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Common 2-5-1 Chord Progressions Every Gospel Pianist Must Not Be Without

You arrived at this page because you want to learn common 2-5-1 chord progressions.

Congratulations! You are on the right page and this lesson is dedicated to show you some important 2-5-1 chord progressions that every serious gospel pianist should have at his/her fingertips.

The 2-5-1 chord progression is one of the strongest chord progressions in music and it’s commonly found in gospel and jazz styles. So whether you play gospel, jazz, or both, this lesson is for you.

But before we get into learning all that, let’s discuss a bit on the 2-5-1 chord progression.

A Quick Review On The 2-5-1 Chord Progression

There are eight scale tones (aka – “scale degrees”) in every key – whether major or minor. The key of C major:

…consists of the following eight notes – C, D, E, F, G, A, B, and C.

The movement of chords from one degree of the scale to another produces a chord progression. For example in the key of C major:

…the movement from Chord 1 (which is the C major triad):

…to chord 4 (which is the F major triad):

…produces a “1-4 chord progression.”

The 2-5-1 Chord Progression – Explained

The 2-5-1 chord progression is basically a chord movement from chord 2 to chord 5, then to chord 1 in any given key.

In the key of C major:

…the movement from chord 2 (the D minor triad):

…to chord 5 (the G major triad):

…then to chord 1 (the C major triad):

…produces the 2-5-1 chord progression.

Attention: The numbers – 2, 5, and 1 – are derived from the chords used in the chord progression.

“In A Nutshell…”

Playing the following chords:

…in any key, produces the 2-5-1 chord progression.

Now that we’ve gotten a basic understanding of what the 2-5-1 chord progression is, let’s go ahead and learn common 2-5-1 chord progressions for all gospel pianists.

Common 2-5-1 Chord Progressions Every Gospel Pianist Must Not Be Without

In this segment, we’ll be learning some 2-5-1 chord progressions that dominant the world of gospel music. I bet you 17 nickels that if you learn them, you’ll have no problem while learning gospel songs.

We’ll be learning these 2-5-1 chord progressions in the key of Eb major:

Eb is the first tone

F is the second tone

G is the third tone

Ab is the fourth tone

Bb is the fifth tone

C is the sixth tone

D is the seventh tone

Eb is the eighth tone

The 2-5-1 Chord Progression

The 2-5-1 chord progression in the key of Eb major:

…entails a root movement from F:

…to Bb:

…then to Eb:

Chord 2:

…is the F minor ninth chord.

Chord 5:

…is the Bb dominant thirteenth [flat ninth] chord.

Chord 1:

…is the Eb major ninth chord.

This 2-5-1 chord progression can be used to approach chord 1 in the key of Eb major.

The 3-6-2 Chord Progression

The 3-6-2 chord progression can be classified as a minor 2-5-1 chord progression and that’s because the final chord in the chord progression is a minor chord.

In the key of Eb:

…a 3-6-2 chord progression entails a root movement from G:

…to C:

…then to F:

“Check Out The Chords…”

Chord 3:

…the G half-diminished seventh chord.

Chord 6:

…the C dominant seventh [sharp nine, sharp five] chord.

Chord 2:

…the F minor ninth chord.

You can use this chord progression to approach chord 2 in the key of Eb major.

The 5-1-4 Chord Progression

The 5-1-4 chord progression in the key of Eb major:

…entails a root movement from Bb:

…to Eb:

…then to Ab:

Chord 5:

…is the Bb minor ninth chord.

Chord 1:

…is the Eb dominant thirteenth [add ninth] chord.

Chord 4:

…is the Ab major ninth chord.

Feel free to apply this 2-5-1 chord progression while approaching chord 4 in the key of Eb major.

The 7-3-6 Chord Progression

The 7-3-6 chord progression [just like the 3-6-2 chord progression] can be classified as a minor 2-5-1 chord progression and that’s because the final chord in the chord progression is a minor chord.

A 7-3-6 chord progression in the key of Eb:

…entails a root movement from D:

…to G:

…then to C:

“Check Out The Chords…”

Chord 7:

…the D half-diminished seventh chord.

Chord 3:

…the G dominant seventh [sharp nine, sharp five] chord.

Chord 6:

…the C minor ninth chord.

This minor 2-5-1 chord progression can be used to approach chord 6 in the key of Eb major.

Final Words

Getting to this point let’s me know you’re serious about learning 2-5-1 chord progressions.

We’ll call it a day for now, so you can invest sometime into learning how to play these common 2-5-1 chord progressions in all 12 keys.

See you in the next lesson!

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Hello, I'm Chuku Onyemachi (aka - "Dr. Pokey") - a musicologist, pianist, author, clinician and Nigerian. I started teaching musicians in my neighbourhood in April 2005. Today, I'm humbled to work as a music consultant with HearandPlay Music Group for musicians in Africa and beyond.

Sours: https://gospel.hearandplay.com/main/common-2-5-1-chord-progressions-every-gospel-pianist-must-not-be-without/
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Play Contemporary Gospel and R&B Piano in 3 Steps

Level 2
Level 3


Learning Focus
  • Accompanying
  • Chords
  • Improvisation
  • Reharmonization
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Do you want to learn how to play Contemporary Gospel and R&B Piano? In today’s piano lesson, you are going to learn how to play the Contemporary Gospel and R&B piano styles in 3 easy steps.  Starting with a very basic chord progression, we’ll walk through the process of making these chords more interesting with chord colors, how to add additional chords, and common Contemporary Gospel and R&B rhythms and voicings. Specifically, you’ll learn:

  • The 1-6-4-5 Chord Progression
  • How to transform your chords into 7ths
  • How to add passing chords with the 2-5 Trick
  • How to use Extensions & Alterations to color your chords
  • 2 Common Chord Voicing Approaches

Whether you have just a little experience playing the piano or you’ve been playing piano for some time, you’ll learn essential tools for playing Contemporary Gospel and R&B piano. Let’s dive in.

Step 1: The Most Common Contemporary Gospel and R&B Chord Progression, the 1-6-4-5 Progression

The first step in playing Contemporary Gospel and R&B on the piano is to pick a simple chord progression. One of students’ biggest misconceptions about the Contemporary Gospel & R&B genre is that it has a lot of big, sophisticated chords. But if you boil Contemporary Gospel and R&B piano down to its basic elements, most of these progressions have only 4 chords. The big, crunchy chords that you’re hearing are actually just the icing on the cake, and we’ll discuss this later in this piano lesson. But for starters, let’s make sure we have a solid foundation to start from before we start adding the fancy stuff.

What progression should you start off with if you want to play Contemporary Gospel and R&B piano?

I recommend the 1-6-4-5 chord progression.

What is the 1-6-4-5 chord progression?

The 1-6-4-5 chord progression is a chord progression that uses the chords F, D minor, B flat major, and C major if you are playing in the key of F. Here is what the chord progression looks like in sheet music form:

1-6-4-5 chord progression in the key of F on piano with root position chords

Now, if you don’t know your major and minor chords in the key of F, I highly recommend that you checkout the Key of F Major course, where you learn all of your diatonic chords in the key of F.

Before moving on, you can try other chord progressions in the key of F as well. Here are 2 common Gospel and R&B piano chord sheets on the piano:

2 common contemporary gospel and r&b chord progression on piano

You can learn 8 essential gospel progressions in our Gospel Groove Series here.

The next step is to make your chords more interesting by making them 7th chords.

Transform Your Chords Into 7th Chords

The next step to playing Gospel and R&B piano is to make your chords 7th chords. By adding a 7th to each of the 4 chords you already learned, you will instantly make the chord progression sound more jazzy, or in this case, “gospilly”.

How do you add 7ths to your chords?

The easiest way to find the 7th of each chord is to skip one note above the top note each chord and play the next note using the notes of the F Major Scale. So on the F Major chord, if you start on the top note C and skip the D, you have E (which is the 7th). On the C chord, if you skip the next note up from the top note G, then you will end up on a Bb chord. The trick with this method is to always use the F major scale to move up as you find your notes. Now, if you apply this system to the 4 chords you already learned, you end up with these four 7th chords:

1-6-4-5 chord progression in the key of F on piano using 7th chords

By the way, we call these chords diatonic 7th chords, and if you want to play Contemporary Gospel & R&B, then it is essential that you learn them in all 12 keys (you can learn them in our Diatonic 7th Exercises Chords course here). (20 minutes).

Now, before moving on, I recommend that you practice the above chord progression with the included backing track, which can be downloaded at the bottom of this page after logging into your membership. You can also practice this in any of the 12 keys with the click of one button of our Smart Lesson Sheet music.

Now that you can play these 7th chords, let’s add some more chords to the progression.

Step 2: Contemporary Gospel and R&B Passing Chords

The next step to play Contemporary Gospel and R&B piano is to add passing chords. Passing chords are a defining characteristic of Contemporary Gospel and R&B piano. Now, when you first hear pianists adding these chords, it can seem very mysterious. How do they know which chords to add and which ones sound good?! Today, I’m going to show you one of the most commonly used passing chord techniques called the 2-5 Trick.

What is the 2-5 trick?

The 2-5 trick is a technique where you add chords to a chord progression by using the 2 chord and the 5 chord of your target chord. So if we look at our chord progression from above, you’ll notice that we start on an F Major 7 chord and then the next chord is D minor 7. Because D minor 7 is our target chord, we can add the 2 and the 5 of the D minor 7 chord just before that chord. What is the 2 and 5 chords in the key of D minor? They are E minor 7 flat 5 and A7 respectively:

2-5-1 chord progression in the key of d minor on piano in the contemporary gospel ad r&b style

(If you don’t know your 2 and 5 chords for each key, you can learn in our 2-5-1 7th Chord Exercises and Minor 2-5-1 Exercises courses).

Now, if we continue using this logic, we can add the 2-5- trick before every chord. Using this system, we end up with the following chord progression:

2-5 Trick to add passing chords for contemporary gospel and R&B chord progression

Now it’s really starting to sound good! We have lot’s of exciting passing chords. Remember that we started with 4 chords? Now we have 12 chords! And we did that using 1 single passing chord technique. You can learn many more passing chord techniques in our Passing Chord & Reharmonization courses (Level 2, Level 3).

However, it still doesn’t quite have the right sound. In order to put the final polishing touches, we need to add a few more chord colors.

Step 3: Contemporary Gospel and R&B Extensions, Alterations, & Voicings

Arguably the most important step in learning to play R&B and Contemporary Gospel piano is to color your chords.  The way that we do this is with chord extensions and alterations.

What are chord extensions and alterations?

Chord extensions and alterations are notes that we can add to 7th chords. Chord extensions are the 9, 11, and 13, and chord alterations are the b9, #9, #11, and b13. By adding these notes to your chords, you’ll be able to achieve the rich, beautiful chords that the pros play.

Now, in this lesson, I’m not going to go into detail explaining what the chord extensions and alterations are (you can do a deep dive on them in our Chord Extensions course and our Chord Alterations course). However, if you already know your extensions and alterations, let’s talk about how to use them on your chords.

Major 7 Chords

The first and most common chord you’ll see in Contemporary Gospel and R&B music is your major 7 chord. How do you make it sound like Gospel and R&B? You add the 9th to the chord. So in the case of F Major 7, you add the G to the chord:

F major 9 chord in root position on piano

Minor 7 Chords

The second most common chord you’ll see in R&B and Contemporary Gospel is your minor 7 chord. The way to make this chord sound like Gospel chords is to also add the 9 to the chord. So in the case of Dm, you would add the E, or the 9:

D minor 9 chord in root position on piano

Dominant 7 Chord

The third most common chord you’ll find in Contemporary Gospel and R&B genre is your Dominant 7 chord. For this chord, your best approach is to add any of these combinations:

  • The 9 and 13
  • The b9 and #11
  • The b13 and #9

Here they are in notation format:

Common extension and alteration combinations on a dominant 7 chord including C13, C7#11b9, and C7b13#9

While there are other combinations that work well, the above 3 combinations have the strongest punch.

What are the above extension/alteration combinations called? They are called Upper Structures, and you can do a deep dive on them in our Coloring Dominant Chords With Extensions and our Coloring Dominant Chords with Upper Structures courses.

Now that you know what notes to add to your chords, it’s time to put the whole chord progression together.

2 Common Contemporary Gospel and R&B Chord Voicings

The final step in playing Contemporary Gospel and R&B piano is to add your above chord extensions and alterations to your progression in an interesting way. What do we mean by “interesting”? Well, we want to spread the notes of the chord out on the piano so that it really has punch. We call this technique “chord voicing”.

What is a chord voicing?

Chord voicing is how we spread the notes of the chord on the piano. Ideal chord voicings in the left hand usually contain the root and 7th, or the root and 3rd. In the right hand, ideal voicings use chord clusters or triads. With these guidelines, you should be able to play some pretty hip voicings on this chord progression.

So here we go. Let’s apply all we’ve learned to Voicing 1

Voicing 1

Voicing 1 contemporary gospel and R&B chord progression for piano

As you can see, now the chords are way more interesting! Notice in the right hand that we are playing a lot of inversions of chords and a lot of chord clusters. Let’s walk through a few examples.

Do you see the first chord on measure one, the F Major 9? This is called a Rootless Voicing and it’s a very hip way to play a Major 9 chord (you can learn more about rootless voicings here).

See left hand in measures 2 and 3, where you play the A and G on the A7(#9) and a D and F on the Dm9? These are called chord shells, and you can do a deep dive on Chord Shells here.

You’ll also notice some triads, like in the 4th measure, on the C13(b9) chord. In the right hand, this chord is actually just a simple A major.  Again, this is an upper structure, and you can do a deep dive on these chords here.

Now, before moving on, I recommend that you practice this chord progression with the included backing track, which can be downloaded at the bottom of this page after logging into your membership.

Let’s look at Voicing 2.

Voicing 2

Voicing 2 contemporary gospel and R&B chord progression for piano

Voicing 2 is very similar, except we play different inversions on some of chords and use more triads. Specifically, notice the Gb major triad on the A13(b9) in measure 1. And notice the D major triad on the F13(b9) in measure 2. Again, these are called Upper Structures and they are very important in Contemporary Gospel and R&B.

A great resource for this lesson is the downloadable lesson sheet music, which you can find at the bottom of this page after logging into your membership.

Putting It All Together

Now that you’ve learned how to transform a 1-6-4-5 chord progression in the Contemporary Gospel and R&B style, you might be thinking, hey I want to really understand this theory better so that I can do this for other chord progressions.

If this is you, then I highly recommend that you go through our Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3 foundations learning tracks. In these learning tracks, you’ll master every essential building block of Contemporary Gospel and R&B piano harmony, including major chords, minor chords, 7th chords, chord extensions, alterations, and the most common voicing techniques like rootless voicings, block chords, Drop 3 voicings, and Quartal Voicings.

And if you’re looking for a little gospel inspiration, checkout my original funky gospel tune, Swag Time.

This concludes this week’s Quick Tip. Thanks for learning, and see you in the next piano lesson!

Your teacher,

Jonny May

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Gospel Chord Progressions \u0026 Voicings

Exposed: Top 4 Gospel Progressions

In this lesson, we’ll be covering top ten chord progressions every gospel pianist must know.

Just like jazz music, gospel music is one of the influential styles in American popular music. Featuring syncopated rhythm, captivating melodies, and most importantly, sophisticated progressions.

Consequently, the average gospel pianist has a lot of work to do, especially in the aspect of learning how to play a variety of chord progressions.

Although there are tons of chord progressions to learn (and sometimes this can be frustrating), there are certain chord progressions that people look out for when you label yourself as a “gospel pianist or keyboardist” and this is because they can be found in a variety of songs.

Our focus in this lesson is to present you with top ten chord progression everyone expects you to know as a gospel pianist and to show you how they can be applied in gospel music.

But before we delve into all that, let’s refresh our minds on chord progressions.

A Quick Review On The Concept Of Chord Progression

In any given major and minor key, there are seven unique tones and these tones can be seen in the scale (major or minor scale). For example, the seven unique tones in the key of C major can be seen in the C natural major scale:

C is the first tone

D is the second tone

E is the third tone

F is the fourth tone

G is the fifth tone

A is the sixth tone

B is the seventh tone

Every tone in the key has its unique chord (aka – “scale tone chord”). For example, the scale tone chord of the first tone (which is C):

…is the C major triad:

…or C major seventh chord:

…or C major ninth chord:

The scale tone chord of the fourth tone (which is F):

…is the F major triad:

…or F major seventh chord:

…or F major ninth chord:

“Pay Attention To This…”

The movement in harmony from one scale tone chord to another produces chord progressions. The chord movement from the C major seventh chord:

…to the F major seventh chord:

,,,produces a chord progression.

The Notation Of Chord Progressions

Chord progressions can be written or indicated using the Nashville number system — where a number is assigned to every tone of the scale.

In the key of C major:

…the chord of the first tone (which is C) in the key of C major is notated as chord 1 or 1. The chord of the fourth tone (which is F) in the key of C major is notated as chord 4 or 4.

So, a chord progression from chord 1 to chord 4 can be notated as a 1-4 chord progression.

A Short Note On Chromatic Chord Progressions

Chromatic progressions are also commonly used in gospel music.

A chromatic chord progression consists of chords that are foreign to the prevalent key. In the key of C major:

…the G altered chord:

…is chromatic because it consists of D# and A#:

…which are foreign to the key of C major.

In the top ten chord progressions, there are chromatic chord progressions and a variety of diatonic progressions that resonate with the key as well.

Let’s explore them!

Top Ten Chord Progressions Every Gospel Pianist Must Know

Although there are other important chord progressions (heck, the list is inexhaustible), we singled out these 10 progressions because they are right on top of the list.

#1 – The Classic 2-5-1 Chord Progression

The classic 2-5-1 chord progression is commonly found at the end of several gospel songs. If you sing 10 gospel songs, 9 of them (if not 10) end with the 2-5-1 chord progression.

“A Breakdown Of The 2-5-1 Chord Progression”

In the key of C major:

…the 2-5-1 chord progression moves from the chord of the second tone (aka – “chord 2”) to chord 5, then to chord 1.

Chord 2:

…is the D minor seventh chord.

Chord 5:

…is the G dominant seventh chord (played in second inversion).

Chord 1:

…is the C major seventh chord.

Attention: Although seventh chords are used in the example above, triads and extended chords can also be used.

“Altogether, Here’s The 2-5-1 Chord Progression…”

Chord 2:

Chord 5:

Chord 1:

#2 – The Popular 1-5-6-4 Chord Progression

If you turn on the radio and listen to 10 songs (or so), the chances that 3 (to 5) out of the 10 songs are based on the 1-5-6-4 chord progression are high.

“A Breakdown Of The 1-5-6-4 Chord Progression”

In the key of C major:

…the 1-5-6-4 chord progression moves from the chord of the first tone (aka – “chord 1”) to chord 5, then to chord 6, before ending on chord 4.

Chord 1:

…is the C major triad (played in second inversion).

Chord 5:

…is the G major triad.

Chord 6:

…is the A minor triad.

Chord 4:

…is the F major triad (played in first inversion).

Attention: Although triads are used in the example above, seventh and extended chords can also be used.

“Altogether, Here’s The 1-5-6-4 Chord Progression…”

Chord 1:

Chord 5:

Chord 6:

Chord 4:

#3 – The Classic 1-6-2-5 Chord Progression

The 1-6-2-5 chord progression is one of the top progressions every serious gospel pianist must learn; not just because it is common in songs, but because it can be played as a turnaround progression.

“A Breakdown Of The 1-6-2-5 Chord Progression”

In the key of C major:

…the 1-6-2-5 chord progression moves from the chord of the first tone (aka – “chord 1”) to chord 6, then to chord 2, before ending on chord 5.

Chord 1:

…is the C major ninth chord.

Chord 6:

…is the A minor ninth chord.

Chord 2:

…is the D minor ninth chord.

Chord 5:

…is the G dominant seventh [flat ninth].

Attention: Although extended chords are used in the example above, seventh chords can also be used.

“Altogether, Here’s  The 1-6-2-5 Chord Progression…”

Chord 1:

Chord 6:

Chord 2:

Chord 5:

#4 – The 3-4-#4-5-5 Chord Progression

The 3-4-#4-5-5 chord progression is one of the signature progressions in gospel and jazz music.

It is used as a fanciful turnaround progression especially in traditional gospel.

“A Breakdown Of The 3-4-#4-5-5 Chord Progression”

In the key of C major:

…the 3-4-#4-5-5 chord progression moves from the chord of the first tone (aka – “chord 1”) played over the 3 on the bass, to chord 4, then to chord #4, then chord 1 over the 5, before ending on chord 5.

Chord 1 over the 3:

…is the C major triad.

Chord 4:

…is the F major triad.

Chord #4:

…is the F# diminished seventh.

Chord 1 over the 5:

…is the C major triad.

Chord 5:

…is the G dominant seventh [#9, #5].

Attention: Although extended chords are used in the example above, seventh chords can also be used.

“Altogether, Here’s  The 3-4-#4-5-5 Chord Progression…”

Chord 3:

Chord 4:

Chord #4:

Chord 5:

Chord 5:

Final Words

These chord progressions are commonly found in a variety of gospel songs and we’ll be covering how they can be applied in gospel music.

See you in the next lesson!

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Onyemachi "Onye" Chuku (aka - "Dr. Pokey") is a Nigerian musicologist, pianist, and author. Inspired by his role model (Jermaine Griggs) who has become his mentor, what he started off as teaching musicians in his Aba-Nigeria neighborhood in April 2005 eventually morphed into an international career that has helped hundreds of thousands of musicians all around the world. Onye lives in Dubai and is currently the Head of Education at HearandPlay Music Group and the music consultant of the Gospel Music Training Center, all in California, USA.

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Tagged as: 1-5-6-4 chord progression, 1-6-2-5 chord progression, 2-5-1 chord progression, chord progressions, gospel progressions, gospel chord progressions, gospel chords

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Chords piano gospel

Free Piano Lessons | Gospel Piano Tutorial

If you are looking for free piano lessons especially gospel piano tutorials, then you have come to the right page. On this page you will be learning to play “God Will Make a Way” by Don Moen. 

I must assume that you already know how to play basic major and minor chords on your piano. If not, I would advise you to visit the piano chord lessons prepared free of cost for you on this website.

Why should you know piano chords for this lesson?

This lesson like any other chord piano tutorial is design to teach students how to use chords to accompany a specific song.

Click on any of the topics below and start learning how to play chords on your piano.

Piano Chords Lessons

1) Creating Piano Chords

2) Major Chords Theory –Forming and playing them on the piano

3) Playing Minor Chords on the Piano

4) Diminished Chords

5) Augmented Chords

6) Playing Slash Chords on the Piano

7) Chord Inversions

Now, it is time for you to get involved in our special piano tutorial.

Lyrics for “God Will Make a Way”

God will make a way
Where there seems to be no way
He works in ways we cannot see
He will make a way for me
He will be my guide
Hold me closely to His side
With love and strength
For each new day
He will make a way
He will make a way

By a roadway in the wilderness
He'll lead me
And rivers in the desert will I see
Heaven and earth will fade
But His Word will still remain
And He will do something new today

The diagram below shows the chord progressions that you will use for the song “God Will Make a Way”. Be sure to analyse the entire piece first before you start playing. You will also find a chord chart below that you can use to assist you.

The key for this tutorial is G Major, but the verse has a few accidentals. Don Moen originally starts this song in the key of F major and then modulates to the key of G.

More free piano lessons/tutorials on this website!


Give Thanks - Don Moen

Blessed be the Name of the Lord - Don Moen

Amazing Grace

You Raise Me Up

Piano Melody Tutorials

Kids Songs - Simple Kids Melodies

In Moment Like This

Morning Has Broken

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Sours: https://www.choose-piano-lessons.com/free-piano-lessons.html
Gospel Piano Harmony \u0026 Theory in C Major

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