-11b5 Voicings & the Minor 251 Progression

Student Question

How should I learn the -11b5 Voicings and it’s application to the minor 251 progression?

Hayden’s Answer

For the -11b5 LHVs, the root position voicing is the most useful: R-11-b5-b7. To get this, simply build the -7b5 chord, and raise the b3rd a whole step.

If you try inverting that voicing, you get some unusual shapes, some of which are very awkward to play.

We touch upon those inversions in the advanced minor 251s lesson but I just highlighted this as an optional area of study. I rarely (if ever) venture away from the voicings you attached and also the “R-11-b5-b7”, and remember that this is effectively the same as a root position -7b5 chord, but with the b3 raised a whole step.

Get The Basics Down First

My advice would be to focus on mastering the basic minor 251s found in this worksheet, and then move on to playing the -11b5 and consciously choose which alterations over the V chord you want to go to… start with b9#5 and #9#5.

That will be a nice exercise to work on your ability to identify and recognise the individual alterations over the respective V chords. You won’t have the 'safety blanket’ of moving the top or bottom 2 notes a half step in either direction and so you should find the exercise more challenging but very rewarding!

Learning the minor 251s in all 12 keys is no small task, understand and accept that, and just chip away at it each day.

Learn In Context Of Jazz Standards

Always remember that when you play the voicings in context of a jazz standard, you will retain the information much better.

A wonderful exercise is to play through a whole lead sheet with just the left hand voicings.