Jazz Piano – the 7-3-6 (or minor 2-5-1) Chord Progression

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Another important chord progression in jazz is the 7-3-6 progression, featuring the diatonic chords of the seventh, third and sixth degree of the major scale. You can also look at it as a minor 2-5-1 progression in the related minor key.

In the key of F the 7-3-6 consists of Em7b5, Am7 and Dm7.

jazz piano diatonic 7th chords in F

The diatonic seventh chords in the key of F major

The same chords would form the minor 2-5-1 progression in the related key of D minor.

jazz piano - diatonic 7th chords in Dm

The diatonic seventh chords in the key of D minor

So no matter if you look at the chords as a 7-3-6 or a minor 2-5-1, there are usually certain chord voicings associated with this chord progression as it appears in jazz tunes. Here is an example with voicings that you can use. If you add the respective roots in the left hand, you will get this chord progression:

Jazz Piano 7-3-6 in F

    • The viim7b5 chord is played as such, but with a rootless voicing, with only the seventh, minor third and flatted fifth. For Em7b5 these notes are D, G and Bb.
    • The iii minor chord is replaced by a dominant seventh chord with a sharp ninth. The rootless voicing for this A7#9 chord is C# (the third), G (the seventh – this note is also part of the previous chord), and C (the sharp ninth). You could also add an F (the sharp fifth or flatted thirteenth).
    • The Dm7 chord is played as a rootless minor ninth chord with a 7-9-3-5 voicing, i.e. the (flatted) seventh C, the ninth E, the third F, and the fifth A.

Get familiar with its distinct sound, the chord voicings and the related hand movements. Whenever you see a 7-3-6 (or minor 2-5-1) you can use these voicings in the respective key to play it.