5 Essential ii V I Jazz Guitar Licks

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.

C dominant bebop scale diagram

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 jazz guitar lick 1

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.

 

D altered bebop scale diagram

 

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.

 

G melodic minor scale diagram

ii V I jazz guitar lick 2

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 jazz guitar lick 3

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 jazz guitar lick 4

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.

 

ii V I jazz guitar lick 5

 

 

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  • David George says:

    New inspiration for my tired ii V I licks! Thanks. I do want to point out a slip-up in lick 2 that could confuse people who are trying to sort out all the scale choices over the V7. The text and the diagram accurately say/show that the line is built from the D altered bebop scale. However, that’s derived from the 7th mode of the Eb melodic minor scale, not the 5th mode of the harmonic minor as stated. The 5th mode of the HM in this case is called the D phrygian dominant scale. It can also be a bebop scale with the same natural 7 added. The scale contains the notes D, Eb, F#, G, A, Bb, C, C#.

    • matt says:

      Thanks for checking out the lesson, yes I use the term “altered bebop” because it’s a bebop scale that fits over a 7alt chord. There’s no real name for that scale, so this describes how it’s used. Just fyi.

  • Michael Hendry says:

    Technical problem with the website – please forward appropriately.

    I use the Safari browser on my iMac with a Magic Mouse and had no problems until recently (perhaps after upgrading to Mac OS High Sierra?). I now find that I can’t scroll up and down in the usual way by drawing my finger back and forward over the mouse.

    Your website is the only one I’ve encountered that behaves in this way, and I’ve found by experiment that I can scroll if I hold down the control key.

    There is no problem if I use the FireFox browser.

    I’ve tried Googling for a solution, but those posing this question have the same problem on all websites.

    • Dirk Laukens says:

      Hi Michael, that’s weird, I’ll check if there’s a solution…

  • Matt says:

    Thanks for sharing this with us.

  • Ohm says:

    Thank you is lick 2 use sliding or pull off finger

    • Matt Warnock says:

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

  • antonio ferreira says:

    Bueno para estudiar.

  • Peter says:

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

  • RON says:

    I ALWAYS LIKE TO COMMENT WHEN I FIND SOMETHING VERY INTERESTING AND USEFUL BUT HAVING READ ALL THE ABOVE COMMENTS, I AM LOST FOR WORDS. THANK YOU FOR EVERYTHING FOR A LIFE-TIME LEARNING.

  • arvydas says:

    Thanks!

  • Stig says:

    Nice and inspiring licks. Thanks!

  • bluphysted says:

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

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