Minor 251 Practice Guidance

Here’s some information I sent to a student on practicing minor 251s:

Break The Task Down Into Smaller Chunks

Learn them in sets of 3 or 4 keys at a time. Perhaps spend a week or 2 on each set, and then move onto the next set. It’s important to practice them, and then revisit them a couple days later. Then repeat.

Practice In Context Of Tunes!!!

The next and very important stage is to practice them in context of jazz standards, the following lessons are great for applying/practicing minor harmony and minor 251s:

Beautiful Love:

Alone Together:

Stella By Starlight:

The Shadow Of Your Smile:

You Don’t Know What Love Is:

Those 5 tunes contain lots of minor harmony. When you play the progressions in context of tunes, you will retain the information much better than by simply drilling through the progressions. But you must start by drilling them just to get familiar with them.

An Effective Approach For Learning Minor 251s

Whenever you come across a minor 251 in a jazz standard, stop and play it in Type A, then Type B, and then play through the measure with both of those variations with the melody on top.

Sometimes you might get it straight away, if it’s a 251 in D Minor for example - a straight-forward and common key.

But if it’s a 251 in C# Minor, or F# Minor, it will probably take you longer to figure out. Spend the time to figure it out, both Type A and Type B.

The point is, if you come across a 251 in a jazz standard that you are not familiar with, then isolate it and drill it until you are comfortable with it. Then play it in context of the standard with the melody over the top. That is the formula for remembering the voicings. This doesn’t happen overnight… it will happen gradually. Minor 251s are tricky to learn so don’t be disheartened by slow progress!

The #5 & b13 are enharmonic tones (ie. they are the same note)

The #5 and the b13 are enharmonic, ie. they are the same note. As if jazz is not hard enough, there is no set way that musicians refer to alterations. I prefer the #5, but I mention both in different lessons to make students aware of this.

Include The Root In The II-7b5 Chord

In contrast to the rootless major 251, it’s common to include the root in the II chord in a rootless minor 251

This is because it voice-leads beautifully up a half step to the #5/b13 (remember in minor 251s, the V7 chord is an altered dominant chord and so that #5/b13 alteration sounds great).