Chord Voicings for the 2-5-1 Chord Progression

Today, we’re going to talk about a popular chord progression in the music community.

The 2-5-1 Chord Progression.

To keep it simple, we’re going to use the key of C Major which has no sharps or flats. All white keys.

In the C Major scale, the 2nd note is D, a minor chord, the 5th note is G a major chord and the 1st note is C a major chord.

For our example, we are going to use seventh chords.

The basic root position structure for the 2-5-1 chord progression, in the key of C Major, is as follows…


(2) Dm7 = D  F  A  C

(5) G7 = G  B  D  F

(1) Cmaj7 = C  E  G  B


To play this on a piano, the voicings would be like this…

D minor 7

D A / D F A C
1 5 / 1 3 5 7

G D / G B D F
1 5 / 1 3 5 7

C G / C E G B
1 5 / 1 3 5 7


Let’s look at 2 different ways we can play this progression using extended chords:

Example #1 

(2) Dm7 = D  A ­ C / F  A  D
1 5 7 / 3 5 1

(5) G7(9) = G  D  F / B  D  A
1 5 7 / 3 5 9

(1) Cmaj7 = C  G  B / E G B
1 5 7 / 3 5 7


In this example, you can structure your chords around the middle C, or C4, area of the piano.

Going any lower can sound really muddy, depending on the instrument, and playing any higher can sometimes lose its richness.

That G7(9) chord is full enough to give texture but it’s not so full that it takes away the resolution of the tonic or 1 chord.

Example #2

(2) Dm7 = D  A  C / F  A  D
1 5 7 / 3 5 1

(5) G7(9)/B = B  F  A / D  G  B
3 7 9 / 5 1 3

(1) Cmaj7 = C  G  B / E  G  C
1 5 7 / 3 5 1


The first chord of both examples is the same. The G7(9) is a little switched around for chord strength. I didn’t want to make it sound empty.

The only difference with the Cmaj7 is the root is on the top to help that walk-up feel definite from the 5 chord.

I want a strong presence of the tonic when I resolve a walk-up; I want it to feel sturdy. It helps the ear follow the resolution.

So, no matter what genre of music you’re playing, the structure beneath the creativity is essential. Building a solid foundation is key but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with it.

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