Jazz piano – 2-5-1 Lick 1

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Because the 2-5-1 is used so much in jazz music, your improvisation can be a lot easier, if you know a few licks that you can play over this segment, ideally in any key. This will make it possible to play something familiar while improvising, whenever you hit a 2-5-1, or using a lick as a starting point and modifying it on the fly.

Here is a lick in the key of F to get you started or enhance your repertoire of 2-5-1 licks.

251 jazz piano lick in F

Even though the lick consists only of the notes of the F major scale, it sounds quite good if you add bass and drums:

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The 2-5-1 progression with rootless chords

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There are many possible variations of the basic 2-5-1 chord progression using seventh chords. A common one is to play rootless ninth chords for the ii minor seventh and I major seventh chord, and a thirteenth chord for the V dominant seventh chord.

251 piano chords in f_9-13

This is how you create these chords from the seventh chords of the basic 2-5-1 in the key of F:

  • For G minor 9 you just add the ninth A on top of the G minor 7 chord, while removing the root G from the bottom. Remember that the ninth is the same as the second, so it is just on whole step up from the root.
  • Then you only have to move the F down one half step to arrive at C13. The thirteenth is the same note as the sixth, so for the C chord it is the A on top.
  • For F major 9, just as with G minor nine, you add the ninth G on top of the F major 7 chord and remove the root F from the bottom.

While this may sound complicated, it is a rather simple movement on the keyboard:

Gm9 rootless piano chord

G minor 9 (rootless)

c13 rootless piano chord

C 13 (rootless)

fmaj9 rootless piano chord

F major 9 (rootless)

This progression is very popular [...]  read more

Jazz Piano – the 2-5-1 Chord Progression

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The 2-5-1 (or ii – V – I) chord progression is the most used building block in jazz music. It’s basic version consists of the ii minor seventh chord, followed by a V dominant seventh chord and the I major seventh chord. These seventh chords are taken from the diatonic chords for the respective key. So if you are in the key of F major, for example, the diatonic chords are the following:

jazz piano diatonic 7th chords in F

The diatonic seventh chords in the key of F major

If you create the 2-5-1 progression from these seventh chords, it looks like this, with the sevenths marked in blue:

251 piano chords in f

G minor 7 piano chord

G minor 7

C7 piano chord chart

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Rock Piano Soloing

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Soloing over a rock tune is not that different from playing a blues or funk solo. The most common scales used in these styles are the pentatonic and blues scales. While the blues scale gives you a more bluesy sound as its name says, you can also use the minor pentatonic scale to keep the sound more versatile.

In the following two examples, notes from the E minor pentatonic scale are played over a chord simple progression in the same key. Even though the minor pentatonic consists of only five notes, it can be used very creatively on the piano or keyboard. It consists of E, G, A, B, and D.

E minor pentatonic scale

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Rock Piano – Fast Sixteenth Notes

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Knowing some basic chord shapes can unlock many possibilities. One is to play chord tones as fast sixteenth notes. The effect is great, while the playing is rather simple.

In the following example, just move the same chord shape up and the keyboard starting on A minor, which will give you G major, F major, and G major again. The rhythmic pattern repeats until it ends on A minor. This last chord is played as a quick arpeggio, meaning you won’t hit the notes not at the same time, but one after another from the bottom to the top.

In the [...]  read more

Rock Piano with Slash Chords

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A very powerful yet simple element to use when playing rock piano is slash chords. This means that you play a chord over a different bass note than its root. So while you would normally play a C chord over its root C in the bass, you can also play the same chord over different notes, such as D, E or F.

This way you will get a different sound for each of the resulting slash chords, which then are written as C/D, C/E or C/F (you read it as C over D, and so on). While technically rather easy to play – you just [...]  read more

Rock Piano Chords

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As you learned in the previous post, rock music relies heavily on chords. At the same time it is strongly influenced by the blues, especially in its early times during the 50s and 60s.

The following example moves from the I to the IV to the V chord in the key of Bb. These are the same three chords which make up a blues. All of them are major chords, with Bb major played in root position and Eb and F played as inversions. The left hand simply plays the roots Bb, Eb and F plus a C to approach the next bar.

rock piano chords1

Add in a drum track and you have a rock sound already!

Bb major

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Rock Piano

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Today rock music is a vast field which features many different styles and groups. But early rock music started out as a variation of blues and country music with elements of folk music, jazz and other styles. One of the most characteristic elements is, of course, the electric guitar, as well as the drums. Add a bass guitar and you have a classic rock setup. Keys play a prominent part in rock as well – be it the piano, a Hammond Organ or synthesizers.

There are two approaches to playing rock music on the piano or keyboard. The first one is [...]  read more

Funk Improvisation

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A good way to get started with funk improvisation on the piano or keyboard is by learning to use pentatonic scales in a creative way. Repetition can also be a strong element in funk, especially if it is rhythmic and fits into the groove. While pentatonic scales consist of just five notes (hence the name pentatonic, with penta- meaning five in greek), they go a very long way if you want to improvise.

Here is a demonstration of how you can gradually build a solo phrase starting with simple elements. The example is played over a  [...]  read more

Minor Seventh Chords

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The next member in the family of seventh chords are minor chords which also include the flatted seventh of the respective key, thus consisting of the root, minor third, fifth (the minor triad) and flatted seventh. Just as for the dominant seventh chord, you can find the flatted seventh by moving down two half steps from the root. In the key of C the flatted seventh is B♭ (two half steps down from C), in the key of F it is E♭ and in the key of G it is F and so on.

Minor Seventh Chords (with the seventh marked in blue)
C minor 7
F minor 7
G minor 7

Minor Seventh chords can be found a lot in jazz, where their [...]  read more