Minor II V I Cadences

In this lesson I want to give some insight into how I approach soloing over minor cadences. The lesson is built around 4 examples over a II V I in Dm. Em7b5 A7 Dm6/9 and I’ll explain what I use on the different chords and how I use it.

The Cadence

A minor II V I consist of a IIm7b5, a dominant and a minor tonic. In the case of D minor a cadence might look like this:

Minor II V I Cadences - ex 1

For this progression you’d typically play D natural minor or F major over the Em7b5 chord, D harmonic minor, Spanish Dominant (or one of the many other names for this scale) over the A7 and D melodic minor over the Dm6/9.

One of the things that many students find difficult in with the minor II V I in the beginning is probably that you need to change scale for more or less every chord. While there is not really a way around that, I find it helps to focus more on the chord than on the scale and think from that. In that way there are fewer notes to worry about than a complete scale where it is harder to keep the overview.

For the dominant there are more options than D harmonic minor, but that is the most natural in this context so I decided only to use that in this lesson. I have also chosen not to  make a line on the tonic chord. If you want to check out how to construct lines over tonic chords using melodic minor you can read this lesson: Melodic Minor – An Introduction

The scale charts are available as downloads on my site here: Pdf downloads and charts. The D minor harmonic that I am using is mostly this position though:

Minor II V I Cadences - ex 2

Minor II V I lines

Here are the 4 examples of lines to give you an idea of some of the arpeggios and melodic patterns I use when making lines like this. I have in this lesson tried to add a bit more rhythm to the lines instead of straight 8th note stuff. It is probably because I am always busy with harmony and notes that I don’t add too much rhythm to the examples, but I thought it fitted this quite well.

Minor II V I Cadences - ex 3In line no 1 the Em7b5 part is composed of a sequence of the Em7b5 arpeggio. I use arpeggio sequences quite often, mostly not for longer periods, since there isn’t room and also because it gets tedious very very fast, but I find it very useful to practice so that you don’t always just run up and down the arpeggio. I then encircle the 3rd of A. The arpeggio over the A7 is a diminished 7th arpeggio in inversion. In D harmonic minor the diatonic arpeggio on C# (the third of A7) is a C# dim arpeggio and I use that really a lot on dominants (This is probably something I took from Parker btw)  I resolve the arpeggio to the 5th of Dm.

Minor II V I Cadences - ex 4Line 2 begins with the Bbmaj7 arpeggio over the Em7b5. This is an arpeggio I use like that really a lot, since it starts with the b5 it is quite clear in the sound. You might notice that I very often use arpeggios with a leading note and then a triplet. That way of playing arpeggios is also quite Parkerish (as in Charlie Parker) and I recommend doing that with all your diatonic arps once in a while it is good practice and a useful thing to be able to do. On the A7 I am again using the diminished arpeggio this time starting on E and ending the line with a chromatic encircling of the 3rd of Dm.

Minor II V I Cadences - ex 5The third line is using a Gm7 arpeggio in a sequence before going in to the C# diminished and resolving to the 3rd of Dm. The Gm7 is quite good to use on the Em7b5, but often you have to be a bit careful with landing on the F, which does not sound so good if it is emphasized. In the Bbmaj7 arpeggio the F is in the middle of the  arpeggio which somehow makes it easier to use (in my experience anyway..)

The last example is again using the Em7b5 arpeggio but this time in an inversion. On the A7 I am using another good device: the C# augmented triad (diatonically it is actually an F triad, but it sounds like C# to me somehow). I then continue with a typical bebop approach of the 5th of Dm.

Minor II V I Cadences - ex 6

You can download the examples in pdf format here:

Minor II V I Cadences

I hope that you liked the lesson, and can use some of this information to make your own lines on minor II V I progressions.

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