The 2 5 1 turnaround has been used throughout the history of music to
"bring home" (resolve) both major and minor key progressions. It's a
great sequence of chords with which to work on your improvisation
The minor key version of 2 5 1 (numerals: iiø-V-i)
performs a similar function to
the more popular major key (ii-V-I),
but is governed by different
harmonic "rules". This lesson is about breaking down those rules so we
can hear, visualize and play through it confidently and musically.
Start by watching the presentation below before moving on to the
lesson, which includes ear training audio, backing tracks, licks and
everything you need to jam your way through 2 5 1.
Ear Training & Backing Tracks
Feel free to download the tracks below. They play through the minor 2 5
in two keys - A minor and D minor. One track is orchestral, the other,
slightly faster (60 bpm), in a bossa nova style.
Track 1 Chords: Bm7b5 -
E7 - Am
(right click "save as" to download)
start by getting to know the chord sequence so we know
where to position our fingers on the fretboard in any key.
Conveniently, we can visualize the ii-V-i
sequence within a three-fret
radius. The diagram below shows us the chord roots (colour coded
how they would appear in different positions on the fretboard...
We can build our chord shapes (see diagrams below) on these root
positions. So i
is our tonic or "home" in minor keys. If the key was A
minor, we'd position that 1
chord root on A,
either on the 6th string (5th fret) or 5th string (12th fret or open)
and then visualize the ii
chord roots in relation to that.
symbol (superscript circle with a line through) means the chord is
"half diminished". This is another way of
saying "minor 7 flat 5" (a minor 7th chord with a flat 5th), which is
why you'll often see the chord
abbreviated as m7b5
(e.g. Bm7b5 or B half diminished). This chord occurs naturally
in the harmonic and natural minor scales.
This is the chord type most commonly built on the ii
root in minor keys.
Most often this will be a dominant
...but sometimes extended
(especially in jazz) to flat
9 and sharp
9 dominant 7th chords...
It's also often played as an augmented
7th chord to add tension...
Our tonic or "home" chord. Typically a minor triad...
...but can be
extended to a minor 6th...
...or minor 9th...
ii V i Chord Patterns / Arpeggios
The first step in being able to improvise confidently and melodically
through chord changes is to practice targeting chord tones. You'll
later color these chord tones by wrapping scales around them.
By using chord tones as the target notes of your phrases, you'll keep
your solo/licks connected to the backing music. Think of it like
connecting the dots to create something meaningful.
Here we build a half diminished (or m7b5) arpeggio pattern...
Dominant 7th chord tones...
Finally, our minor triad tones. I've kept it to the basic triad
because, as we learned earlier, there are 6th and 7th forms
that can be used in the i
position. But they all have the triad in common...
backing tracks from earlier (you downloaded them, right?), start by
playing just one chord
chord, moving on to two and three tones per chord as you
become more confident. This is known as arpeggiating the chord changes.
Here are some examples of this exercise (click the tabs to hear),
starting with one chord tone per chord in A minor...
Here I'm arpeggiating the chord changes...
Minor 2 5 1 Scales & Licks
Over all chords - harmonic minor
As mentioned in the video, the most convenient way of playing through
minor 2 5 1 is to use the harmonic
minor scale. It works over all three chords because the
notes of these three chords exist within the scale. This means you can
use the same scale pattern over all three chords as all three chord
patterns exist within it.
For example, in the key of A
harmonic minor would cover Bm7b5,
E7 and Am.
staple half diminished scale - built on the 2nd degree of natural
Try Lydian dominant
for a jazzier flavour...
As well as harmonic minor from earlier, try melodic minor (this
will also work over the V
Or natural minor if the chord is a minor 7th (this is appropriate for
is also a fine choice if the tonic chord is a minor 7th chord (again,
And, as with all minor progressions, remember to add in some minor
pentatonic and minor blues phrases occasionally.
I hope you found this lesson valuable and enjoyed jamming!