ii V I chord progressions are the bread and butter of jazz, making it important for any jazz musician to have a diverse vocabulary over II Vs. Because of this, working on outlining 2-5-1s is an essential part of any jazz guitarist’s practice routine, especially when first starting out on your journey to learning jazz guitar.
Learning licks is an important step in building a jazz vocabulary, and the licks on this page can quickly and easily add some great sounding bebop phrases to your arsenal.
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II V I Lick 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 create an element of tension in that bar, which is then resolved to the 5th of Cmaj7 on the downbeat of the third bar.
II V I Lick 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:
|Played over G7||b7||b9||3||#5|
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.
II V I Lick 3
This 2 5 1 lick features a few chromatic passing notes in bar one, 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.
II V I Lick 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.
There is also 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.
II V I Lick 5
This lick outlines a I VI II V turnaround in the key of Bb and uses scale tones, as well as chromatic passing notes, to create a fun to play and interesting sounding phrase that you can quickly get under your fingers.
With a bebop flavor to it, this lick is inspired by players such as Charlie Christian, Joe Pass, Johnny Smith and other bebop influenced jazz musicians.
When learning this lick, notice that the same pattern is played over the G7b9 and F7 chords, just moved to different notes to fit the root of each chord, and it gives both chords a b9 sound that creates a dissonance that is resolved later in the line.
II V I Lick 6
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:
|Played over Dm7||b3||5||b7||9|
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).
Listen & Play Along
II V I Lick 7
This is a classic II V I lick in C major.
The first bar starts with an A minor arpeggio, followed by a chromatic line in the next bar.
II V I Lick 8 – Arpeggio Pattern
One of the toughest changes to work out when learning how to play jazz guitar is the two-bar ii V I progression, such as you can see in the examples below.
To help you get your fingers and ears around these changes, as well as provide you with material that sounds musical, but also outlines the chords using proper voice leading, in this lesson you’ll learn a common jazz guitar arpeggio pattern that you can use when soloing over fast-moving ii V Is.
ii V I Arpeggio Pattern Fingerings
As you saw in the video lesson above, here is the ii V arpeggio pattern written out over various places on the fretboard that you can work on in order to get this pattern under your fingers no matter where you find yourself on the neck of the guitar.
ii V I Arpeggio Pattern Solo
To help you take this concept from the page to the fretboard, here is a sample solo written out over the first 8 bars of the classic Wes Montgomery tune Four on Six.
Here, you can see the pattern applied to the non-resolving ii Vs in the second four bars of the phrase, with the first four bars being built from common minor 7 lines.
When applying this ii V arpeggio pattern to your solos, altering the rhythm is a great way to make this idea as musical as possible and not sound repetitious. You will notice that I’ve altered the rhythm in every bar of the phrase, sometimes adding new rhythmic durations such as triplets, and other times leaving notes out of the phrase to create variations of the line that still outlines the voice leading, but doesn’t become predictable in nature.
II V I Lick 9 – Larry Coryell
Here is a 2-5-1 lick in the style of Larry Coryell.
One thing that many jazz guitar masters excel at is knowing when to be fancy, and when to lay down a diatonic lick, and Larry Coryell knows just when to do this in his playing.
II V I Lick 10 – Larry Coryell
In this ii V I lick in the style of Larry Coryell, a melodic pattern is played at the start of the line, before being repeated a 1/2 step lower immediately afterward.
Coryell enjoys working chromatic patterns such as this in his lines.
Listen & Play
II V I Lick 11 – Ed Bickert
Here is a typical Ed Bickert lick that uses repeated notes and mostly diatonic note choices to build interest over a ii V I progression.
As well as featuring repeated notes in the first bar and a half of the lick, there are a number of syncopated notes in the second and third bar that raise interest levels.
From there, Ed uses a blue note on beat two of the last measure to bring a bit of chromaticism to the end of the line.
One of the coolest parts of Ed Bickert’s soloing is that he proves time and again that you don’t have to use outside or chromatic concepts to create great lines. Those options are there, but sometimes a solid inside line is just what you need to get the job done.
II V I Lick 12 – Ed Bickert
This single-note lick brings to light another classic Bickert soloing concept, playing across the neck. Ed Bickert’s signature soloing sound is often defined by his ability to play on one or two strings across the neck, rather than up a shape in a position.
In this lick, you’ll start on the second fret of the first string, and then work up to the 10th fret, covering a lot of diatonic and chromatic notes in between.
Fingering can be tricky when playing across one string, such as in the second half of this lick. Because of this, experiment with as many fingerings as you need until you find one that works for you.
More Jazz Guitar Licks
- Jazz Guitar Licks Index – Licks From Over 40 Great Jazz Musicians
- Classic Jazz Guitar Licks
- Jazz Blues Licks
- 5 Paul Desmond Licks From The Take 5 Solo
- 5 Pat Metheny Licks From Two For The Road