II-V7 alt-I jazz guitar lick with tabs | Dorian mode, altered scale & passing tones

Here is a short jazz guitar idea to play over a C major II-V7alt-I chord progression. The II-V-I sequence is a must know for every jazz guitarist who wants to increase its sense of improvisation, indeed this chord progression is present in a large number of blues and western tunes and of course in jazz standards like Summertime, Autumn leaves, Blue bossa, All the things you are and many more.

The basic II-V-I chord progression is made up of three chords constructed on each degree of the major scale.

Let's take an example in C major :

  • The chord corresponding to the first degree is a major seventh chord (CM7).
  • The chord corresponding to the second degree is a minor seventh chord (Dm7).
  • The chord corresponding to the fifth degree is a dominant seventh chord (G7).

These chords in their unaltered forms are fundamental for a first approach. When they are grouped together they form the II-V-I progression.

Resulting this chord progression :

Dm7 | G7 | CM7 | % |

Playing these chords will be boring in the long run, that's why we will replace the G7 by an altered dominant chord like G7#5, G7b5, G7b9, G7#9, Gb13 and the list goes on.

Resulting this chord progression :

Dm7 | G7alt | CM7 | % |

The dorian mode

The dorian mode is the second of the seven musical modes of the major scale. We will use this mode (D dorian) to play over the Dm7 chord in the lick below.

The dorian mode is a minor type scale because of its minor third (b3). It is often the first choice to play over minor chords and one of the most important scales to know for a jazz guitar player. This mode is made up of seven notes, including a minor third (b3) and minor seventh (b7).

Click here to see some dorian guitar diagrams.


Dorian mode formula

The altered scale

The altered scale (or super locrian scale) is the seventh mode of the melodic minor scale.  It contains two altered fifth (b5 and #5) and two altered ninth (b9 and #9). You can also consider the #9 as a b3, the b5 as a #11  and the #5 as a b13. This scale is used to play over 7th altered chords when you want to create tension in your jazz lines. It is a must know for any jazz player.

We will use this scale (G altered scale) to play over the G7alt chord in the lick below.

Click here to see some altered guitar patterns.

Altered scale

We can see :

  • D dorian mode over the Dm7 chord
  • G altered scale and passing tones over the G7alt chord.
  • Ending on the root of CM7

Once you have learnt this jazz line you must play it in different keys and find some new musical ideas.

The lick

II-V-I jazz guitar altered lick with tabs

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Comments (2)

  • 1. jazz-guitar-licks (link) | 28/02/2017


  • 2. juan-carlos | 27/02/2017

Hi theere. Thanks for the great material

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Last edited: 22/05/2017


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