II V I chord progressions are the bread and butter of jazz, that’s why every jazz musician should be able to navigate these changes well. In this lesson you’ll learn 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.
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ii V I Lick 1 (Major)
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.
The dominant bebop scale is a Mixolydian Scale with a descending chromatic note between the root and the b7.
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 (in this case, playing C7 over both Gm7 and C7).
ii V I Lick 2 (Minor)
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 D altered bebop scale, where you take the 5th mode of the harmonic minor scale 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 Lick 3 (Major)
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 Lick 4 (Minor)
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 Lick 5 (Major)
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 altered scale sounds being produced over the C7 chord, that are then resolved into the Fmaj7 chord at the start of the second bar. This is a fun way to add a sense of tension and release to your chord-soloing lines over ii V I progressions.