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251 Jazz Guitar Licks

On this page you'll find jazz guitar licks that work for II V I chord progressions, try them in different keys and fretboard positions.

1) In this lick, there are two concepts that you can take out and explore further in the practice room.

  • The first is the lower-neighbor tone in bar one (between the notes D-C#-C), which is a common way of extending the length of a single note, by moving to a note one half-step lower and back again.
  • The second bar uses a G Half-Whole Diminished Scale, producing the b5, #9 and b9 intervals that produce an element of tension in that bar, which is then resolved to the 5th of Cmaj7 on the downbeat of the third bar.


Listen & Play

II V I Lick 1



2) Two things to notice in this cool-sounding 2 5 1 lick.

  • The first is the use of Fm7b5 over the G7 chord in bar two, which outlines the b7-b9-3-#5 of the G7 chord. Playing a m7b5 arpeggio one tone below the root of a 7th chord is a great way to bring an Altered sound to that chord, without simply running up and down the Altered Scale itself.
  • Also notice the use of the Lydian mode over the Cmaj7 chord in bar three, where the F# creates a bit of tension that is then resolved later in that same bar.


Listen & Play

II V I Lick 2



3) This 251 lick features a few chromatic passing notes in bar one that are worth checking out further, between the 4th and 5th as well as the b7 and root of the Dm7 chord. In bar two, you will notice the diminished sound returning, as we saw in lick one, only this time there is a Bdim7 arpeggio over the second half of the G7 bar. Playing Bdim7 over a G7 chord outlines the 3-5-b7-b9 of that chord, which is why this technique is often referred to as the “3 to 9 arpeggio,” and is an important tool in any jazz guitarist’s tool belt.


Listen & Play

II V I Lick 3



4) This lick uses a famous Bebop pattern in bar one, where you are starting on the #7 of the Dm7 chord, before running up the arpeggio with a triplet rhythm, and then resolving the b7 of Dm7 to the 3rd of G7. This lick is worth taking outside of this larger pattern and working in 12 keys as it can be a highly effective way to bring jazz vocabulary to your solos. As well, there is an enclosure in bar two (Ab-F#-G), around the root of the G7 chord, which is also an important Bebop technique to get under your fingers and into your jazz guitar improvisations.


Listen & Play

II V I Lick 4



5) The first bar of this lick uses a 3 to 9 arpeggio, as we saw earlier, only this time it is over the Dm7 chord. When playing over m7 chords, a great way to outline the changes but avoid the root of the chord is to play a maj7 arpeggio from the 3rd of that chord, Fmaj7 over Dm7 in this instance. As well, there is a slurred chromatic line in the second half of bar 2 that is reminiscent of Joe Pass and Pat Martino, who both use similar lines in their solos.


Listen & Play

II V I Lick 5


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