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Published on June 4th, 2012 | by Sam


3 Must Know Ways to Play a Major II-V-I-Guest Post

By: Jamie Holroyd

Are you fed up or tired of playing a II-V-I progression the same way or using the same inversions each time?

In this lesson we will be digging into some fresh and new ways that you can voice II-V-I’s to avoid playing them the same way each time.

The II-V-I is the most common progression in jazz so it’s important that you have a lot of ways to play them. The following examples can be used in the comping situations or in a solo guitar arrangement.

Ascending Chromatically

For the first example we are looking to using an ascending chromatic line to voice a II-V-I. The G7 is particular spicy here as the raising melody note means we have a Bb as the melody note, and I’ve also included in an Eb, giving us a nice G7 altered sound before resolving to C major 7.

Descending Chromatically

Besides voicing a II-V-I ascending chromatically we can go the opposite direction, and voice it so it descends chromatically.  The cool thing about voicing with chromatically ascending or descending lines is that we tend to get a crunchy altered dominant chord.

Like In this second example we get a juicy b9 on the G7 (Ab) that resolves to G, the 5th of C major 7 in the last bar.

Keep a Common Tone

Another good exercise when voicing chords is to see how long you can keep the same note on the top string for.  In this example I’ve kept the ‘E’ on the top E string for all three chords, but you can usually make this work with any note that is diatonic to the home key.

This is a cool sound because you can hear the harmonic function of the note change within each chord. Over D-7, the ‘E’ is the 9th, over G7, the 13th, and finally the 3rd on the C Major 7.

How to Practice the Examples

Practice each example in all 12 keys and apply them to tunes that you are working on. As well as using the examples from this lesson have a go at applying these techniques to II-V-I inversions on other areas of the neck and see if you can make them work.

What are some of your favourite ways to voice a II-V-I not mentioned in this article? Do you have particular type of chords that you like to use?

About the author

Jamie Holroyd is a UK based jazz guitarist, teacher and author as well as the founder of, a free online jazz guitar and resource website


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About the Author

One Response to 3 Must Know Ways to Play a Major II-V-I-Guest Post

  1. Pingback: Lesson on Voicing ii-V-I's - The Jazz Guitar Forum

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