1-6-2-5 chord progression

1-6-2-5 chord progression

Disclaimer: My grasp of music theory is limited at best (though better than it once was), and my range of experience in Irish music is not necessarily wide or deep. Which is all a way of apologizing in advance if I sound like the guy who bursts through the door yelling, "My God, have you heard about this thing called the Internet…?"

OK. I was reading the liner notes for the (excellent, by the way) new CD "Pride of New York," with Billy McComiskey, Joanie Madden, Brian Conway and Brendan Dolan, in which there is a brief discussion of the "New York style" in Irish music. McComiskey, in describing some of the salient features of the NY style, mentions "a 1-6-2-5 chordal progression in rhythm," which I took to mean a regularly occurring phenomenon rather than a once-in-a-while-for-the-helluva-it wrinkle. If I’m scoring at home, that would mean, for example, playing D-B-E-A (key of D) or G-E-A-D (key of G), right?
I’m looking to explore this progression, by listening and doing, but was curious: Is it almost exclusively a "New York thing"? Are there some keys, or kinds of tunes, where it works better than others? What experience, if any, does anyone here have with it?

Thanks in advance, and sorry again if I reveal myself to be unbearably, screamingly ignorant.

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Re: 1-6-2-5 chord progression

one thing that might help shed some light on this is to remember that piano players in New York would be exposed to jazz bands, and I-VI-II-V is a very common chord substution patter for the basic I-V chord progression

the vi chord is a substitute for the root of I chord, and ii-V can really be seen as a suspension of the tonic note into the V chord, and then resolved

this is also the basic building block of the jazz tune "I Got Rhythm"

"Rhythm Changes" or the chord progression to "I Got Rhythm" was used as the chord progression for loads of bebop jazz tunes. The reason is simple: everybody knew the tune

so you might not know "Lester Leaps In" but the horn player would just lean over and whisper "It’s just Rhythm changes, man" and the rhythm section could back the horn player and everybody was happy

now when you take that same piano player and put him in a recording session with an Irish fiddler who is just ripping fast, the piano player is going to go with what he knows

So you get I-vi-ii-V played in the old 3 chord trick tunes and viola!

the I-vi-ii-V substitution pattern

at least that’s how it seemed to me.

Re: 1-6-2-5 chord progression

Nate, thanks so much. I have far, far less familiarity with jazz than I do with Irish music, and your speculation about the convergence of the twain in NYC certainly seems quite reasonable. Definitely interested in trying it out…reckon I’ll give whatever melody player I’m accompanying at the time fair warning, though!

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Re: 1-6-2-5 chord progression

If I am reading it right wouldn’t it just be:

D -> Bm -> Em -> A (in D)

or:

G -> Em -> Am -> D (in G)

?

Surely that wouldn’t be considered particularly adventurous. If a really common progression is I -> VI -> IV -> V (D - Bm - G - A) surely this is just substituting an Em for a G chord. It doesn’t seem that big a change to me. In fact I play it quite a lot. I presumed everybody did.

Re: 1-6-2-5 chord progression

Ah, good point, NCFA — again, my shoddy musical understanding at work again. I’ve actually played something like that vein, but it’s been more a case of throwing in a substitute chord piecemeal instead of consciously or deliberately following a chord progression.

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Re: 1-6-2-5 chord progression

yea, No Cause, that’ s basically all it is. There’s nothing kinky going on here

I think of the NYC backing style on piano is more the harmonic rhythm…the chords change every 2 beats, or 2 chords in each measure.

Re: 1-6-2-5 chord progression

the ii chord, iii chord, and vi chord will be minor in the standard nomenclature. Think of it this way:

If you sit at a piano and play a C-E-G chord, it will be major. Go up one key (D-F-A), then keep playing chords, each time one step higher, and you will see that the first, fourth, and fifth are major; the second, third, and sixth are minor, and the seventh is a tad ambiguous; it won’t stand on its own, and is mostly a diminished chord.

Re: 1-6-2-5 chord progression

NCFA has it right. An easy example of 1-6-4-5 is "Heart and Soul" (the simple piano duet played by kids of all ages, at least in the U.S.)

Here’s a well-known example of a 1-6-2-5 pattern:
http://www.cpmusic.com/tradgif/ashgrove.gif

Oh, and one of my favorite explorations of a similar progression (1-4-6-1-5-1-4-5?) involves Pachelbel’s Canon:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JdxkVQy7QLM


For those who are satisfied with Louie Louie and Hang on Sloopy, etc. it’s just 1-4-5.

Re: 1-6-2-5 chord progression

If you want to have a bit of fun with it, change the vi, ii and V chords to major dominant 7th chords (G E7 A7 D7) and you have ragtime-blues or barbershop harmony. And you’ll probably get disinvited to the next session.

Re: 1-6-2-5 chord progression

Bob, I’d fear being disinvited less than I would being dismembered.
Thanks everyone for your comments.

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Re: 1-6-2-5 chord progression

What I am sometimes doing these days is a (brief) III 7th as a passing chord into a IV major 7th. It adds a nice flavour sometimes eg:

D - F#7th - Gmajor7th

Re: 1-6-2-5 chord progression

Am getting a headache from Reading this. I will just trust my ears:-)

Re: 1-6-2-5 chord progression

Amazing. It is the staple chord progression of all the neuveau contemporary stuff that comes out of the Chicago Church Music Mill’s captive composer stable.

It was something I learned in the mandatory ‘Harmony’ exercise most music students endured when I was kid (Harmony is really lost on most kid music students.) I didn’t put it together until some of my girl cousins were banging out ‘Heart and Soul’ four handed on the piano at home.

I remember saying ‘Geez that’s dopey. All the rock and roll and folk music use that.’ Light goes on….

Anyway, one of the ‘pirate pieces’ (not his lesson music) I sprung on my teacher John Williams was a reel done by Diarmuid O’Brien called ‘Game of love’. Tune is known by many names and often no name at all.

Em tune in G. And he gave me some Box bass options changing bass on the 2’s. One was Em-Am-D-Bm and resolving through G-Bm-EM instead of an alternating bass with EM to a D.

Similar vein. I think Charlie Lennon did alot of that also. Great accompanist.

Re: 1-6-2-5 chord progression

I am a crummy typist. Last line, it resolves through G-Bm-Em.

Re: 1-6-2-5 chord progression

This is very similar to the bedrock progression of doo wop:
I, VIm, IV, V.
The Duke of Earl, etc, etc.

Re: 1-6-2-5 chord progression

STS, so far as I am concerned, you are forgiven for being "unbearably, screamingly ignorant". Also, speaking of being disinvited or dismembered, have you ever heard the following version of a certain song from an infamous Broadway musical? "Try to dismember and when you dismember, then swallow, swallow, swallow."

I have also learned to trust my ears—especially after playing too many so-called "three chord wonders" which use only the 1-4-5 chord progression and no other chords. Either that, or too many songs with what I learned to call an "ice cream progression" or 1-6-4-5 (such as Heart And Soul).

For the record, I have played a lot of blues and a lot of ragtime; however, I have never played music in New York City and am unfamiliar with the "NY style". The one and only time I was in New York City in 1982, I was just passing through as quickly as possible and didn’t stop.

Re: 1-6-2-5 chord progression

I maybe showing my age. We called those congs with ‘Ice cream progressions’, "bubble gum music"!

Re: 1-6-2-5 chord progression

Zippy, I do remember hearing the term "bubble gum music" when I was a boy (and I don’t care if I am showing my age). I learned the slang term "ice cream progression" for that specific chord progression when I was participating regularly in a local blues jam many years ago—when I was young and foolish and didn’t know any better.

Re: 1-6-2-5 chord progression

How do I get a print out of the lesson?
Virlus

Just signed up.