Tag Archives: II V I licks

Writing Jazz Licks – The Best Way To Teach Yourself Jazz Guitar

Using the things that we licks, scales and arpeggios we practice is a big challenge! The best way to get new material in to you vocabulary is to write jazz licks with it! That way we connect the new material with all the things we already know.

In this video I am going to show you how I write jazz guitar licks on a simple II V I in Bb major.

I will try to demonstrate the process and the thinking and write a few variations of the licks. This should illustrate how I apply different things in my jazz improvisation. In the process I will write 5-6 II V I jazz licks in the key of Bb with arpeggios, chromatic enclosures and altered dominants.

The II V I progression

In this lesson the II V I that I am using is a II V I in Bb as shown below.

II Chord and the arpeggio

To keep it simple let’s start with the Cm7 arpeggio. Since the line is going to be in 8th notes we have now covered half of the bar. To fill the bar it is probably better to decide where we want to go. So that would be a target note ofn the F7.  

The clearest target note on the F7 is probably the 3rd(A), so let’s go with that one.

Cm7 licks – Target notes

Now we just have to come up with a few ideas that will take us to that A.

Here’s a simle chromatic enclosure:

You can also use a small fragment from a pentatonic scale, in this case the Gm pentatonic scale:

Another option is a Bb major scale run:

Or an enclosure that contains a few more chromatic notes but also introduces a stronger pull towards the A.

If we think of these examples as exercises in using the Cm7 arpeggio then what we are doing is that we are practicing making playable melodies that move logically to the F7 and are using the Cm7 arpeggio.

The V chord – Adding the Dom7th chord.

Now we can start using one of the lines on the Cm7 and focus on the F7 line.

In this first example I am using an Am7b5 arpeggio in inversion and then the F7 arpeggio to target the 3rd(D) of Bbmaj7.

The second example is now using a motif idea on the F7. The first part of it is still the Am7(b5) inversion. That is then treated as a motif and the 2nd part of the line is a development of that melody. The development ends up being an Eb major triad and an F.

The Altered Dominant

We can also use an F7alt. In the line below I start with a small scale movement in 3rds in the F altered (or F# melodic minor) scale. From there I am using the B major triad before I resolve to the 3rd(D) of Bbmaj7.

A different altered dominant line is what I have in example 1. The Altered idea in this line is first a skip up a minor third to Db then down the scale to Ab. From Ab I use a fragment from the Ab minor or B major pentatonic scale: Ab Gb, Eb, D. Over an F7 gives us #9, b9, b7, b13 and since it is a part of a pentatonic scale it sounds a little different. It also leads directly to D which it encircles with Eb and Db. 

In the next example I am using part of the line as a motif. This allows me to be repeating the idea in a developed version in the second hald of the bar. The motif that I use is a B7 arpeggio played descending. It is the developed by moving it up a diatonic 3rd to Db. From there it becomes a descending Ebm7b5 arepggio that then neatly resolves to D on the Bb.

You can of course also use a stack of 4ths. In this case I am using the stack of 4ths that is the top part of an F7#9 chord (see diagram in the video). The arpeggio is inserted right after the A, target note on the F7. From the last note the line continues with a descending scale run to resolve to the 3rd(D) of Bbmaj7.


Hopefully  you can use the things that I went over here as an inspiration for your own writing process. As I mention in the beginning, I find that making your own lines is essential in the process of internalizing new material. I aim for this lesson to show you, not only what I use but also how I think about target notes and use different strategies to come up with melodies.

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

You can also download the PDF of my examples here:

Writing Jazz Licks

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for topics or how I can make the lessons better 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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5 Quartal Harmony licks

An important part of more modern sounding jazz solos is often the use of quartal harmony. In this lesson I am going to take 2 exercises and 5 examples of how I use quartal harmony and demonstrate how you can incorporate the sound into your own playing.

Two exercises and a II Valt I cadence

I have a few lessons on quartal harmony already that you can check out if you want to explore further into the sound both as arpeggios and chords. Here is a lesson on using the arpeggios in solos: Quartal harmony in solos

In this lesson I am first going over to simple exercises of diatonic stacks of 4ths in F major and Db melodic minor (which is the same as C altered). I am then going to use this material in the 5 examples, all on a II Valt I in F major.

Quartal arppeggios are constructed by stacking 4ths in the scale.  When we build chords in a scale we ususally start with 3rds, so in F major if I start from a G. I get:

G A Bb C D E F G – so a G minor triads; G Bb D

If we use quartal harmony we stack 4ths:

G A Bb C D E F G so the stack of 4ths from G is G C F

If we use this structure as an arpeggio that we can move through the scale and play it up the neck on the D,G and B string set we get:


And using the same principle to play the diatonic stacks of 4ths in Db melodic minor:


A few of the arpeggios in the last example are a bit unusual especially the one on the 7th degree of the scale (C) which is actually a C7 shell voicing. The one on the 4th(Gb) is also a not found in the major scale version.

5 Quartal harmony licks

The first example  starts with a Gm7 arpeggio and then continues into a quartal arppgegio from the D which is played in a pattern from the G. The C7alt line is based around an inversion of a Bbm7(b5) arpeggio (Check out this lesson for more ideas: The Altered Scale in Three Approaches) and then resolving scalewise down to the 5th of the Fmaj7 chord.


In the second example, here below, I am starting with a stack of 4ths from the C. You might recognize that as a fairly common Gm11 voicing. From there the line continues with a descending scale run.  On the C7alt the line is starting with a trill using the #9 and the 3rd of C. From there it continues with a line derived from the Db minor triad and resolves via the #9 an octave higher to the 5th(C) of Fmaj7.


Of course we can also use the quartal arpeggios on the altered dominant since we have the material from example 2.

The third example starts with a Dm7 arpeggio that is used to target and highlight the Bb on beat 3. From there the line continues with a descending scale to the 3rd(E) of C. On the C7 we first have a stack of 4ths from the E which is infact the equivalent of a C7(#9) sound. This is a diagonal line on the fretboard and we can actually flip it around and use that as a descending pattern. On this string set that gives us a Gb major triad. This trick works really well in diminished contexts as well. The altered line is the stepwise resolved to the 3rd(A) of Fmaj7.


Another good stack of 4th idea for the C7alt is to use the one on Ab because it gives us a lot of colourful notes: Ab,Db,Gb – (b13,b9,b5).

The line the on the Gm7 is based on a Gm7 arpeggio with a scale note added here and there. On the C7alt I start with the stack of 4ths from Ab, which you could also think of as a Dbsus4 triads. The line then continues with a Bbdim triad and resolves to the 5th(C) of Fmaj7.


In the final example I am using several quartal arpeggios and also making use of that they are 3 note groups to create a cross rhythm in the line.

The example starts out with a scale run down from Bb to G. From the G and from the A we have two quartal arpeggios that work well over Gm7. Over C7 we can use two other stacks of 4ths a half step higher so from Ab and Bb. This means that I can make a pattern of three notes with the bottom notes being G, A, Ab, Bb all with 3 notes in each arpeggio. This gives us a period of 3 note groupings creating osme nice rhythmical tension on top of the meter. The line and the cross rhythm is resolved by encircling the 3rd of F chromatically and resolving on the 1.



That was a few examples of how I use quartal harmony in my playing. When you work on this you will of course get something out of checking out my lines, but don’t forget that you will probably learn more form trying to l take the concept of my examples and make your own lines combining the things you already know. That is also how I work.

If you want to support my videos and check out more examples of how I use quartal harmony and other more modern devices in my solos check out this solo lesson in my webstore:

There will never be another you – Reharmonization Solo

If you want to study the examples I went over in the lesson you can of course also download them as a pdf here below:


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 them fit what you want to hear.

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.


Sign up for my newsletter – Get the II V I Ebook

You can get the Free Ebook with 15 II Valt I licks via e-mail and stay up to date with new things happening, lessons, album releases etc. Join 12000 other Jazz Guitarists!

Sign up and join the community by entering and confirming via the e-mail sent to your e-mail address. The weekly newsletter also gives you access to more free PDF downloads of chord and solo exercises.

If you are having trouble with the sign up then let me know by mail: info@jenslarsen.nl

The E-book is in a PDF format so you will need a PDF reader of some sort to open it.

About the book

The E-book has a few different approaches to making altered dominant lines and I explain how the licks are constructed. For each lick, I discuss the arpeggios and melodic ideas that I use. This should help you get started writing your own II Valt I licks. And you can of course also check out some of my other lessons on altered dominants if you want some more inspiration!

I very much hope you enjoy my E-book with II Valt I licks!

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