The minor II V I can be a difficult chord progression to play on and have a varied vocabulary on. In this video I am going to go over how you can approach it in several different ways with Phrygian Chords, Melodic minor and Tritone Substitutions.
In the video I will demonstrate the different Minor II V I approaches and talk about how to use them both in terms of comping, voicing choices et and also soloing and arpeggios.
I also talk a bit about what will fit with the melody of a piece.
The I VI II V is one of the most common progessions in jazz. In this lesson I am going to go over 10 variations of it and discuss how some of the different substitutions work and how you put them together.
As I mention in my first lesson on turnarounds and the one on Rhythm changes a I VI II V is in fact an embellished version of a I V progression. It’s very good to keep this in mind, not only for high tempo solos but also just to understand what the basic structure and the point of the turnaround is.
All the examples in this lesson are made on a turnaround in C major.
The basic I VI II V is shown in example 1:
The first chord that we use a substitution for is the Am7. Since Am7 to Dm7 is a sort of dominant root movement we can change the Am7 into an A7. The A7 to Dm7 is then an auxiliary dominant resolving to a minor chord so the scale that works for that is D minor harmonic. The modal name for that type of dominant sound is A7(b9,b13).
A few variations on the VI chord
This is shown in example 2:
Since we need to move from C to Dm7 we can also choose to substitue the Am7 with a dim passing chord. In this case it will be a C#dim that will function the same as the A7 in example 2, and you should use the same scale to play over it or add extensions to it. The reason for using the C# dim is to get a nice chromatic stepwise bass line.
Changing the tonic chord
Now that we have a few options for the VI we can start using a substitute for the I chord. The most common version of this is to use the III chord instead of the I chord. For soloing there is very little difference between the two, but in a progression the III chord is not nearl as much of a resting point as the I chord. Furthermore it moves to the VI resolving a 5th down so it adds more forward motion in the bass as well.
You’ll notice that the III does not have a natural 9th in the chord. This is because that is a note that is not in the scale so it will sound a little out of place. In some situations it is ok to use it and in others it may clash with the melody or the soloist.
To make the pull back to the I chord at the end of the progression we can alter the V. There are two options for this, you can borrow the dominant from C harmonic minor which gives us a G7(b9,b13) or simply use the altered scale (Ab melodic minor).
The Em7 is pulling the progression forward where the I is making it rest, making the Em7 a dominant chord is away to make that pull stronger. A dominant is always more unstable sounding and especially since it is not in the key it will give us the feeling that we want to move forward.
You should notice that you need an E7alt or E7(b9,b13) to not clash with the melody that you’d expect on a turnaround in C.
In example 6 I am using the E7, and I also changed the Dm7 to a D7 to get a complete chain of dominants that is pulling to the tonic.
Since we can use an E7alt we can also use the tritone substitution of that chord. This gives us a bass note that is not even in the key which makes it even more unstable than the E7 and gives it much more forward direction. This is a personal favourite of mine, it isn’t used that often as a turnaround in an AABA form, but it does happen quite often in places where there is an extension at some point.
Now we have a few variations of dominant chains. First we can add a tritone substitution for the G7: Db7.
And if we don’t use the Bb7 but use the E7 and a tritone substitue for A7: Eb7. Then we get this chromatically descending line in example 9
Ladybird Turnaround and the gateway to Giant Steps
The final example is a little left by itself. You can look at this turnaround as a gateway to Giant Steps. In the lady bird turnaround usually you use the I chord, and the tritone subs for A7 and G7. The Dm7 is replaced with an Abmaj7, and the way this works is that we let the Eb7 resolve as a normal dominant to Abmaj7 instead of as a tritone resolving to Dm7. Abmaj7 is related to C major as a bVI borrowed from C minor. You’ll find that in some standards as well.
To shortly connect this to Giant steps you should notice that we are in C and that we modulate down to Ab. If you continue that cycle you get a Giant Steps progression in the key of C:
Cmaj7 Eb7 Abmaj7 B7 Emaj7 G7 Cmaj7
I don’t know if this is where Coltrane got the idea, but it is certainly a possibility.
That was 10 variations of the turnaround. As you can see you can easily make more different variation, but they will start to resemble each other a bit more.
I think it is important to be able to recognise that something is just a turnaround and to know the different versions so that you can easily sum up pieces that are mostly turnarounds and that you already reading the piece have a sense of how it works.
If you want to see some examples of lines on these turnarounds then leave a comment on YouTube or social media and let me know!
You can also check out my WebStore lesson on comping on How High The moon:
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.
The 3rd lesson in my series on turnaround is about how you deal with tritone substitution and altered dominants. I’ll try to give you an idea about what scales and arpeggios to play, and in the Etude I’ll also try to give demonstrate how I use it, notes to aim for and other useful tips.
The main turnaround that this lesson is about is the first 2 bars of example 1, where the IV is replaced by a tritonesubstitution: Db7. If you are familiar with my lessons on altered dominants and tritone substitution you will know that the progression is almost identical to the one shown in the next line where I use G7 instead of Db7, the same holds for the F7 which could be replaced by a B7.
Let’s first go over the scales: Since the progression as a whole is in the key of Bb we use the Bb major scale on the Bbmaj7 chord and the Cm7 chord.
For the Db7: A tritone substitution is approached as an Lydian Dominant, so that would make the root of the chord the 4th degree in a melodic minor scale. That means that we get Ab melodic minor. You should notice that Ab melodic minor is the same as G altered too.
The same is true for the F7alt: F# melodic minor, and it could be seen as B lydian dominant too.
Now that we have scales for all the chords we can chose a few arpeggios for each one. For the Bbmaj7, Db7 and Cm7 chords I am using the arpeggio of the chord it self and an arpeggio that is a diatonic 3rd above or below the root of the chord. This is because that way this arpeggios will have a lot of common notes with the chord and fit it very well.
For the F7 we have the issue that the diatonic chord in the scale is an Fm7b5 which is not that useful or strong on an F7. The way I chose to fix this was to use the diatonic arps of the tritone substitute (B7, the 2nd arpeggio) and the 3rd of B7 (Ebm7b5). Those both contain both 3rd and 7th so that they convey the sound of the F7 really well.
In my experience you learn more from sitting down and trying to work on writing strong lines than just copying other peoples lines, so you should consider trying to analyze the things that I do in this etude and use them in you own lines. That way you really train your ear and your taste, two very important aspects of improvising.
The first turnaround is simply starting with a Bb major triad and the works up the scale to hit the Ab on the Db7. On the Db7 the line consists of an Abm triad which is a good upperstructure for that chord (try playing a Db7(9) chord). On the Cm7 the melody descends down an Ebmaj7 arpeggio and continues down an GbmMaj7 arpeggio on the F7alt.
I often use the “Coltrane” patter in fast moving progressions like this. In the 2nd turnaround the melody on the Bb is an F major Coltrane pattern: F G A C which works very well with a Bbmaj7. On the Db7 it continues with a smal scale run that leads in to the Cm7 arpeggio in inversion over the Cm7. The line on the F7alt is really a sort of F# minor cliche melody that is a minor version of the Coltrane pattern, relative to F# it is 1,2,b3 and 5. Here it’s played descending.
The Gb of the F7alt resolves nicely to an F on the next Bbmaj chord. The melody continues up a Dm7 arpeggio in inversion. The Db7 line is using a Bmaj7 shell voicing arpeggiated with in a melodic way. The idea on the Cm7 and F7 is connected by using the Coltrane minor pattern on the Cm7 (1,b3,4,5) and then continuing with that idea using the B major Coltrane pattern on the F7. This is a good example how the interchanging between altered dominant and tritone substitute can give you some melodic ideas that you would maybe not otherwise arrive at.
On the last turnaround the Bbmaj7 line is a Dm triad which is followed by an Ab minor triad on the Db7. This time the Ab minor triad is played so that it resolves to the 5th of Cm7. On the Cm7 it is first ascending up an Ebmaj7 arp in inversion and then resolves down an Ebm7b5 on the F7alt and finally ending on the 3rd(D) of Bb.
As always you can download the examples I used as a pdf here:
I hope that you liked the lesson. If you have any questions or comments then feel free to leave them here or on the video. Please subscribe to my YouTube channel and feel free to connect with me via Instagram, TwitterGoogle+ or Facebook to keep up to date with new lessons, concerts and releases.
Tritone substitution is a good way to add some new ideas to your II V I lines. It is very closely related to using altered dominants, but the fact that you think another chord will also give you some new melodic ideas. In this lesson I’ll try to briefly explain how it works and also what scales and arpeggios to use before I put that to use in some examples.
Tritone Substitution – Scales and Arpeggios
Let’s first look at what a tritone substitution is, in this lesson I’ll do my examples in the key of G major, though it works just as well in minor of course.
The easy way to look at this is to notice that with shell voicings for dominants (see 3rd bar of example 1) you can change the root but keep the rest of the chord, so the 3rd and 7th of a dominant chord are shared between two roots a tritone substitution. In this example that shows that the tritone substitution of D7 is Ab7, and if you play through example 1 you can hear how it will work in the II V I cadence. You will also probably notice that it is not that effective if the dominant does not resolve to a I chord.
So now we have a new option for a chord and a way to place it in a tonal context. The next thing we need to look at is which scales we can use when improvising over it. In example 2 I’ve listed first the key of G major and then the Eb Mel minor and Db Major scale. THe G major scale is mostly there for a reference to the key and not for the Ab7 chord. If you’ve checked out my lesson: Melodic Minor – Lydian Dominants You could observe that the Ab7 is a dom 7th chord that does not resolve a 4th up (or 5th down) so in that way it is a lydian dominant and you can use Eb melodic minor over it. That is the 2nd scale in example 2. Another option would be to just observe that Ab7 is the dominant in Db Major and therefore we can use that scale over it. This is the 3rd scale in example 2.
Now we have the scales let’s just quickly go over a few arpeggios. In example 3 I basically move up in diatonic 3rds and list the arpeggio for each note, which is the first way you should look for arpeggios over a chord in any scale, then you need to evaluate each note and try to deal with avoid notes as landing notes when you use the arpeggios. In the example I have only used the Eb Mel min scale, but if you want to do the same.
Example lines with Tritone Substitutions
The first example line is a fairly basic line just to show what the sound of the Ab7 chord can already do in the line. The Am7 line is an Em7 arpeggio (arpeggio from the 5th of Am) followed by a scale run. On the Ab7 I first play a pattern of the Ab7 arpeggio and then another scale run ending with a chromatic encirclement of the 5th(D) of Gmaj7 where it resolves.
In the 2nd example I am using the Ab7 chord as if it is from the Db major scale. Which gives us a Db in the scale which is a bit further away from the G major tonality. On the Am7 chord the line is a melodic sequence of a Cmaj7 arpeggio which sort of changes into an Em pentatonic scale run. On the Ab7 I first play a Ebm7 arpeggio and then run down the scale before resolving to the 3rd (B) of Gmaj7.
The 3rd example again using the Eb minor melodic on the Ab7 chord. The line over the Am7 is constructed by first an Em7 shell voicing and then an Am7 triad in 1st inversion. On the Ab7 I first play a pattern of the GbMaj7(#5) arpeggio and then descend through a Cm7b5 arpeggio before resolving to the 5th (D) of Gmaj7.
If you want to download the examples for later study I have them here as a PDF:
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