How To Use 6-2-5-1 Passing Chords

The 6-5-2-1 Chord Progression using Isabel Davis’ “Jesus Take Your Place.”

Today we’re going to be taking a look at the 6-2-5-1 passing chord progression, otherwise known as a turn-around, by learning a song that uses this technique: “Jesus Take Your Place” by Isabel Davis. This progression works great in gospel and jazz music and, like all passing chords, it will add a flair of harmony to your song. It has a dual function, where it can be used to ‘turn-around’ and lead back into the start of the previous chord progression or to easily jump between keys within a song.

The song we’re using today is in the key of Eb major. For those of you that don’t know, the diatonic chords of this key are: Chord 1 = Eb major, Chord 2 = F min, 3 = G min, 4 = Ab major, 5 = Bb major, 6 = C min, and 7 = D dim. Diatonic chords are the chords formed from the notes of a given scale.

A Look At The 6-2-5-1 Progression

Let’s have our first look at the 6-2-5-1 progression itself before we talk about the context of using these chords in a song. The chords I’m using in this example are:

6 = C13 (change from minor to dominant)

2 = Fmin11

5 = Bbmin13 (change from major to minor) 

1 = Eb7maj7b13

Play along with this example of a 6-2-1-5-1 passing chord progression to get a feel for its sound and movement. You can also play it in comparison with the more common 1-6-2-5 chord progression, which is used frequently throughout the worlds of gospel and jazz.

This 6-2-1-5-1 progression is a cool way of turning around and passing through different chords to take you back to Chord 4. After playing the progression above, try dropping back to Chord 4. I’d suggest using an Abmaj7/9 here.

You can also approach the first chord, C13, with what I call a ‘Quartal slide.’ In this example, the right hand briefly plays a chordal harmony of notes that are separated by a third: Eb, Ab, and Db (forming the chord Absus4/Eb), which quickly slide right up to the first chord of the phrase. If we slide each note (Eb – Ab – Db) up one semitone to play the notes E, A, and D, while adding the bass notes C, E, and Bb on the left hand, we form the chord C13, which is the first chord of our 6-2-1-5-1. This technique adds more flavor to your piece as it slides up to the first chord in the progression. Play around with this technique just before the first chord and hear the difference it makes to the song.

Exploring the use of this progression in “Jesus Take Your Place.”

Now that we’ve seen the chords and their movement, you might be wondering: How do we use this in the context of a song? To show you, we’re going to take a look at a song by Isabel Davis, which has various titles, including “Jesus Take Your Place” and “Wide Eyes.” Most of you who are familiar with gospel music will know this song, and for those of you that aren’t, it’s a pretty cool tune. Go ahead and listen to the song on your chosen streaming platform and get a feel for the movement of the chords and the structure of the song.

The Verse follows the progression 6-2-1-5-1, where I’m using the chords Ab major – Eb major – C minor 7 – Bbadd9.

The Chorus, which many of you will be familiar with, follows the progression 4-6-5-1 for two rounds, where I’m using the chords Abadd9 – C min7 – Bbadd9 – Ebadd9. Then, the third chord, V, is sustained for double its time, forming the progression 4-6-5 for the next two rounds:

4-6-5-1 (or Abadd9 – Cmin7 – Bbadd9 – Ebadd9)

4-6-5-1

4-6-5-5 (or Abadd9 – Cmin7 – Bbadd9)

4-6-5-5

Right here is where we can start using the 6-2-5-1 passing chord progression we learned in the first section, using the chords C13 – Fmin11 – Bbmin13 – Eb7 maj7 b13. Lead up to the starting chord of the main Chorus progression, 4-6-5-1/ 4-6-5-5, by switching the very last bar of 5 for 4-2-6-5, played to the beat of quarter-notes within that final bar. This will make the progression in full:

4-6-5-1

4-6-5-1

4-6-5-5

4-6-5  6-2-4-5 (or C13 – Fmin11 – Bbmin13 – Eb7maj7b13)

4-6-5-1

4-6-5-1

4-6-5-5

4-6-5  6-2-4-5

Once you get a feel for this, we can also start using the quartal slide from the first section. Try using an Ab Perfect 4th just ahead of the first chord of C13, and you’ll hear the difference it makes. You can’t practice and improvise with this progression enough; take your time to really explore its mood, effect, and how it can be used within a song.

Through practicing this exercise, you can hear how the progression fits perfectly into “Jesus Take Your Place.” It’s effective because both the verse and chorus start on Chord 4, where the passing chord progression leads up to before it takes you back to the beginning.

Another passing chord progression you can add to the Chorus is the 5-1-5-1 progression, where you can play Bb/D – Eb – Bb/D – Eb(add9)/G as quarter-notes, which, like the 6-2-5-1 progression, will also lead you back to the 4 chord, making the new phrase:

4-6-5-1

4-6-5-  5-1-5-1 (or Bb/D – Eb – Bb/D – Eb(add9)/G

4-6-5-5

4-6-5- 6-2-6-5

So that’s a cool little 6-2-5-5 passing chord progression that you can use within the context of a gospel song. I’m basing the particular voicing and chord extensions that I’m using upon what instinctively feels right to me when I hear and play this piece. When you’re taking this idea and deciding you’re going to run with it, it’s important that you take into consideration the context of how the chords are used as well as the context of the song you’re playing. You might need to tweak the chord voicing to suit whichever particular song you want to use this idea on.

That’s the end of the short tutorial I have for you today. If this is the exciting and educational sort of content that you’ve been looking for, subscribe to my YouTube channel, “Piano Lessons With Warren,” where you can watch me play through this song and show in detail how I voice each chord on the piano.

Until then, keep listening, keep singing and keep practicing

Download The 7 Steps To Naming ANY Chord PDF For FREE

With this PDF, you NEVER HAVE TO GUESS what chord you’re playing.

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