What is a minor ii v i progression min

What is a Minor II-V-I Progression and How To Improvise Over?

What is a minor ii v i progression minWhat is a minor II V I Progression?

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.

You will find minor II V I progressions 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...



The minor 2 5 1 progression is based on the C harmonic minor scale. We are now going to build chords from this scale.

The chords are built by stacking thirds, thus giving :

  • 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). When grouped together they form the minor II-V-I progression. 

Basic modes & scales

Let's take a look at the three basic scales 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
Formula 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 7
Intervals W H W W H W+H H

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
Formula 1 b2 b3 4 b5 6 b7
Intervals H W W H W+H H W


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
Formula 1 b2 (b9) 3 4 5 6 b7
Intervals H W+H H W H W W

What Scales To Use Over a minor II V I Chord Progression?

Theoretically, you could simply play 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 other ideas to spice up your improvisations and embellish your lines.

Over the iim7b5 Chord (Dm7b5)

Locrian Mode

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
Formula 1 b2 b3 4 b5 b6 b7
Intervals H W W H W W W


Half-Diminished Arpeggio

An half-diminished arpeggio consists in playing the first, minor third, flat fifth and minor seventh of the Locrian scale.

Dm7b5 arpeggio D F Ab C
Formula 1 b3 b5 b7


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
Formula 1 2 b3 4 b5 b6 b7
Intervals W H W H W W W


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
Formula 1 b2 b3 4 b5 5 b6 b7
Intervals H W W H H H W W


Over the V7(b9) Chord G7?

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)

Bdim7 arpeggio B D F Ab
Formula 1 b3 b5 bb7


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.

Altered scale

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
Intervals H W H W W W W


Over the im Chord (CmMaj7)

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
CmM7 arpeggio 1 X b3 X 5 X 7


C melodic minor scale C D Eb F G A B
Formula 1 2 b3 4 5 6 7
Intervals W H W W W W H


C aeolian mode C D Eb F G Ab B
Formula 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 7
Intervals W H W W H W+H H

Minor II-V-I jazz guitar lick | Locrian mode and altered scale

D Locrian over Dm7b5 chord and altered scale over G7alt, ending on the fifth of Cm(Maj7).

  • 40 II V I Jazz Guitar Licks NEW

    This pdf method for guitar contains 40 II V I jazz guitar lines with tab, standard notation, analysis, scale charts and audio files.
  • 40 Minor (Dorian) Jazz Guitar

    This printable guitar method in PDF format contains 40 easy minor jazz guitar lines based on the Dorian mode for building effective improvised solos.
  • 101 Dominant Arpeggio Patterns

    This printable PDF method provides 101 dominant arpeggio exercises with tab, theory and standard notation for the jazz, blues and rock guitarist.
  • 40 Major Jazz Guitar Licks

    Printable PDF eBook method containing 40 major jazz guitar licks with tab, standard notation and audio files for beginners and intermediates.
  • 49 Essential Jazz Lines

    This printable eBook method in PDF format provides 49 jazz solo transcriptions of the greatest jazz musicians of all times with TABS, standard notation, audio files and analysis both for guitar teachers and students.
  • Mastering Pentatonic Scales

    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.
  • 50 II-V-I voicings

    This guitar method is a printable PDF eBook contains 50 exercises with audio files, analysis, tab & standard notation on how to play over II-V-I chord progressions using different kind of voicings.
  • 11 blues jazz studies

    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.
  • Mastering the altered scale

    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.
  • 40 Blues Dominant patterns

    This printable method is available as a PDF file containing 40 easy dominant jazz-blues guitar lines with tabs, standard notation, analysis, audio files and scale charts.
  • 25 Soul Jazz Guitar Licks

    You will find here an eBook available in PDF containing 25 soul jazz and hard bop guitar licks 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.
  • 25 Diminished Patterns

    This eBook PDF with audio files contains 25 dominant diminished jazz guitar patterns using the half-whole diminished scale and diminished 7th arpeggios.
  • 6 Tritone substitution licks

    The tritone substitution is explained through 6 jazz guitar licks with tabs/notation, youtube video links. Printable PDF eBook.

minor II-V-I jazz guitar lesson minor II-V-I jazz guitar licks minor II-V-I scales minor II-V-I soloing minor II-V-I improvisation