Tag Archives: ii v i jazz guitar

II V I – You Need To Practice This For Solos

The II V I progression is probably the most common chord progression in Jazz. In this video, I am going to go over some of the basic things that you need to practice and also how you take those basic tools and turn them into great material for a solo.

So that you can improvise over the chord changes so that your solos sound like Jazz and not just noodling in a scale.

What is a II V I?

If you look at the key of C major (play the scale)

then for each note in the scale you have a chord, this is what we call diatonic chords and for C major you have these chords:

The II V I is a chord progression that starts on II (Dm7) goes to V(G7) and resolves to (I) Cmaj7. So the II V I is a short progression to take us to the C major.

If you play the chords of a II V I a little closer together you could get something like this:

Next, let’s look at some exercises you can do on the progression to give you something to solo with.

How To Solo Over A II V I – Basic Arpeggios

When you improvise in Jazz then you are playing melodies that are related to the chords that are in the song. That means that if you have a chord progression like a II V I then you want to know the melodic version of the chords, which is the arpeggios.

That means that a great exercise is to practice those arpeggios on the chord progression. Something like this:

Notice that I am playing the arpeggios as one-octave arpeggios in the same position, that is an easy way to practice these and especially easy to connect them to a chord progression.

Making Scale Practice Useful and Practical

Practicing scales and arpeggios directly on a piece of music is super useful to get an idea about how they sound in context and when to use them in a solo. It’s a great exercise whenever you want to learn a song or learn to use something on a song.

If you solo with the arpeggios then that clearly connects with the chord changes, so already with these arpeggios, you can make strong licks like this:

The trick is to make sure that you really bring out the notes of the chord, and here I make the change of the chord extra clear because I put a not on the 1 of the bar which was not in the previous chord, so the B on G7 and the E on the Cmaj7.

The Most Important Scale Exercise

The way I am playing the arpeggios as one-octave melodies is something that you can practice on a scale. If you do that then you are working on being able to play all the arpeggios in that scale in one place and you are pretty much ready to do the previous exercise for any progression.

Later in the lesson, I will show you why this exercise quickly becomes a gigantic short cut to having much more material on any chord you want to solo on.

Use The Scale As Well

As you could see at the beginning of this video, the whole progression is in the key of C major, and if you want to solo then you can use the arpeggios but you can, of course, also use the rest of the notes in the scale, so before we start to add some Bebop tricks then we need the rest of the notes:


Again it makes sense to practice this on the progression and hear how it relates to the chords, and you can do that in a very easy way by adding scale notes around the arpeggios from example 4

Like this, you can still hear the scale over the chord, and you still have the chord tones as the important notes because they are on the beat. (Highlight in the example maybe just on the Dm7 bar)

Now you can make a lick like this:

So there are more options with melodies, and the chord tones are still used, especially on the heavy beats of the bar: beat 1 and 3 which still makes it pretty clear how the solo relates to the chord.

Chromatic Notes (Bebop Made Simple)

Besides playing lines that are spelling to the changes then using chromatic notes in your solos is another part of the Jazz sound.

You can put up complicated rules for this, but you can also just try to start making lines and adding a chromatic note before a chord tone like this:

Here the chromatic notes are before a chord tone to help pull the melody forward and also really connect with the chords.

  1. First C# before the D
  2. A# to go to B on G7
  3. D# to E on Cmaj7

You can also see how the chromatic notes are used to really make the change of chord clear

And you can also use chromatic approach notes to other notes that give you a sound like this:

Here you have some chromatic notes scale notes, not chord tones, and also some places where I am using a chromatic note to delay the note, for example at the beginning of the G7 bar.

More Amazing Arpeggio Ideas.

As I said earlier if you practice the arpeggios in the scale then you get access to a lot more material, in fact, more than twice as much.

Let me show you an example:

If you look at a Cmaj7 arpeggio or chord then the notes are:


When you solo on it then a line using the arpeggio sounds good because you are playing the same notes as the one playing the chords.

Since C E G B sounds good then the arpeggio from the 3rd of the chord works as well because that is mostly the same notes:


   E G B D

This trick you can do for all the chords in the II V I and then you get this exercise:

And you can take this material and make a lick like this:

And here I am using Fmaj7, Bø, and Em7 on the II V I, but you can also mix in the original arpeggios and there are a lot of options.

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II V I – When you want to sound different (in 8 ways)

The II V I is the most important and common chord progressions in Jazz.

But sometimes it is also nice to have some other ways of approaching this progression so that it sounds a little less predictable maybe even less like a II V I.

In this video, I am going over 8 ways to change the chords to get some new sounds, and I am only messing with the II and the I chord because I have a ton of other videos with different V chord options.

Of course, you can also take these examples and use them on a static chord if that fits the music you play better and you want to change it up a little.

Check out other videos on Reharmonization

Why Reharmonization Is For You And How To Get Started

Reharmonization – Are you getting it wrong?


0:00 Intro – Changing up the II V I sounds

0:20 8 Ways to change the sound of a 2 5 1

0:44 Example 1 – IImMAj7

0:59 What The Chords Sound Like and why that is important for solos….

2:29 Example 2 – IIø(9)

3:19 More Different Rhythms

3:36 Triplets Groupings

3:53 Example 3 – IIsus4(b9) – The Prhygian Chord

4:58 The Elephant In The Room

6:11 Example 4 – IIalt

7:04 8th note triplet groupings on altered dominants

7:45 Example 5 – Imaj7(#11)

8:47 Example 6 – Imaj7(#5)

9:29 Sneaking in Melodic Minor sounds

10:04 Triplet rhythms for medium swing – Hancock, Rosenwinkel, Mehldau

10:29 Example 7 – Imaj7(#9,#11)

11:43 Example 8 – Imaj7(#9,#5)

11:58 The Augmented Scale – That I never practiced

13:33 Like the video? Check out my Patreon Page

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Rootless Jazz Chords – 15 Beautiful Examples You Need To Know

If you want to play really interesting comping then you need to work with rootless jazz guitar chords so that you have the freedom to play more interesting and interactive things behind a soloist.

A good starting point to explore some useful II V I voicings. Focus on connecting the chords with some great melodies, rhythms, and inner-voice movement.

Traditional and more modern sounds working with some reharmonizations of the II V I as well.


0:00 Intro

0:23 Why You Use Rootless voicings

00:45 The Basic Position and II V I chord set

—- 3-note chords —-

0:54 #1 – A Strong Top-not melody is essential. You can always move from 7 to 6 on the I chord.

1:25 #2 – Let the Melody carry and drive the progression

1:53 #3 – You can have chromatic passing notes in the inner-voices as well. 6 to 5 on the I chord is another cool inner-voice

2:27 #4 – Incomplete altered dominant chords often work well (because the altered notes are clear enough)

2:58 #5 – busy chromatic melody  (but it is possible)

—- 4-note chords —-

3:27 #6 – You can also repeat a melody note

3:53 #7 – Make more layers by splitting the chord

4:20 #8 – A little more rhythm and a So-What voicing for the II Chord

4:49 #9 – Rich sounding 13b9 and Maj7(13) chords!

5:16 #10 – A little more rhythm and counter-movement on the II chord

—- Changing the Chord Sounds —-

5:45 #11 – Line cliche with Dm, DmMaj7, Dm7

6:17 #12 – C# dim chord to lead to G7

6:46 #13 – Ab7 to lead to G

7:15 #14 – Building the chord with the melody

7:42 #15 – Quartal Voicins and Clusters

8:09 Check out the 15 minor II V I video!

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Check out how to use Rootless chords on Autumn Leaves

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:

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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.

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