First II V I chord voicing sets

You don’t really have to learn a thousand chords to play through some of the simpler standards. In this lesson I want to show how you can get through a few with just two sets of II V I chord voicings for a major II V I cadence.

The Chord voicings

The II V I is the most common cadence in Jazz, you’ll find it and variations of it all over the place. This makes is a good place to start if you want to learn and apply some voicings. The idea being that you can cover a lot of ground if you know how to play a II V I cadence.

The two II V I chord voicing sets that I suggest you check out to begin with would be these two cadences, shown in example 1 in the key of C major.

First II V I voicings ex 1

In example 1 I have notated not only the type of chord (maj7,m7 and dom7th) but also the extensions I use. I won’t do that later since it is in jazz open to interpretation how you choose to use the extensions for color.

If you want to check out how to learn a larger set of basic voicings you can check out my lesson: How to play Jazz Chords on Guitar Which cover all basic chord groups in a few versions and gives you all the tools you need to play pretty much any standard or jazz song.

Some technical exercises

To get started it is a good idea to get the voicings into your fingers and check them out in a few keys. One way of doing this is shoen in example 3 and 4 where I play the cadences down in whole steps across the neck.

First II V I voicings ex 2

First II V I voicings ex 3

Remember to not only learn to play the exercises but to also keep track of exactly what chord you’re playing and what key it’s in. Later when you start using the songs you need to be able to find the chords you need and they are not always in a II V I

Playing standards

The two most important things that we miss now is a minor cadence and a dim chord, but if the song does not contain that then you can probably play it with the 6 voicings I went over here.

To demonstrate that here are the voicings you’d need to play the Ellington/Strayhorn tune: Take the A-train:

First II V I voicings ex 4


When you try to play songs like this one you might have to ignore an extension or two, The 2nd chord in Take the A train is often written as a D7(#11), b5 or similar. For now the best way you can deal with it is to try with what you have and see if you can make it work. A similar solutuib is when you see a C6, you can get away with playing a Cmaj7.

Here are the voicings needed to play through the changes to Sonny Rollins Pent Up House.

First II V I voicings ex 5

You’ll notice that the song consists of a II V I progression and two II V’s.

As I mention in the video the changes played during the melody of this song a bit more complext than what is used in the solo.

Taking you comping further on Autumn Leaves

Expand your Chord Vocabulary with this lesson on the famous standard Autumn Leaves:

Autumn Leaves Comping – Lesson

If you want to download a PDF of the examples I went over here you can do so here:

First II V I voicings

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for topics or how I can make the lessons better then please feel free to leave on the video or  send me an e-mail. That is the best way for me to improve my lessons and make thme fit what you want to hear.

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