10 II V I Chord Embellishments – The Ultimate Guide

The most important chord progression in Jazz is probably the II V I. It is every where and we play it all the time. But if we play it all the time then it is also important to have a lot of different ways to play these jazz chords.

In this video I am going to take a look at 10 different ways you can embellish and add some variation to your II V I comping and chord melody playing.

The Examples on the II V I Chord Progression are different ways to use line-clichés, passing chords and secondary dominants.

#1 Stairway To Heaven

The first example is using the descending line-cliche associated with Stairway to Heaven or My Funne Valentine. This way of adding some extra movement and color to a II V I is a great addition to your chord melody or comping vocabulary.

#2 James Bond 

A similar and equally famous idea is this use of the line-cliché on the 5th of the minor chord.

In this example it is working great as a way to add a chromatic approach that lands on the V chord. Usually it is all on Dm and the movement A A# B is related to Dm. Here the B is used as a target and marks the transition to G7.

#3 Diatonic Passing Chords

Adding Diatonic Passing chords is a fantastic way to add movement to a chord progression. Notice that this way of comping the II V I would still work if the bass player is still playing a regular II V I bass line.

The Passing chords are really just adding two chords so that the progression walks up from Dm7 to G7. Looking for step-wise or 4th intervals in the bassline are both strong and common ways to add passing chords like this.

#4 Tritone Substitution

The Tritone substitution is a very powerful way to add some extra tension and color to a II V I cadence. In this example I am substituting a Db7 for the G7 and creating a top-note melody that helps move the progression along.

#5 Tritone II V Progression

Taking the tri-tone idea a step further is to substitute the G7 with a complete II V, so in this case an Abm7 Db7.

The idea is roughly speaking the same as #4 but instead of just using the Db7 it is now a complete II V: Abm7 Db7. 

This example is played as a continuous stream of chords and a great little chromatic inner-voice movement on the Cmaj7

#6 Secondary Dominants

A variation of the Tritone substitution is also to use it as a secondary dominant. In the example below I am using Ab7 to pull towards the G7. So here Ab7 is a tritone substitute of D7, the secondary dominant of G7.

#7 Borrowing Minor Cadence

Modal Interchange is a great way to add color to a cadence. When ever we use a G7(b9) in a II V I in C major it is actually a dominant that is borrowed from C minor.

In this example I am borrowing an entire cadence, so first a bar of Dm7 and then followed by the minor cadence Dø G7 before resolving to Cmaj7

#8 Chromatic Passing Chord

Chromatic Passing Chords are a really useful addition to your comping and chord melody vocabulary.

This example is approaching the G7 from a half-step below. The idea is to have an F#7 at the end of the Dm7 bar that then resolves to G7 in the second bar.

#9 Neapolitan Subdominant

The Neapolitan Subdominant is an overlooked way to color cadences. In this example I am using the Dbmaj7 as a way to add a different color and pull to the Cmaj7.

The Neapolitan Subdominant is a IVm chord with a bII in the bass, so it is Fm/Db. Which is also why it is a (minor) subdominant chord.

#10 Chromatic Resolution

Of course it is also possible to use Chromatic passing chords in the resolution to the I chord. 

This example uses the 2nd half of the G7 bar to introduce a Bmaj7 chord that is then used to create a chromatic approach to Cmaj7.

How To Use This Lesson

The way I think you can benefit from this material is probably to think about how I am playing the examples and try to insert that into your own comping or chord melody using your own voicings and songs.

In the end the best way to learn something new is to insert it into what you already play and use it when you are playing real music

Check out more Comping Ideas

If you want to check out how I comp and many of the ideas I use then check out this lesson on a 5 chorus example on Autumn Leaves:

Autumn Leaves Comping – Lesson

Get a free E-book

If you want to download a Free E-book of 15 II Valt I licks then subscribe to my newsletter:

Sign up for my newsletter

Download the PDF

You can also download the PDF of my examples here: 

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for topics then please let me know. Leave a comment on the video or  send me an e-mail. That is the best way for me to improve my lessons and make them fit what you are searching for.

Please subscribe to my YouTube channel and feel free to connect with me via Instagram,Twitter Google+ or Facebook to keep up to date with new lessons, concerts and releases.

Liked it? Take a second to support Me on Patreon!