The minor 2 5 1 is difficult because you need more scales for it and the m7b5 and dom7(b9) chords are sounds we are less familiar with. But you can actually get started improvising on this progression quite easily and both nail the changes and play something that sounds like music and not just exercises.
In this video, I am going to go over how you can get more used to the chords and start improvising building from 2 arpeggios and adding the rest along the way, step by step.
Learn the chords, Play Them and Listen to Them
The first step here is really simple: Let’s play the chords of a II V I in G minor.
This is really quite simple if you want to improvise over the chords then you want to know what they sound like. Playing them will help you hear how the harmony is moving and feel the time, all basic but very useful stuff.
Play this a few times:
Then you can start playing some other rhythms and add a little interpretation to it like this, where ou get a little more used to it then you can try to change it up a little, add some rhythm, and a leading chord.
Arpeggios and how to solo with them
Now you have played the chords a few times and you have an idea about how they sound.
I am going to show you 2 arpeggios and a trick that will help you nail the changes on this progression.
First, you need an Aø Arpeggio
and then you need a Gm6 arpeggio:
A “Hack” for the D7(b9)
Now you are probably wondering what to do with the D7 chord since there is no arpeggio for it, but that is pretty simple.
Since you already know the Aø arpeggio then the arpeggio that you can use for the D7 is the same notes except that you change the G to an F# like this:
I know that this sort of makes this 3 arpeggios and not two, but for my students, this really has worked very well so maybe give it a shot
Practice them on the progression
Let’s go over these on the progression. Here are two exercises, but you can explore it more if you want to.
A basic version could be this:
And a descending variation to also check out the upper part of the arpeggios:
How To Solo with the arpeggios
Now you can start practicing to make lines with these arpeggios and it is really really easy to make the D7 clear because there is only one note changing: G becomes and F# so for now just try to hit that F# on the 1 of the D7 bar, then you can hear in your solo how the chord changes.
In the same way, try to make melodies that smoothly move from the D7 to the Gm6 by picking notes that are close to each other when you go from one chord to the next.
You can hear me play these examples in the video, both rubato and in time.
In the example below you can see how I move from G to F# to emphasize the D7 and from Eb to D to really bring out the resolution to Gm6:
Similar to the previous one, but now resolving to Bb on the Gm6:
And the final example that is again spelling out the D7(b9) by playing the F# on beat 1 and resolving to the 5th of Gm6.
As you can hear you in the last example, you can also change chord on the 4 and which is a nice change from just hitting the downbeat.
Try to play these and then try to make your own lines, in the beginning then just hit that F# on the D7 so you can really hear that change.
Adding the Scales
Now we can add the scale notes around the notes we already have.
There are three scales in use on the minor II V I:
Aø is from Bb major, or G natural minor
D7 is from G harmonic minor
Gm6 from G melodic minor
You can play them through the progression like this:
But you also want to check out the complete scale positions, so for Aø:
And for Gm6:
Small note on CAGED or 3NPS
You may have noticed that this is actually using CAGED positions which I don’t normally use, but the Student that I originally made this for was using those so I kept the whole thing in that system. In the end, scale fingering systems are not that important🙂
Licks with Scales and Arpeggios
With this material, you can add notes around the arpeggio notes. In the added notes are mostly used as melodic passing notes.
The second example again illustrates how you can change to the next chord on the 4&, both on the D7 and on the Gm6.
Put this into a song
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