Minor 251 Scale Degree Exercise

I received an interesting question today and thought I would repost here.

A student asked:

I am conceptual challenged practicing the minor 251 progressions because the way they are written the last of each trio looks like a 9th not a 7th. Can you help me understand this?

Here’s My Recommendations:

I highly recommend that we memorise the formulas for minor 251s and this will allow us to remove our reliance on the notation.

The first step here is to learn the 12 major scales numerically (1-2-3-4-5-6-7) so do not skip this step!!!

Learning major scales numerically is the pivotal first step in understanding jazz harmony.

Visualise the ‘Starting Positions’

When starting out with minor 251s, there are 2 important 'starting points’ on the ii-7b5 chord

  • 1st inversion: b3-b5-b7-root
  • 3rd inversion: b7-root-b3-b5

Once my hand finds one of these 'starting point’ - then the rest of the progression falls into place.

The key here is to be able to visualise the inversions of the -7b5 chord (1st and 3rd inversions) as we covered in the Jazz Piano Foundation Course.

The 1st ‘Starting Point’ (1st Inversion -7b5 chord)

  • The first one starts with the b3 on the bottom for the ii-7b5 chord: b3-b5- b7-root

  • Then the top two notes move out a half step in opposite directions to get to the V7alt chord ( b7-b9- 3-b13 )

  • Then we play a Type A rootless voicing for the I-7 chord - b3-5- b7-9

The 2nd ‘Starting Point’ (3rd Inversion -7b5 chord)

  • The second one starts with the b7 on the bottom for the ii-7b5 chord: b7-root-b3-b5

  • Then the bottom two notes move out a half step in opposite directions to get to the V7alt chord ( 3-b13-b7-b9 )

  • Then we play a Type B rootless voicing for the I-7 chord - b7-9-b3-5

When we can look at the piano and work that out without notation, we commit these voicings to our memory much quicker.

I understand it is hard to begin with, but it gives us very strong foundations for the future.

This exercise can also be completed away from the piano.

Quiz ourselves on the -7b5 chord inversions like this:

  • What is the 1st inversion A-7b5?
    we should immediately answer C(b3)-Eb(b5)-G(b7)-A(root)

  • What is the 3rd inversion C-7b5?
    we should immediately answer Bb(b7)-C(root)-Eb(b3)-Gb(b5)

  • What is the 1st inversion F#-7b5?
    we should immediately answer A(b3)-C(b5)-E(b7)-F#(root)

We need to be able to find those inversions in the snap of a finger!


i printed this out so I can spend more time with this concept and this study thank you

1 Like

ah… jazzmen can be as computors for all these chords )))) I’m still waiting for neuronal transplantation )))
of course… Hayden is right…
but… it’s not easy ))))

1 Like

And there’s nothing that puts an overly-active mind to sleep faster at bedtime than trying to visualize the minor 251 inversions instead of counting sheep. That’s how I am learning mine. Also because i REALLY want to play without sheet music, I’ve also created flash index cards quizzes as well as visualizing the positions on the piano.