2 handed minor 251's

I’m working my way through the lesson and supplement on the 2-handed minor 251’s and trying to follow the advice to remember the formulas in terms of scale degrees. So far so good on the ii and the V (with variations); but I’m a little flummoxed when I get to the minor I chord: Why is it minor 9 in some progressions and minor 11 in others? Is it just the choice between stacked thirds and a HH voicing? Is there some guidance; or just what sounds best?

Hi Wendy :wave:

Great question. I wil answer your exact question, but first I’d like explain a little more about minor chords.

I like to think that there are 4 possible ‘flavours’ of minor chord, for C Minor, we could have:

  • C-7
  • C-maj7
  • C-6
  • C-7b5

Now firstly we should highlight that the function of the -7b5 chord is as the ii chord in a minor 251 progression. We can also use the ii-7b5 as the ii chord in major 251s. However, your specific question is about resolving to the i chord in a minor ii-V-i, so that leaves us with 3 options:

  • C-7
  • C-maj7
  • C-6

Now each of these minor chords has a different flavour, and we can choose which one we want to resolve to minor 251. Play through each one and listen to the different flavour it creates.

The -7 Chord

The -7 chord doesn’t have the strongest sense of resolution, or ‘home base’ as it is sometimes called. That’s because the -7 chord can be the ii-7 chord in a 251 (C-7 / F7 / Bbmaj7) and so it could be the start of harmony leading elsewhere.

The -6 Chord

The -6 chord on the other hand has a very definite sense of resolution in context of a minor 251. In particular the -69. Try resolving to this C-69 voicing and you will see what I mean:

Left Hand: Root and 5th which would be C & G
Right Hand: b3-5-6-9 which would be Eb-G-A-D

This voicing is heard a lot in bossa nova and samba Brazillian music for 251s. It’s a little ‘crunchier’ and ‘darker’ than the other minor flavours and it can be heard in many of Jobim’s compositions.

The -maj7 Chord

The -maj7 chord has a minor 3rd and a major 7th which gives it a very mysterious and floating character. I sometimes like to end my songs with this chord quality if the song is in a minor key as it finishes with a sense of mystique.

For me personally, the -maj7 has a somewhat stronger sense of resolution than the -7 chord, but not as strong as the -6 chord.

Now finally onto your question:

This is mainly based on preference and there is no set-in-stone guideline. so I would say go with what sounds best.

As mentioned above I love resolving into the -69 or -maj7 if I’m ending a song, ie. the final cadence.

The HH voicings can be nice to resolve to, as can a minor13 voicing, but my preference would be the the -69.

Let me know if that helps :sunglasses:


My personal feeling about the minor 11 chord is that the eleventh is part of the upper structure notes of a minor chord and the 11 th is the 4th. The suspended sound. The delayed resolution to the third. So it give the listener that sound even against the minor third. Seems jazz players love suspending things!! Just more colors added. Beautiful to my ears. And I agree with you Hayden, love ending with minor major!!! What a sound!!!

Interesting insight. I can use all the help I can get. Thanks.