Neo soul chords

Neo soul chords DEFAULT

Neo Soul Chord Progressions For Beginners

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Original Title:

Neo Soul Chord Progressions for beginners


neo soul chords for beginners


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Download as DOCX, PDF, TXT or read online from Scribd

Ab Maj 7th / Gmin 7th or 9th / GbMaj 7th / Fmin9th

Cmin7th / Dbmin7th / Bbmin9th (tension can be eased) if you follow

with AbMaj / G7.

Gmaj7th / Gmin9th / EbMaj9th / Db Maj9th (GMaj7th is in the key of D

Major, after that use melodies from keys Eb or Db, its up to you)

Fmin9th, Gmin7th, Amin9th.

Bbmin9th, Gmin7th or 9th, Fmin9th

Bbmaj9th, Amin7th, Gmaj 7th

Db Maj 9th, G7+9, Cmaj 7th

Fmin7th, Cmin7th, D dim 7th

Gmin9th, Fmaj7th, Emin9th, Ebmaj7th, Dmin7th


R&B Piano Chords Tutorial- How To Decorate Your Chord Progressions

Do you want some want to learn some new ways to make your R&B piano chords and chord progressions more stylish? Well, you’ve come to the right place!

In this R&B piano tutorial we’re going to learn some ways to chromatically decorate plain old R&B chord progressions and make them much more interesting.

You’ll hear some of these chromatic chord movements in the music of Jill Scott, Michael Jackson, Musiq SoulChild, Erykah Badu, D’Angelo, and many other great R&B and neo soul chord artists.

Let’s get started learning now!

R&B Piano Chords Tutorial

Why not take 3 minutes and watch the video below. It will introduce you to some new chord voicings and ways to decorate your chord progressions. (Notation and extra tips for this lesson below.)

Notated Chord Charts

The chords I play in the video above are from a i iv v chord progression in the key of E minor. First, I’ll show you the chord progression written out without any chromatic passing chords.

R&B piano chords

Now, check out the chord chart with the chromatic passing chords written in.

(Make sure you also check out all the extra tips and practice strategies on the bottom of the page.)

R&B Piano Chords

7 Concepts To Help You Master This Lesson

1. R&B Piano Chords Are Often Times Just Jazz Chords

The chords in this lessons are all minor chords. Most of the time I’m playing the root of the chord in my left hand and the 3rd, 5th, 7th and 9th of the chord in my right hand. These chord voicings can be used in both R and B, neo soul, jazz, and hip hop too. They’re very versatile.

If you want to learn more about these chords you can check out this lesson on minor jazz piano chords.

2. It’s All About The Half Step

The secret to getting that jazzy chromatic sound in your R&B piano chords is to play the same chord voicing either a half step up or a half step below your resolution chord. So, if you resolution chord is an Amin7 you would play either a Abmin7 (half step below) or a Bbm7 (half step above) right before the Amin7.

3. Syncopation Makes It Groove

Groove is everything in RnB music.So, in order to be most effective with this chromatic chord technique make sure you listen to the rhythms i used in the video.

In the video I play the main chords Em7, Bm7, and Am7 mostly on the downbeats (beat 1 of the measure especially).

I play Bbm7 on the upbeats (either on the ‘and’ of the measure or the ‘e’ of the measure (second sixteenth note of the the measure)

4. Space: The Final Frontier

The notes you don’t play are just as important as the notes you do play. Notice how I don’t fill up every beat of the measure with a rhythmic attack.

On a rhythmic level funk works because of the back and forth of syncopated rhythmic attacks with sustained notes. (Sorry for the Star Trek reference by the way. I couldn’t resist!):)

5. Blues Scale And Fills

As you can hear in the video I use little melodic fills here and there. These little soulful fills are mostly made of the blues scale.

The blues scale is an easy scale to play. It’s just a 5 note scale. First, start with a major scale and build your scale using the formula below:

  • Blues Scale Construction: 1, b3, 4, b5, 5, b7, 1

So, in the key of E the major scale notes are E, F#, G#, A, B, C#, D# E. You would flat the 3rd note (G# turns into G), the 5th note (B turns into Bb), and the 7th note (D# turns into D).

If you want to learn another song that features the blues scale heavily I recommend you also check out this Chariot piano tutorial.

6 Tips To Help You Practice This Piano Lesson

1. Learn these piano chords in all 12 keys. Not fluent in all 12 keys yet? Check out this piano major scales lesson.

2. Practice grabbing a chord and then play the same chord a half step higher.

3. Practice grabbing a chord and then play the same chord a half step lower.

4. Once you are comfortable with moving quickly between the chords chromatically add a metronome to your practice and start playing them in time. You can start rhythmically simple. Don’t worry about syncopating. Just get it in time.

5. Add the rhythmic device (syncopation) on to each passing chord. If you’re unsure how to do it take a listen to how I do it in the video above.

6. If you want to learn how to decorate your piano chords in more of a rock or pop style you can check out this pop piano chords lesson.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this piano lesson. Have fun practicing these r&b piano chords and the chromatic movements as well. Be creative with them and have lots of fun!



Do you like the sound of this chord? Where can you use it in your music? Please leave a comment below and share with the community!

If you’re new to be sure to also subscribe to the email list to receive great free piano lessons right in your inbox. 

You can subscribe on the top right of this site.

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Improvise cool R&B chords for piano

So you would like to be able to improvise those deep soulful chords with a lot of emotion and tension?

R&B / Soul or even blues chord progressions tend to have a lot more tension than other genres of music. Deeper neo soul with artists such as Jill Scott, Erkah Badu, D'Angelo, Bilal etc.. tend to have chords with so much tension that they are technically outside the scale simliar to Jazz, but the the phrase will usualy finish with a "coming home" note, usually in the Major key.

I am not too big on music theory myself so I won't be going into too much depth with explanations. I would rather just like to show you some effective R&B chord progressions which can even be applied the for guitar that can be used to build tracks. I tend to discover most R&B Chords by trial and error, although recently I have developed a technique to quickly find nice chord transitions.

See below for some nice R&B Chord progressions I have picked up over time.

A Four Chord Neo Soul Verse (Key of E flat Major)

Using power chords try the following R&B Chords, easy to improvise on the piano.

Fm9 / Bb7 / Ebmin9 / Ab7 - This can be looped to create a R&B / soulful tension souding verse.

Switching from Fm9 to Bb7 (Dom) is simple. The C (index) and Eb (thumb) are simply shifted to - Bb (index) and D (thumb)., bass note stays on F (see the pictures below).

Same switching from Ebmin9 to Ab7 (Dom). Bb and Db are shifted to Ab and C - simple.

Bb7 can be deepened by adding a 6th (G)

Ab7 can also be deepeend by adding a 6th (F)

Try playing these on an electric piano for that smooth sound. You can also try it out on the guitar too. The same applies of course.


Bb 7

Deep Neo Soul Verse

This one is another four chord pattern and has gentle tension on all chords giving it a deep sound.

Am9 / Bm7 Cmaj9th / BbMaj7.

You'll find that playing this to a slow tempo has a Dwele feel to it. Try it out preferably on an electronic Rhodes sounding keyboard.

Four chords with jazzy key changes

Start with Ab Major 7th(right hand improvise on the Eb key, Eb, F, G, Ab, Bb, C, D)

G Minor 7th(right hand improvise on the Bb key, Bb, C, D, Eb, F, G, A)

Gb Major 7th(right hand improvise on the Db key, Db, Eb, F, Gb, Ab, Bb, B)

F Min 7th (right hand -> back to key of Eb)

Switching keys like this is one of the main ingredients for a Neo Soul sound, this is what gives that depth and tension.

Using slash chords

Another very god technique to get a good soulful sound is to play an inversion with the bass key. For example play the chord Gmin 7th, which is G, Bb, D and F. Now this time play the sane chord but with C as the bass note e.g. C, G, Bb, D and F, listen to how that sounds.

It is the same chord it's just that you have pulled out the 11th key and put in at the front. If the play the same C in it's original position it doesn't quite give that same tension.

Check the video below.

Download free R&B - Neo Soul Chords

Voicing and Improvising for R&B or Neo Soul

Voicing can be described like "giving character" to a chord, it is also a good way to improvise on the piano. A chord will normally be played by pressing all keys simultaneously however hitting the keys at different times can create a melody within that same chord. With good voicing you can really impress friends and family by them thinking you are really playing the piano with both hands when in fact you are simply spicing up a power chord.

Everybody has different methods but I like the Bass, melody x 2, Bass, Melody x 2, Bass Melody x 4.

To achieve this,simply positiion your hands for a power chord and randomly hit left, right x 2, left right x 2, left, right x 4. There are countless combinations.

Another good voicing method is to play a full 9th with your left hand. I think the easiest way to do this is invert of the 9th key as the 9th may be too far for your pinky to reach so bring it down an octave. The 9th key should now be next to the base key, with this setup you should be able to play a 9th easily with all five fingers. For the right hand try randomly hitting keys within that scale and see what you find. For a more jazzy organic feel, try hitting groups of keys that are next to each other, it creates more of a deeper harmonic sound.

An inverted 9th (blue)

What scales are used for Soul or R&B?

Listening to thousands of Soul / R&B / Neo Soul tracks I can clearly hear that the E flat, B/Bb and F major keys are the most commonly used. The key for E flat is Eb, F, G, Ab, Bb, C and D. This is very easy on the fingers had has a very soulful and jazzy feel to it. The 2-5-1 sequence will be Fmin, Bb 7 and Eb Maj. Once you are comfortable with these, you can branch out to other combinations or even chords out side the scale. E.g. Gb Maj has a Gospel type of feeling if played in the key of Eb.

Another good trick for a jazzy sound it to play a 6th or Augmented chords between chords transitions. This is simply done by moving the 5th or 7th (or both) down a step and playing that chord as an (in between) chord. I work it out using ear and trial and error. This also works for gospel sounding music.

Be sure to try to learn all 12 scales though, for music proficiency.

Also it is good to note that some chords that sound wrong at the time of playing actually may sound cool and original after going away and listening to it at a later time. Therefore I recommend recording your session, even practice stuff.

Minor 2-5-1 scales

These are a very jazzy alternative to the Major 2-5-1 scales, however I little more complex. For example the 2-5-1 in Minor C would be as follows.

D Half Diminished (Db7m5), G7, Cmin7th

Swapping between Minor and Major

Very good and useful trick to get soulful sounding chords is to alternate between minor and major while walking down the keyboards. The really works.

For example start with C major, walk back to B and play B minor, Bb major, A minor, Ab major and so on. Have a go playing these chords and you will hear a soulful vibe.

The track "Golden" by Jill Scott has a similar chord progression walking from left to right.

Check here for chord progression updates

  • Ab Maj 7th / Gmin 7th or 9th / GbMaj 7th / Fmin9th - Very soulful neo soul grove which can be played at at 4/4 signature
  • Cmin7th / Dbmin7th / Bbmin9th (tension can be eased) if you follow with AbMaj / G7.
  • Gmaj7th / Gmin9th / EbMaj9th / Db Maj9th (GMaj7th is in the key of D Major, after that use melodies from keys Eb or Db, its up to you)
  • Fmin9th, Gmin7th, Amin9th.
  • Bbmin9th, Gmin7th or 9th, Fmin9th
  • Bbmaj9th, Amin7th, Gmaj 7th - Very D'Angelo sounding.
  • Db Maj 9th, G7+9, Cmaj 7th - Very soulful and refreshing soundning
  • Fmin7th, Cmin7th, D dim 7th - Very Bluesy sounding vibes.
  • Gmin9th, Fmaj7th, Emin9th, Ebmaj7th, Dmin7th - Typical Neo Soul Vibe.
  • Ebmin7th, Emaj7th, Abin7th, Gbmaj7th
  • Gmin7th, A7#5, Dmin7th, Gmaj

Listen to Gospel Musicians

Gospel musicians are very good with the improvisation of soulful chords. They need to because they want to avoid playing the same intro when people come into the church all the time. It maybe a good tip to speak to some gospel keyboard players and find out what techniques they use. They tend to use "Phat" chords, simply means chord that use many keys, sometimes up to 10 keys using both hands. Gospel musicians tend not to explain the chord names but you will get a feel of the type of sounds they use and what notes or keys group together.


Hezekiah (author) from Japan on June 01, 2016:

Checking out the soulful keys site in the link - more help there

Angelo on May 13, 2016:

Very helpful, thank you.

brian on May 06, 2016:

can u plz help me to space the chords to sound more nicely I see all the chords names but I don't now how 2 play them

Maffy on July 01, 2015:

Thanks for the tutorials, checked out the videos on your page too. Nice downloads

Riley on June 09, 2015:

Thank you for the tutorial, very useful.

Illa Beats on June 05, 2015:

Very informative explanations there. I've been looking to get into the Neo Soul genre for some time. It's just hard to find the material to learn.

Hezekiah (author) from Japan on May 07, 2015:

Thank you and well appreciated

Natalia on May 06, 2015:

it was really helpful to me thnku so much from colombia south america !

Clarissa on April 08, 2015:

Neo soul chords are rather complex, thanks for explaining. I look forward to more videos.

Simon on March 31, 2015:

Thanks so for this, I checked your website too, very useful. Keep it up.

Hezekiah (author) from Japan on January 06, 2015:

Thanks, I hope this is usefull for you.

Johnny on January 06, 2015:

A very nice article there, checked out your site too. Some cool loops there, keep it up. I am trying to moving towards the Neo Soul genre.

Hezekiah (author) from Japan on January 05, 2015:

You are welcome.

Wolfman on January 05, 2015:

Thanks for this info, very usefull for my piano learning.

Hezekiah (author) from Japan on December 28, 2014:

Thanks - check out my site for much more chords etc.

Charlie on December 28, 2014:

These videos really do help a lot. Thanks mate. Love to see some more.

Calvin on December 26, 2014:

Very nice, thanks.

Jonny on December 25, 2014:

Thank you for the tips here.

Hezekiah (author) from Japan on October 22, 2014:

The Ebmin9 is simply the Ebmin7th and you can play with your left hand by inverting the 9th playing the F with your 4th finger. The keys are Eb, F, Gb, Bb, Db.

The Ab7 is just the Abmaj7th and shift the G to Gb.

Eric on October 15, 2014:

How do you play the Ebmin9 and Ab7?

Hezekiah (author) from Japan on December 25, 2013:

@pimentel, Thanks.

pimentel on December 25, 2013:

simply amazing

Hezekiah (author) from Japan on November 20, 2013:

You try and get back into it, thanks.

CraftytotheCore on November 20, 2013:

This is an amazingly detailed Hub. I play the piano. I was in a jazz band years ago. We had an electric piano I bought second-hand. And for some reason, it broke. We haven't been able to replace it. I miss it!

Hezekiah (author) from Japan on May 30, 2013:

Thanks, I hope you find it useful.

Elena from London, UK on May 30, 2013:

Very useful - I wish I could get back my passion for playing the piano. I was learning and still had the letters on all the white keys. lol.

I will keep this for when I take it up again. Thanks.

Hezekiah (author) from Japan on May 24, 2013:

I'm glad you find it useful.

Audrey Hunt from Idyllwild Ca. on May 23, 2013:

I'm sharing this with some of my own piano students. Thanks so much! Voted up, useful, awesome, interesting and sharing!

Hezekiah (author) from Japan on November 18, 2012:

Thanks Bruce, I hope it does help people to pick up some Jazzy chords for there productions.

Bruce Chamoff from New York on November 18, 2012:

Hey this is a great hub and voted up. I have been a musician for over 40 years and have recorded a jazz album with the saxophone in 2000, but since I came from a rock background where the chords are more straightforward and less soulful, I could never get into those amazing jazz chords. Your hub is motivating me to rethink some jazz tunes.


Audrey Hunt from Idyllwild Ca. on November 17, 2012:

Thanks so much for this very good information.

Will bookmark. Voted up and sharing~

Hezekiah (author) from Japan on January 21, 2012:

You're welcome

Hezekiah (author) from Japan on January 21, 2012:

Cheers mate

Hezekiah (author) from Japan on January 21, 2012:

Thank you very much

jazrstreets on December 26, 2011:

loved this! thanks :)

tablesturn on November 24, 2011:

Thanks - very useful

onmugen on October 13, 2011:

Good Stuff! Very Informative!

Hezekiah (author) from Japan on September 12, 2011:

Goldenkeys, I liketo use Reason 4, but FL Studio has Vst compatibility so I like to use some of the Smooth Electric Piano soundes/Rhodes/Wurlitzer etc..

Goldenkeys on September 12, 2011:

What music software do you use?

Jefsaid from London, UK on May 04, 2011:

Good stuff! I have a piano that I would like to make some nice noises on so hopefully this can give me some tips

Hezekiah (author) from Japan on February 17, 2011:

Thanks Vsmoove, check the web site too.

Vsmoove on February 17, 2011:

Very interesting blog here!

Hiphop Production Training Course on December 04, 2010:

Very interesting... I will bookmark this hub thank you


Neo-Soul is a genre of music that comprises of elements of Gospel, RnB, Funk, Jazz and Hip Hop. Before we dive into some essential chords and how to apply them, listen to these three Instagram examples of Neo Soul playing.

The first example is recorded by Mark Lettieri, who along with being one of the finest solo guitar players in the world, plays for the jazz fusion grammy award winning band Snarky Puppy.

Mark L

The second example is from my good friend and incredible player Kristof Neyens.


The third example is played by myself Simon Pratt.


Now that you have an understanding of the sound of Neo Soul let’s look at some fundamental aspects of the chords involved in this genre.

In example one I have demonstrated three-note shapes for an E major 6 chord and an E major 7 chord, both held for four beats.

Example 1

The hammer-on demonstrated in example two is a key sound in Neo-Soul. By hammering the 6th to the 8th frets on the ‘G’ string, you change the chord from an E major 6 to an E major 7. I recommend barring the 6th frets with your first finger and hammering on to your fourth finger. If you practice this example in this way, the following examples won’t feel as challenging.

Example 2

One of the most common chord shapes used in Neo-Soul is the major 9 shape with the root note on the ‘A’ string as shown in example three.

Now apply the hammer-on pattern learnt in example two to the full E major 9 chord shape.

Often in Neo-Soul, a chord shape will move around the neck with minimal regard for theory, preferring the ‘if it sounds good, it is good’ approach. Example five shows how to move the major 9 hammer-on progression around the fretboard to create a classic Neo-Soul sound. Once you have learnt this example, play it along with the drum track below.

A common sound used in Neo-Soul is using what are called ‘Quartal’ voicings. Simply speaking, chords that are made up entirely of 4ths. They sound very modern and provide one of the main elements of the final piece seen in example seven.

I created a mini Neo-Soul chordal piece to round out this lesson. The piece starts off with a legato sequence which combines hammer-ons and pull-offs around minor 7 chords. I recommend practicing the hammer-ons and pull-offs without the full chord shape being played at first. In bar three an A/B or B11 chord is played followed by a B13b9 chord, which creates dissonance and is a classic chord voicing used in Neo Soul. The piece is then rounded out with a variety of ‘quartal’ voicings over a ringing low E bass note. The piece finishes with some plucked harmonics twelve frets above the E major 9 chord. Be sure to watch the Facebook live video to see how this example looks.


Soul chords neo

neo soul chords/scales/progressions

of zedsupreme said:

Tritone subs sidestep the tonic.In the traditional II V I progression the tritone substitution would be IIb (often a dominant seventh with added upper partials)

The neosoul sound is just extended chords with plenty of chromatic substitions.Rather than

Em Am B7
Em7/9 Bb7 Am7 F7

Click to expand...

So, you are saying that the tritone sub can be insertedinto a progression, rather than replacean exiting chord in the progression - atypical use, as it is no longer a substitutionbut an alterationto the progression

The Bb7 sidesteps to Am and the F7 sidesteps to Em. The voicings are equally important too. In fact all this tends to sound like an exercise in jarring harmony without correct voicing.I'd voice F7 thus:

F Eb Eb (G )A D

Click to expand...

So you are saying it should be used as ii-V-[sup]b[/sup]II :kind of defeats the purpose of using it then, as it's primary purpose in jazz and other styles has been to provide semitonal chordal planing. In fact, if we consider the related concept of the Neapolitan 6th (N6) which is a [sup]b[/sup]II chord in 1st inversion and whose sole purpose is to move to V - a tritone away - this is more akin to what you are describing and is not considered to be a true tritone substitution, as it is a chromatic substitute for ii or IV - it is notated as N6-V-i|I

As for voicing F[sup]7[/sup] - once you add the 9 and the 13 it is no longer a dom7, but a dom 13th. And, yes while it can sub for the lower level extension, it also functions in its own way in both traditional and jazz harmony having voice leading consequences beyond the dom7 function....

of zedsupreme said:

Thats its primary use. Im just trying to reduce the trick to the bare essentials.

Click to expand...

bare essentials is that replaces a dominant (or minor, I concede) chord in a ii-v|V-i|I scrap progression, by which I mean analysing the function of any 3 successive chords in isolation to identify it as being of the class ii-v|V-i|I, like so ii-[sup]b[/sup]II-i|I

You're right though and your erudition knows no bound. I kid.

Click to expand...

Are you seriously saying that you are just having a go for the sake of winding me up

The sub basically substitutes the perfect fourth for a tritonic interval.

Click to expand...

Um, it substitutes the movement of V-I (ii-V is the same) by moving by semitone downwards rather than a 4th upwards or a 5th downwards

That is reminiscent of the lydian raised 4th which is openly and notoriously jazzy.

Click to expand...

Yes, except that it is not a reference to the scale form but a chordal movement which is less strictly defined. Also the lydian does not need to be further qualified as the #4 is implicit in the naming.

So the root of the sub could be any chord. Say F to B of any kind. The other point oft missed is that the actual substitution need not be a dominant. It became that because it acts as a sort of secondary dominant. However it can be minor 7th Major etc well I made that up and its not true but shoot and you might score

Click to expand...

So, you are essentially pushing the view that the use of N6-V-i|I is how a tritone sub works...

Notational usage lesson
I used the shorthand i|I and v|V to indicate that either the first or second chord could appear in the progression but not both, i.e. it replaces writing



2-5-1 Neo-Soul Hip-Hop Jazz Chords FREE

8 Jazz Chord Progressions Every Musician Should Know

Jazz chord progressions may seem complex.

Seventh chords, extended harmony, and voicings can be difficult to grasp.

But once you’re familiar with triads and basic chord progressions, jazz harmony will be completely approachable.

Knowing the most common jazz chord progressions will open your ears. You’ll begin to notice them in many different types of genres, especially hip-hop and lo-fi.

That’s why I’ll be listing the most common jazz chord progressions you should know.

Knowing these chord progressions will provide a solid foundation to start exploring the world of jazz.

I’ll be listing all the chord progressions with their roman numerals and chord symbols in the key of C major.

Why learn jazz chord progressions?

Even if jazz isn’t your main genre, learning these progressions will help you expand your musical vocabulary.

If you’re feeling stuck in a creative rut with your songwriting, learning new concepts from music theory is one of the quickest ways to break through.

On top of that, modern genres like R&B and neo-soul have deep musical roots in the harmonic and melodic traditions of jazz.

Modern genres like R&B and neo-soul have deep musical roots in the harmonic and melodic traditions of jazz.

Once you learn a few jazz progressions you’ll start to see how these timeless patterns are essential learning for musicians.

The 8 best jazz chord progressions

With that out of the way, here are the eight best jazz chord progressions to learn as a beginner.

Two Five One

You’ll find the two five one progression in almost every jazz song. It’s a cadential staple of the genre. It’s often used to take the music to different tonal centers, or complete a phrase in a turnaround.

1. Major Two Five One: ii – V7 – I

The major two five one uses the second and fifth chords from it’s major key.

major ii-V-I jazz chord progression

Miles Davis’ composition “Tune-up” is a perfect example of using the two five one to reach different tonal centers.

The harmony throughout the song changes to the keys of D major, C major, and B flat major by using their related two five one progressions.

2. Minor Two Five One: ii – V – i

You’ll find the two five one progression in almost every jazz song.

The minor two five one is like the major, except that the chords come from the minor scale.

As a result, you’ll often find that the two chord has a flattened fifth, and the five chord a flattened ninth.

minor ii-V-i jazz chord progression

The beautiful jazz standard “Alone Together” written by Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz uses minor two five one progressions throughout its whole form.

It’s even used to return to the parallel major key at the end of the A section. The parallel major key in this tune is D major.

Jazz Turnaround

The jazz turnaround is an extension of the two five one. It’s commonly found at the end of sections in songs to punctuate the ending.

Whole songs are also based around the turnaround. There’s a type of form in jazz that many songs use called ‘Rhythm changes’. It uses the turnaround for its A sections. ‘

Rhythm changes’ originated from George Gershwin’s tune “I’ve Got Rhythm.”

‘Rhythm changes’ originated from George Gershwin’s tune “I’ve Got Rhythm.”

3. Major Turnaround: I vi ii V I

Like the two five one progression, the chords in the turnaround come from the home key.

major turnaround jazz

The burnin’ tune “Oleo” by Sonny Rollins is a popular ‘Rhythm Changes’ song. Those chords go by faster than you can count them.

4. Minor Turnaround: i VI ii V i

The minor turnaround is like the minor two five one, and the major turnaround.

The difference here is that the VI chord is now a major chord. It’s taken from the minor key. In the case of C minor, you’ll have an Ab major 7 chord.

minor turnaround jazz

Dominant Progressions

Chord progressions don’t always have to stay in the same key. In jazz, dominant chords can lead to closely related keys.

They can also exist all on their own, moving the harmony away from any sense of a tonal center.

5. Secondary Dominant: I – V/ii – ii – V – I

secondary dominant progression

Secondary dominants are chords from outside the home key that are related to chords in a progression by a V-I relationship.

Using secondary dominants will take the music to a different key momentarily, before returning to the home key.

They’re great for creating some unexpectedness in your chord progressions.

In this example, we have an A7 chord, which happens to be the five chord of D minor.

Right before the B section of Duke Ellingtons ‘Take the A Train’, you’ll find a secondary dominant that makes a seamless transition between sections A and B.

This takes the harmony from C major, to the closely related key of F major.

6. Passing Diminished Chord: I – #Io7 – ii – V

passing diminished chord progression jazz

Passing diminished chords help transition from one chord to another. They do this by using a chromatic movement in the bass.

Passing diminished chords help transition from one chord to another.

Most diminished chords serve a dominant function. In this example the C# diminished isn’t too different from the secondary dominant A7.

If you take an inventory of notes for both chords you’ll see that they’re very similar.

A7: A C# E G
C#dim7: C# E G A#

You’ll find this chord progression in the beginning of the popular jazz standard ‘Have you met Miss Jones?’

7. Circle of Fifths Progression

C:| III7 E dominant 7 | VI7 A dominant 7 | II7 D dominant 7 | V7 G dominant 7

The circle of fifths progression is when each chord will flow through the circle of fifths in ascending fourths, or descending fifths.

In this progression, the chords remain dominant and will cycle through the circle.

circle of fifths

The bridge in the ‘Rhythm Changes’ form uses the circle of fifths progression. You can hear the cyclic harmony in Charlie Parker’s bebop lines:

8. 12 Bar Blues

12 bar blues chord progression

The jazz blues is another chord progression that only uses dominant chords.

The jazz blues is another chord progression that only uses dominant chords.

It’s known to include many chord substitutions based around the skeleton form shown above. The flat 7 on each chord contributes to that bluesy sound.

This is why using the blues scale to improvise works extremely well with the jazz blues.

Play the changes

Jazz is a whole other world when it comes to music.

The harmony can get complex, and improvising doesn’t come easily.

But knowing these progressions will give you the solid foundation you need to start learning.

Practice these chord progressions in three musical keys. Practice them through all twelve keys using the circle of fifths if you’re feeling ambitious!

Anthony is a composer and producer at RVRSPlay and founder of the jazz pop duo Elluisoir.

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The chords used for this chord progression are shown below.










The second phrase goes to Fmin9th instead of Ebmin9th, and then Bb7 on a inversion. I actually just shift the 5th and 7th down a step which makes it easy to get from Fmin to B7 (F, Ab, Bb,  D)
















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