The 2-5-1 Progression (or to be ‘proper’ I should write II-V-I) is quite a popular progression of chords that you will find in abundance in jazz standards and all kind of tunes. You should have figured out by now that it is made up by the second, fifth, and first chord of the harmonized major scale. In C major it would be: Dm7 G7 Cmaj7.
A good way to underline the progression in a solo is to understand what are the important notes and how they move from a chord to the next one. So let’s see two important concepts:
1. Harmonic Rhythm
The harmonic rhythm is nothing but ‘when’ certain notes happen in the rhythmic flow. Let’s say as a generic rule that important notes (root, 3rd, 5th, 7th) will make your melody sound stronger if they fall on the strong beats of the bar (the 1st and 3rd beat in a 4/4 bar).
2. Voice Leading
Voice leading is nothing but ‘how’ notes move from a chord to the other. There are ‘more advisable’ ways to move these notes, and in the traditional theory rules can be quite strict. A good rule to keep in mind in the 2-5-1 progression is the 7th in the IIm7 chord resolving to the 3rd of the V chord. Also the 3rd of the IIm7 chord stays and turns into the 7th of the V chord. Furthermore the 7th of the V chord resolves down to the major 3rd of the I chord. The 3rd of the V chord stays the same turning into the maj7th of the I chord. In C major this would look something like this:
Dm7 G7 Cmaj7
C ——–>B -stays- B
F -stays- F———>E
D G C
Listen to some examples in the next video. You can download a chart of all 2-5-1 in all keys >here< print it, learn how to play all the chords, record a track for yourself to solo over, and good luck!!