5 Essential ii V I Jazz Guitar Licks

In this lesson we’ll be looking at 5 classic ii V I jazz guitar licks, in both major and minor keys, that you can use to bring a sense of jazz vocabulary into your lines and solos.

ii V I Lick 1

The first lick that we’ll look at is a Pat Martino style phrase that uses the C Dominant Bebop Scale over the first two bars, the Gm7 and C7 chords, before resolving to the Fmaj7 chord in bar three of the lick. Sometimes we think about the Dominant Bebop Scale as only being used over the V7 chord in a ii V I progression. But, since the iim7 and V7 chord are so closely related, you can often play one or the other over both chords, so focusing on Gm7 over Gm7-C7, or as in this case, playing C7 over both Gm7 and C7.

ii V I jazz guitar lick 1

ii V I Lick 2

The second lick is in the key of G minor, and uses a couple of interesting scale choices over both the V7alt and Im6 chords:

  • Over the V7alt chord, the line is built using the Altered Bebop Scale, where you take the 5th mode of Harmonic Minor and add in the Natural 7 passing note from the Bebop Scale. This is a cool-sounding and easy to play scale that you can explore further in your jazz guitar practice routine outside the context of this lick.
  • In bar 3, the lick uses a G Melodic Minor scale over the Gm6 chord. When playing in minor keys, many players will often choose the Melodic Minor scale over the tonic chord to emphasize the tonic sound of the Im6, ImMaj7 or Im7 chord.

ii V I jazz guitar lick 2

ii V I Lick 3

Here is a short ii V I lick in the key of G Major that uses some classic voice-leading ideas to connect each chord in the phrase. The first chord (Am7) leads from the b7 (G) to the 3rd (F#) of the next chord (D7). Moving from the b7 (of a iim7) to the 3rd (of the V7 chord) is a common and important way to voice-lead ii Vs.

ii V I jazz guitar lick 3

ii V I Lick 4

In this short minor-key ii V I lick in D minor, you find the same voice-leading technique from the previous example being used, only this time it is extended to the V7alt-Im6 relationship as well. To connect those two chords, the b9 (Bb) of A7alt is used to voice lead to the 5th (A) of Dm6.

ii V I jazz guitar lick 4

ii V I Lick 5

The last lick we’ll look at is a short chord-based ii V I in the key of F major that was written with Joe Pass in mind. Notice the V7alt sounds being produced over the C7 chord, that are then resolved into the Fmaj7 chord at the start of the second bar. A very cool and fun way to add a sense of tension and release to your chord soloing lines over ii V I progressions.

ii V I jazz guitar lick 5

  1. CésarMar 12, 2014 at 10:11 pm

    Good licks!

    • BetitoMar 11, 2016 at 5:24 am


  2. CésarMar 12, 2014 at 10:12 pm

    Beautiful licks!

  3. BjørnMar 12, 2014 at 10:36 pm

    I like this! Thank you!

  4. Ken NiehoffMar 12, 2014 at 11:19 pm

    Hi and thanks. I learn something from all the lessons and enjoy them.

  5. BillMar 13, 2014 at 12:25 am

    Beautiful Dirk!

  6. DrewMar 13, 2014 at 2:33 am

    I love the last lick with the chords.

  7. ManuelMar 13, 2014 at 2:50 am

    Great Ideas!!

  8. GordonMar 13, 2014 at 3:06 am

    Great licks Dirk.

  9. ThatsEarlBrotherMar 13, 2014 at 4:16 am

    Bop, the Bebop, is the presentiment of the unsuspecting masses whos dendrites will get or live unfulfilled in their ignorance.Love your lessons.E

  10. VonMar 13, 2014 at 4:42 am

    Simply nice to work with and experiment.

  11. RoyMar 13, 2014 at 6:01 am

    A very approachable lesson into jazz guitar.

  12. Erdman West IIIMar 13, 2014 at 6:55 am

    So cool! THANKS

  13. Roberto PagnottaMar 13, 2014 at 7:46 am

    Great ones!!

  14. JohnMar 13, 2014 at 8:20 am

    Beautiful and inspiring licks. Thanks for this Dirk!

  15. fandorMar 13, 2014 at 8:26 am

    J’adore ces leçons, dommage que le livres ne soient pas édités en Français.

  16. Paul GerardsMar 13, 2014 at 8:49 am

    Mooi man!! Prima zinnetjes die zo kunt toepassen!! Dirk ga zo door!! 😉

    • JohanMar 20, 2014 at 7:32 pm

      Ek verstaan Mooi Man, maar is “zinnetjes” Nederlands vir “Licks” in Afrikaans sou dit sinnetjies wees. Maak nogal sin.

  17. Dominique LJUBIMar 13, 2014 at 8:57 am

    Beautiful and creative licks, thank you !

  18. SilverfoxxMar 13, 2014 at 9:41 am

    Thanks Dirk & Matt
    Great Bop licks to add to the armoury.

  19. Dr Benny ChiyesuMar 13, 2014 at 10:32 am

    My eyes are begining to open to what seemed impossible. Thanks very much for helping me take my first baby steps even though the world says I am a man.

  20. MatouMar 13, 2014 at 1:20 pm

    Great introduction to the bebop scale which is still somewhat of a mystery to me.Thanks.
    A present I’m working my way through a work by Randy Vincent entitled, JAZZ GUITAR VOICINGS,Sher music company.–too advanced.
    Do you have suggestions which would help me develop this concept step by step?

  21. HarryMar 13, 2014 at 1:42 pm

    Nice licks, much appreciated BUT what would be GREAT is if you could play a bar or two of a standard, and fit one or two licks into it so that amateurs like us (or me, at least) could get a handle on how to start building an improvised solo into a melody…Any chance you could do this?

  22. DavidMar 13, 2014 at 3:17 pm

    Following on from the last comment, I think the examples are played faster than the average student can manage. Slow them down a little, please

  23. doniMar 13, 2014 at 3:22 pm


  24. Tokyo PatMar 13, 2014 at 4:20 pm

    I’ll be woodshedding with these with Summertime. It’s only been 30 years I’ve been messing with that song. I should get the two five one bit down someday.

    I have a dumb question . . . but it’s really important for me to understand so I will set my ego aside!

    You have notated these all as ii V I. But some of these are in minor keys. Shouldn’t those be ii V i?

    I really want to nail down how to handle these.

    Thanks for a great article and all the stuff you do.

  25. GillesMar 14, 2014 at 4:19 pm


    I don’t give comments enough but I truly learn and love your lessons. your team is doing very appreciated work. Thank you so much! In the name of all learning musicians

  26. angelineMar 15, 2014 at 10:44 pm

    This lessons were the best by far.

  27. PetrosMar 17, 2014 at 3:34 pm

    Thanx a lot, short but very useful knowledge

  28. GerardMar 18, 2014 at 6:36 pm

    The generosity of sharing these and ease of learning blows my mind. Thank you all!

  29. BernardMar 18, 2014 at 7:04 pm

    This is the type of work I particularly my humble level.
    thank you again

  30. David GrantMar 19, 2014 at 11:48 pm

    You may not believe it, your mini free courses are much more comprehensible than those paid lessons on the web.

  31. Stanley ChurchillMar 21, 2014 at 3:19 am

    This is nice. Some really beautiful sounds to add to my practice sessions. Thanks alot guys…………….oh, and my wife says THANK YOU. She’s enjoying listen to me practice………

  32. ArdyMar 21, 2014 at 11:44 am

    How would you explain harmonicaly the second chord of Gm7 in the fifth lick? It looks like a quartal harmony chord (m7/11 chord).

    • Matt WarnockMar 21, 2014 at 11:47 am

      Yeah, that’s just a 4th chord, so Gm11, common shape used by Joe Pass, Wes and others in this type of lick.

  33. John ColuccioMar 24, 2014 at 12:51 am

    Love the Kenny Burrell lick

    • BobJun 7, 2014 at 3:01 am

      Which lick was the Kenny Burrell style? I just started listening to Kenny and really
      Like his style. Thx.

  34. AJMar 27, 2014 at 8:03 pm

    Love Joe Pass and loved that last lick

  35. Carl SandhojApr 9, 2014 at 9:43 am

    Your site is nothing less than a goldmine….without the diggin`… just grab, rehearse,develope your own skil…and versions ….and use!!

    Great ….Thank`s

    • stanley westerborgMay 6, 2014 at 12:55 am

      you’re completely right, Carl. very nice remark.

  36. stanley westerborgMay 6, 2014 at 12:52 am

    very nice. it’s giving us a push in the right direction. like it!!

    Stanley Westerborg

  37. ALMay 31, 2014 at 3:07 pm

    Dirk –iam feeling the 2,5,1,now–Thanks

  38. Randy KatzJun 8, 2014 at 8:55 am

    just sight read them w/o my guitar, excellent, thanks!

  39. GrahamJul 11, 2014 at 9:10 am

    Great licks! Cool sounds! I love your lessons which are pitched at just the right level.

  40. EarlJul 20, 2014 at 11:53 am

    Great licks, I have found them very useful

  41. bluphystedSep 4, 2014 at 11:26 pm

    Is there a way to loop the lick? It would be easier to learn if it just continued.

  42. StigJan 20, 2015 at 12:22 am

    Nice and inspiring licks. Thanks!

  43. arvydasJan 30, 2015 at 2:24 pm


  44. RONApr 26, 2015 at 5:29 pm


  45. PeterJun 19, 2015 at 2:00 am

    Thank you for the sweet licks!
    I keep a running ‘library’ of my favourites… added them! Cheers!

  46. antonio ferreiraJul 13, 2015 at 5:06 pm

    Bueno para estudiar.

  47. OhmAug 24, 2015 at 8:59 am

    Thank you is lick 2 use sliding or pull off finger

    • Matt WarnockAug 24, 2015 at 9:02 am

      Hey, thanks. It can be slides or hammers/pull-offs. Try both and see what works best for you. Cheers.

  48. MattNov 22, 2016 at 8:44 pm

    Thanks for sharing this with us.

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