Reviewing the ii V I Progression (Guitar Lesson)


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Matt Brown

Reviewing the ii V I Progression

Matt Brown returns to his Jazz series with a review lesson. He applies the standard ii V I progression to the circle of fifths.

Taught by Matt Brown in Jazz Guitar with Matt seriesLength: 18:10Difficulty: 2.0 of 5
Chapter 1: (01:40) Lesson Introduction Lesson Objectives

-Review the importance of the ii V I progression. The ii V or "turnaround" progression is the most commonly used progression jazz music. Many tunes are comprised of a series of ii V progressions played in a variety of keys. Consequently, mastery of the turnaround progression from a rhythmic and lead guitar standpoint is a fundamental skill that all jazz guitarists must possess.

-Play the ii V I progression in all 12 keys using the circle of fifths.

-Use the Set 1 and Set 2 voicings discussed in earlier lessons while playing ii V I exercises.

-Apply the Freddie Green and Charleston comping rhythms to ii V I exercises.

-Practice improvisation over the ii V I exercise using the scale / chord relationships that Matt has discussed in previous lessons.
Chapter 2: (05:26) ii V I Progression Exercise Note: Open the circle of fifths diagram listed under the "Supplemental Content" tab.

Beginning the Exercise

This exercise begins with a ii V I progression played in the key of C major. The key of C is listed at the top of the circle of fifths in the "12 o'clock" position. Within this key, the ii V I progression consists of the following chords: DMI7, G7, and CMA7. The ii and V chords are played for a measure each. The I chord is played for two measures. Many jazz musicians refer to this progression as the "long ii V I" since each chord is played for at least a full measure. Within each key, the long ii V I is repeated twice.

After the key of C is completed, the exercise continues to cycle through the entire circle of fifths in a counterclockwise direction. Therefore, the ii V I progression is next played in the key of F major. The exercise concludes when the home key of C major is reached.

Chord Voicings

Remember that various chord voicings can be substituted for the DMI7, G7, and CMA7 chords. For example, DMI9 and DMI11 can both be played in place of DMI7. A wide variety of chords can be substituted for the V chord. G9 and G13 are two viable options. Dominant chords with altered extensions may also be used since no melody line is present with this exercise. When playing the I chord, CMA7, CMA6, CMA9, CMA13, and CMA6/9 are all viable options. These chord substitution principles can be applied to all 12 major keys.

Watch and Learn

Before you begin to practice the exercise, watch as Matt plays through it at 01:40 in the lesson video. Matt begins the exercise with a DMI7 voicing played in tenth position. He continues to descend down the neck as he works through the circle of fifths. Once the key of Gb major is reached, room on the fretboard begins to run out. During the second repetition of the progression in this key, Matt jumps up the fretboard to play the tonic Gb chord in eighth position. This way, there is plenty of room on the fretboard to complete the remaining keys in the exercise. He breaks down this fretboard shift in detail at 04:20 in the lesson video.

Practice Time

-When practicing the exercise on your own, set the metronome so that it clicks on beats 2 and 4. Add a slight accent to your strum on these beats.

-Also, remember to vary the voicings that are used within each key. Try not to repeat a voicing during the second repetition of the progression in any given key.
Chapter 3: (01:18) Circle of Fifths: D Major Matt starts up the exercise where he left off in the previous scene. He begins this scene with the key of D major. He proceeds from D to play through the key of G. After G, the exercises circles back to the home base key of C major.
Chapter 4: (05:00) Circle of Fifths Rhythm Practice

In this scene, Matt has his metronome set to 84 beats per minute as he plays through the exercise. Since the metronome is only clicking on beats 2 and 4, he is actually playing at a medium swing tempo of 168 beats per minute. This tempo is a little faster than the previous scene.

Pause the lesson video and practice the exercise using the Freddie Green comping pattern. Set your metronome to a slower tempo to begin with. 60 beats per minute is an ideal starting point. When the metronome clicks on 2 and 4 at this tempo, the actual overall tempo is 120 beats per minute. Once you master the exercise at this tempo, continue to increase the speed of the metronome until you can comfortably play through the exercise at 168 beats per minute. Then, return to the lesson video and play along with Matt.

Improv Practice

You can also practice your improvisational skills along with this exercise. A review of the chord / scale relationships covered thus far in this series is listed below.

Over Major Chords

Matt has discussed three scales that can be used over major chord types. These scales are the Lydian mode, major scale, and major pentatonic scales. Remember that the fourth scale degree of the major scale is an avoid tone when playing over major chords. It should only be played on a metrically weak beat. The Lydian mode and major pentatonic scale are more viable options since they contain no avoid tones.

Over Minor Chords

When playing over minor chord types, the Dorian mode, Aeolian mode, and the minor pentatonic scale are all viable options. However, the sixth degree of the Aeolian mode produces a fairly dissonant sound when played against a minor seventh chord. Consequently, this scale degree is primarily used on weak beats. Both the Dorian mode and minor pentatonic scale contain no avoid tones when played over MI7 chords.

Over Dominant Chords

Thus far, Matt has discussed a wide variety of scales that can be used over dominant chords. The minor pentatonic scale, major pentatonic scale, minor blues scale, major blues scale, Mixolydian mode, Lydian Dominant Scale, and the bebop dominant scale are all acceptable options. The note located a perfect fourth above the chord root is an avoid tone when playing over dominant chords.
Chapter 5: (04:43) ii V I Progression with the Charleston Rhythm This time around, Matt applies the Charleston Rhythm to the ii V I exercise taught in the previous scenes. Once again, the exercise is performed in the lesson video at 168 beats per minute. At first, simply watch and listen as Matt plays through the exercise. Before you attempt to play along with him, pause the lesson video and practice the exercise on your own. Begin at a relatively slow tempo such as 120 or 130 beats per minute. Set the metronome to 60-65 so that it clicks on beats 2 and 4 only. Continue to practice the exercise until you can play it comfortably at 168 beats per minute. Then, return to the lesson video and play along.

Note: You can also practice the Freddie Green rhythm while Matt plays the Charleston in this scene. Or, you can improvise along with his comping.

Additional Practice

As you learn more jazz repertoire, you will need to perform ii V I progressions at a variety of different tempos. 120 beats per minute is around the lowest tempo that is still considered medium swing. However, some ballads are played at much slower tempos. Towards the opposite extreme, many bebop tunes are played at blistering tempos such as 230 beat per minute. In order to be a well-rounded player, you must be able to perform ii V I progressions throughout this range of tempos.

Note: Typically, when comping, the Freddie Green rhythm is not used in rapid tempo bebop music. Instead, a walking bass line is played in the absence of a bass player. Walking bass lines will be discussed in future lessons. In an ensemble setting, the Charleston rhythm is typically employed at lightning fast tempos.

As you first practice the exercises, play them while reading from the notation provided under the "Supplemental Content" tab. Once you feel comfortable with the exercises, play them without looking at the notation. You will most likely need to revert back to a slower tempo as you begin this process.

Preview of Upcoming Lessons

Matt will cover a variety of topics in upcoming lessons such as Set 3 voicings, The "turnback" progression, and the minor version of the ii V I progression. Later down the line, the minor ii V i progression and the major ii V I will be applied to the tune "There Is No Greater Love." Along the way, he will also include a solo arrangement for "Here's That Rainy Day" and expand upon the jazz version of the 12 bar blues progression.

Video Subtitles / Captions


Member Comments about this Lesson

Discussions with our instructors are just one of the many benefits of becoming a member of JamPlay.


mdarby_fjmdarby_fj replied on April 16th, 2016

Nice lesson. Do you have the fingerings for the chords you played?

jpfanboyjpfanboy replied on December 22nd, 2009

Cool lesson!

Jazz Guitar with Matt

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

In this lesson set, Matt will teach you everything you need to know to fluently play jazz guitar.



Lesson 1

Intro to Jazz

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Length: 31:36 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 2

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Lesson 3

Set II Voicings

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Lesson 6

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Proper Practicing Part 2

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Lesson 11

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Matt Brown begins talking about solo arrangements in this lesson. He teaches Carcassi's "Estudio No. 1" as an introduction to this concept.

Length: 18:10 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 13

Reviewing the ii V I Progression

Matt Brown returns to his Jazz series with a review lesson. He applies the standard ii V I progression to the circle of fifths.

Length: 18:10 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 14

Turnback Progression

In lesson 14, Matt discusses the turnback progression in the jazz style.

Length: 22:20 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 15

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Matt brown discusses and demonstrates the set three voicings used in jazz guitar.

Length: 25:42 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 16

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In this lesson, Matt demonstrates how to practice jazz solo arrangements by taking a look at "Here's That Rainy Day."

Length: 35:10 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 17

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In lesson 17, Matt reviews and expands on the jazz version of the 12 bar blues form.

Length: 23:20 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 18

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In this lesson, Matt adds to your voicing repertoire while playing the Charleston rhythm.

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Lesson 19

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Lesson 25

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About Matt Brown View Full Biography Matt Brown began playing the guitar at the age of 11. "It was a rule in my family to learn and play an instrument for at least two years. I had been introduced to a lot of great music at the time by friends and their older siblings. I was really into bands like Nirvana, Alice In Chains, and Smashing Pumpkins, so the decision to pick up the guitar came pretty easily."

Matt's musical training has always followed a very structured path. He began studying the guitar with Dayton, Ohio guitar great Danny Voris. I began learning scales, chords, and basic songs like any other guitarist. After breaking his left wrist after playing for only a year, Matt began to study music theory in great detail. I wanted to keep going with my lessons, but I obviously couldn't play at all. Danny basically gave me the equivalent of a freshman year music theory course in the span of two months. These months proved to have a huge impact on Brown's approach to the instrument.

Brown continued his music education at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio. He completed a degree in Classical Guitar Performance in 2002. While at Capital, he also studied jazz guitar and recording techniques in great detail. "I've never had any desire to perform jazz music. Its lack of relevance to modern culture has always turned me off. However, nothing will improve your chops more than studying this music."

Matt Brown currently resides in Dayton, Ohio. He teaches lessons locally as well as at Capital University's Community Music School. Matt's recent projects include writing and recording with his new, as of yet nameless band as well as the formation of a cover band called The Dirty Cunnies.

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