How To Improvise Over a Minor II-V-I Progression
- By Stef Ramin
- On 05/07/2016
- 0 comments
The minor II-V-I sequence is equivalent to the major II-V-I sequence, but played in minor harmonic key. It is a must know for any guitarist who wants to learn to solo over tunes in minor keys. This progression is present in many jazz tunes as Autumn leaves, Blue Bossa, Black Orpheus, Stella by Starlight, The nearness of you, I love you, Speak low, Soul eyes, Valse Hot, Along came Betty, Stablemates, Are you real, I'll remember April, I hear a rhapsody, In your own sweet way, Nuages...
This progression is based on the C harmonic minor scale. We are now going to build chords from this scale.
As you can see chords are named :
- C minor major seventh (CmMaj7)
- D minor seventh flat fifth (Dm7b5)
- E flat major seventh sharp fifth (EbMaj7#5)
- F minor seventh (Fm7)
- G dominant seventh (G7)
- A flat major seventh (Abmaj7)
- B diminished seventh (Bdim7)
Now it's time to take the three basic chords constructed on each degree of the C harmonic minor scale. The chord corresponding to the first degree is a minor major seventh chord (CmM7) , the chord corresponding to the second degree is a minor seventh flat five chord (Dm7b5) and the chord corresponding to the fifth degree is a dominant seventh chord (G7). These chords are grouped together so, they form the minor II-V-I progression.
You can embellish the dominant 7th chord by adding notes from the scale (b9,#9, 11, b13).
Basic modes & scales
Let's take a look at the three basic modes generated from tones of the C harmonic minor scale.
The first is the C harmonic minor scale. It will be used to play over the minor (major seventh chord (I) (CmM7).
|C Harmonic minor scale||C||D||Eb||F||G||Ab||B|
The scale starting on the second degree of the C harmonic minor scale is called D locrian 13 mode. It will used to play over the minor seventh flat five chord (II) (Dm7b5).
|D locrian mode||D||Eb||F||G||Ab||B||C|
The scale starting on the fifth step is called G phrygian dominant. It will be played over the dominant (V) chord (G7).
|G Phrygian dominant||G||Ab||B||C||D||Eb||F|
How to improvise ?
Theoretically, you could play just the harmonic minor scale over the whole minor II-V-I sequence because all notes in the scale relate to the chords constructed from it. At the long run it will be boring to play only notes from the harmonic minor scale so here are some possible ideas to spice up your improvisations and embellish your lines.
The Locrian mode is the seventh mode of the major scale. This is the basic mode to play over a m7b5 (half-diminished) chord.
|D locrian mode||D||Eb||F||G||Ab||Bb||C|
An half-diminished arpeggio consists in playing the first, minor third, flat fifth and minor seventh of the Locrian scale.
Locrian # 2 mode
Logically, we should play a b9 over Dm7b5 but to brings new colors to our musical language we can add the 9 instead of b9. In this way we leave the tonal context for a modal approach. By adding the ninth to the Locrian mode, we get the locrian # 2 mode. This is the sixth mode of the melodic minor scale.
|D locrian #2||D||E||F||G||Ab||Bb||C|
Locrian bebop scale
The locrian bebop scale is the same as the Locrian mode including a passing tone (5). There is eight notes in it (octatonic scale).
|D locrian bebop||D||Eb||F||G||Ab||A||Bb||C|
As we have seen previously the basic scale to play over a dominant 7th chord in minor harmonic key is the Phrygian dominant mode. By taking the first, the third, the fifth and the minor seventh we obtain a dominant 7th arpeggio. Playing this scale and arpeggio is a little too ordinary and not very interesting. In this case we usually play a diminished seventh arpeggio starting on the major third (3) of the chord.
Diminished seventh arpeggio (3 to b9)
Here is a comparison between the G Phrygian mode and the Bdim7 arpeggio.
- B is the major third of G7
- D is the fifth
- F is the minor seventh
- Ab is the flat ninth
G phrygian dominant G Ab B C D Eb F Bdim7 arpeggio X b2 (b9) 3 X 5 X b7
Playing a diminished seventh arpeggio over a dominant seventh chord brings the b9. This technique also called "3 to b9" is widely used by Wes Montgomery, Grant Green and many jazz players.
To enlarge your musical vocabulary it is possible to think G7 as an altered chord, therefore using notes of the altered scale over it.
The "Altered scale" (also called "super Locrian mode") is the seventh mode of the melodic minor scale. Playing the altered scale over a dominant 7th chord brings tensions and more sophisticated sound. The combination of the locrian # 2 mode and the altered scale works well over II-V sequences.
|G altered scale||G||Ab||Bb||B||Db||Eb||F|
|Formula||1||b9||#9||3||b5 (#11)||#5 (b13)||b7|
Feel free to resolve to CmM7, this chord is not necessarily used after a minor II-V sequence. However, we will think about what we're going to play. The most obvious solution is to play the harmonic minor scale, melodic minor scale, Aeolian mode or their corresponding arpeggios. You can also add extensions (9, 11,13) to these arpeggios.
The harmonic minor scale contains seven notes, these are the same as the natural minor scale (Aeolian mode) except the seventh degree that is raised by one semitone.
|C harmonic minor scale||C||D||Eb||F||G||Ab||B|
|C melodic minor scale||C||D||Eb||F||G||A||B|
|C aeolian mode||C||D||Eb||F||G||Ab||B|
This downloadable eBook in PDF format provides 49 jazz solo transcriptions of the greatest jazz musicians of all times with TABS, standard notation and analysis both for guitar teachers and students.
This jazz guitar method is an eBook available as a PDF with standard notation, guitar tabs, diagrams, analysis, audio files and backing tracks. You will find in this booklet 25 easy jazz guitar lines with theory using common and rare pentatonic scales.
This method is a printable PDF eBook containing 20 II-V-I jazz guitar lines with tabs and audio files both in major and minor keys
A printable PDF eBook with tabs and standard notation containing five jazz blues guitar studies. Learn how to use arpeggios over a jazz blues progression.
Jazz guitar comping. How to play II-V-I chord progressions on guitar with drop 2, drop 3 chords, rootless and inverted voicings. This method is a printable PDF eBook containing 50 exercises with analysis, tabs & standard notation.
This PDF method contains 11 guitar lessons with chord studies, tabs, standard notation, analysis & audio files about the main blues progressions used in jazz music.
This PDF eBook method contains 25 altered jazz guitar licks with tabs, patterns, scale charts and audio files to master, apply and develop the altered scale.
This printable method is available as a PDF file containing 40 easy dominant jazz-blues guitar lines with tabs, standard notation, analysis and scale charts.
You will find here an eBook available in PDF containing 25 soul jazz and hard bop guitar licks with tabs and standard notation in the style of Grant Green, Melvin Sparks, George Benson.These jazz lines come with tabs, standard notation, guitar neck diagrams, backing track for practice and 25 audio files for each riff.
This eBook PDF contains 25 dominant diminished jazz guitar patterns using the half-whole diminished scale and diminished 7th arpeggios.
This printable PDF eBook contains 25 minor jazz guitar licks with tabs, video links, analysis. How to play modes, scales & arpeggios over minor chords.
The tritone substitution is explained through 5 jazz guitar licks with tabs/notation, youtube video links and backing track links. Printable PDF eBook