Jazz 251 Chord Progression

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Learn How To Play The Jazz 2-5-1 Chord Progression!

This guitar lesson is all about the 251 chord progression. If you have ever listened to jazz you have definitely heard a 251 progression, jazz music is full of 251’s. To start out we will learn how to make a 251 in any key. To help reinforce this concept we will go through two keys and build a 251 progression in each key. Finally, we will let you know how being able to identify a 251 progression can help you in your soloing.


All you have to do to make a 251 progression, in any given major key, is pick out the 2nd, 5th and 1st scale degree of a particular major scale. The next step is to play the chords that go with those notes. Here are a few examples.


The A major scale is spelled A B C# D E F# G#. Pick out the 2nd, 5th and 1st notes in the A major scale. Those notes are B, E, and A. These are the notes on which we will build our 251 progression. If you are in a major key, the 2 chord will always be minor and the 1 and 5 chords will always be major. If you wanted to play these chords with the 7th extensions you would end up with a B minor 7 for the 2 chord, an E dominant 7 for the 5 chord, and an A major 7 for the 1 cord.


Try building a 251 in the key of G major. The G major scale is spelled G A B C D E F#. The 2nd, 5th, and 1st scale degrees of the G major scale are A, D, and G. With this in mind, the 251 progression in the key of G major would A minor, D major, and G major. Add the 7th extensions and you would have A minor 7, D dominant 7, and G major 7.


Take the chords that you learned in the lesson “Jazz, Common 7th Guitar Chord Voicings” and play these 251 progressions with those shapes. A great exercise would be to write out one major key per day and pick out the 251 in that key. Being familiar with 251 progressions in as many keys as possible will make reading jazz chord charts much easier for you.


Identifying 251 progressions quickly can really help you to determine what key your are in so that you can choose what scale to play over a certain part of a song. When you see a minor 7, dominant 7, and a major 7 chord all in a right in a row, odds are that you are looking at a 251. You can look at the 1 chord to determine what key you are in and use that knowledge to decide what scale to play over that part of the song. For example if you saw an A minor 7, D dominant 7, and a G major 7, you would have a 251 in the key of G. Identifying this as a 251 in the key of G would let us know that it would be fine to play a G major scale over these chords.

This Lesson Has 6 Comments

  • tony matos says:

    how much are jazz lessons

  • Mariah says:

    my 2-5-1 sounds muted and terrible and it makes my fingers uncomfortable playing the all the chords except the Gm7 and the Am7 which sound perfect. please help!

  • furla says:

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  • beats by dre pro detox says:

    Merci pour le guide, j’aime votre message

  • Mike M. says:

    I’m new to this jazz but I play Rock and roll and blues I’m self taught.
    So in a 2-5-1 progression doylu play the 2 chord first then the 5 then the 1 ?
    So in the key of G. Would it be Am(1st) then (D) then (G)?

    • Nate Savage says:

      Hey Mike, It doesn’t have to be like that but it is a pretty good generalization. You are correct though, in the key of G major a 2-5-1 is A minor, D major, G major. 2-5-1 progressions may be just a smaller part of a larger progression. Jazz tunes can modulate a lot so 2-5-1 progressions are usually used as pretty good indicators of what key you are in when playing a jazz tune.


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