video.

You can play a 2 5 1 in a major key or a minor key. In the 2 videos below we’ll feature a major key and a minor key. The principles are similar though in both major and minor, but each has a slight twist as you’ll see in the video below.

Let’s get your learning started!

2 5 1 Major Jazz Theory Shortcuts: Video

Watch this 5 minute tutorial to figure out the patterns behind the 2 5 1 in a major key.

2 5 1 Minor Jazz Theory Shortcuts: Video

Important! After you’ve completed watching this video please continue reading. Below are some great tips to help you master the 2 5 1 chord progression.

Need To Knows About The 2 5 1

2 5 11. Since the 2 5 1 chord progression is so common it’s a great idea to get real fast at playing it in any key.

This will help you learn and master new songs much faster.

This is because the majority of jazz tunes feature a 2 5 1 at one point or another.

(If you want to learn the insider strategy for doing this we have a course that shows you how. You can check out the jazz chord progression fundamentals mastery program here)

2. To figure out how to build your 2 5 1 chords you simply count up the scale


3. If you’re in a major key you’ll use a major scale as a reference point.

4. If you’re in a minor key you’ll use the harmonic minor scales your reference scale. 

5. You’ll build your I chord off the 1st note of the scale.

6. You’ll build your II chord off the 2nd note of the scale.

7. You’ll build your V chord off the 5th note of the scale.

In a major key, the ii chord is a minor 7th chord. The V chord is a dominant seventh chord, and the I chord is a major 7th chord.

When you get in a minor key, these chord qualities change. In minor, the i chord is going to be a minor chord.

The ii chord is going to be a minor 7(b5) chord.

And the V chord will be a dominant 7th chord.

Minor ii V i’s are actually really easy to play but sometimes building the different chord qualities can be a bit confusing for students.

So, let’s breakdown how to figure out the exact notes in each chord.

Shortcuts To Use For Building A Minor 2 5 1

2 5 1Think of the 2 chord in a minor 2 5 1 as a (minor 7 flat 5 chord).

If you know a bit about classical music you’ve probably heard this being called a half diminished 7th chord. It is the same thing.

You build this chord with your root, flat 3rd, flat 5th, and minor 7th of the scale.

This chord is found in the locrian scale.

If you want more tips for building minor 7 flat 5 chords you absolutely have to check out this minor 7 flat 5 piano chords tutorial.

Now, how do you figure out the V chord in a minor ii V I?

The first thing you need to know is that the V chord is dominant.

Constructing dominant 7 chords is fairly straightforward.

Build a dominant 7 chord using the root, 3rd, 5th, and minor 7th of the scale.

2-5-1(By the way, are you new to jazz? Want to want a fun step by step method to learn the most important jazz chords the most important ones easily?

We have a 4 hour program that teaches you how to play all the most important chords and go from zero to playing songs you love in 30-60 days . It’s a fun program that students are loving.

You can check out the huge benefits of this beginner jazz program right here)

How To Make Your 1 Chord Stand Out

2 5 1Now, when you resolve to your 1 chord you know it’s going to be some form of a minor chord.

And one of the cool things about minor is that you can decorate a minor chord in different ways.

You can add a 6th on a minor chord, a minor 7th, a major 7th, a 9th, and even an 11th.

Try adding in your 6th and seeing how that sounds.

Or, add in your minor 7th or major 7th to the chord.

All these variation options are excellent tools for you to explore and start using in your own arrangements.

Your 1 chords will sound far more interesting if you mix in some added extensions.

Now, what variation should you use over another and why?

This is a great question and the answer will be dictated by your ears and taste. I always try to show my students all the specific extensions they can use on each chord. 

From there, they can choose the ‘final touches’ on a chord based off their own creativity and personality.

What Flavor Ice Cream Do You Like?

2 5 1Which one speaks more to you? Which one do you like the sound of the most?  Do you like vanilla, chocolate, or strawberry?

This decision making process and  getting clearer on your taste is part of your development as an artist.

This is also one of the many things that truly makes jazz great. You can inject tons of your own taste and personality into your arrangements.

So, I hope you’ve enjoyed learning this 2 5 1 jazz theory lesson as much as I’ve enjoyed teaching you.

But your learning doesn’t stop here.

Let’s see where to take your piano skills next…

Here’s Where To Take Your Piano Playing Next

2 5 1Here at free jazz lessons we strive to help you become an incredible piano player.
Today’s 2 5 1 lesson is just a fraction of all that this site has to offer you.

For instance, take the 2 5 1 one step further in this tutorial.

The ii V I vi chord progression is also cornerstone in jazz and definitely another progression that you should know about.

Or I know you’ll love learning these 4 Bill Evans Jazz Chords. This particular lesson also features a ii V I IV chord progression.

For Motivated & Success Driven Jazz Students

2 5 1 And if you want to learn how to inject all the best chord progressions in jazz into real music then check out or most in depth program for serious jazz students —>  Premium Membership Program.

You’ll discover a massive variety of popular chord progressions, jazz improvisation secrets, dozens of professional jazz arrangements, sheet music, jam tracks, and much more.

For now, please enjoy your practice.

If you have any questions or comments about today’s 2 5 1 theory shortcuts or the video tutorial above, please leave your comments in the comments section below.

Thank you!

Steve Nixon