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Instantly transform your chords into an R&B sound

Updated on November 29, 2014

R&B / Jazz Basics

You may hear about the background of Jazz, Blue R&B being the 2-5-1 sequence. What is the 2-5-1 sequence? Basically it is playing the 2nd, 5th then the 1st chord in any given key.

For example, the key of C Major would be Dmin, G7 then Cmaj.

Just in case you don't know what chords go with key, see below.

Major, Minor, Minor, Major, Dominant (7th), Minor, Diminished. That covers all seven keys in a scale.

So you played 2-5-1 but does that really sound soulful? Maybe not. You could try extending to 7ths or 9ths but we are still not really there. So how do I get those deep R&B sounding chords?

My Method

The trick is inversions and slash chords.

What is an inversion?

It is when you play a chord with the first note other than it's root. e.g. The Chord Cmajor has the keys, C, E, G. So you could invert it and play E, G, C which would be the same chord. You could also leave C, E, G just how it is and play a forth key on the keyboard which would be the key of E as a bass note, this would be called a slash chord C/E which Cmaj as the chord and E as the bass. It sounds a little deeper but we are still not there yet.

The Bass key should be the 11th or 9th key

Unless you play jazz, many of you may not go up to the 11th keys, however this is a neat little trick on how to get a deep R&B feel for your chords. If you play the piano it is a simply matter of counting up to the 11th key.

Now, the 11th doesn't work for all chords with this little trick. You may want to try 9th's if the natural chord root starts on a black key. However the below 11th inversions sound very soulful and have some good harmonic tension.

Try these.

Bass - C, Chord Gmin7th

Bass - D, Chord Amin7th

Bass - E, Chord Bmin7th

You can simply play the three chords, but put the pass in a listen to how deep and soulful it sounds - magic!!

So for guitarists that would be Gmin/C, Amin/D, Bmin/E.

Now why can't we just play the chords as an 11th key, well you try that, probably easier on the keyboard then on the guitar to play an 11th chords. It does sound deep but nowhere near as deep as the 7th slash chord version. Playing an 11th or phat chords as people call it tends to muffle the keys therefore your brain may find it difficult it identify clearly any chronic movement.

I know these "Phat" chord or used in gospel a lot, but there are many other techniques such as this where you can get a really deep soulful sound.

More chords that work

Here is another two chord sequences that works very well. Bbmin7th and Cmin7th. Playing them alone sounds kind of soulful-ish but try the following to spice it up.

Bass Eb, Chord Bbmin7th

Bass F, Chord Cmin7th

Just those two chords alone sound very soulful and jazzy.

Check out the video where I am using my left hand as the bass note only. For a band you would just have the bass player play and you just concentrate on the chords only. For DAW production, I would simply replace the left hand keyboard sound with a proper bass sound. It could even work just like that with the bass as the keyboard. It may just need a little EQing though to bring out the lower end more.


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    • profile image


      3 years ago

      Thanks so much for the lesson there, much appreciated.

    • Hezekiah profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from Japan

      Thanks Snarky, R&B chords are not always as complex as you think.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      This is just what I was looking for, thanks a lot.

    • Hezekiah profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from Japan

      Thank you very much.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Very nice tutorial there, always wanted to learn to play R&B on the keys. But rather difficult.

    • Hezekiah profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from Japan

      @teaches12345 thanks for the comment this method really does spice up the standard chords.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      4 years ago

      Very useful and interesting post. It's been some time since I've played an chords on the piano. You make me want to refresh my love of the keys.


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