Spicing up the ii-V-I for jazz guitar
In the jazz genre, the ii-V-I chord progression is THE most common chord progression. You’ll find it in nearly every song before the advent of modal jazz. Everything from Count Basie, Duke Ellington, to Charlie Parker. You’ll even find it in later jazz songs by people like John Coltrane. “Moment’s Notice” is a good example of some advanced ii-V-I chord progressions.
What I’m presenting today are a number of V chord variations for this progression in the key of G. These progressions are not for the beginner guitar student, this material is aimed at the intermediate + level jazz guitar student.
All of these chords use what are called chord extensions. Extensions are the higher portions of the chord (9,11, and 13). Why do we call it a 9 and not a 2 even though they share the same note NAME? Because in each of the chords the 7th is present. When you have a chord with the 7th present and that “2” is above the 7th, you call it a NINE CHORD.
This is a main defining characteristic of jazz-Instead of playing a G major, you might play a G major 9. Instead of an A minor, you might play an Aminor 9.
When can you use these things?
The V chord must move to a MAJOR chord: in my exercises, labeled as I. If the chord after the V is a i MINOR, then all of these will not work. More on that later in another episode. Above all, let your ears guide you; you don’t have to use or like them all.
- Know what extensions are, such as 9’s, 11’s, and 13’s
- Can already play a basic ii-V-I chord progression
- Have a basic understanding of keys and the Roman Numeral System
- Know some jazz songs that use ii-V-I’s
Transfer these exercises to other fingerings and keys; that’s beyond the scope of a blog post. (Feel free to contact me about private guitar lessons if you’re interested in going further with jazz guitar).
**Tiny CORRECTION/TYPO=All Amin7 chords below are technically Amin9 chords (whoops!)**
Let’s begin with a basic A minor 7th to D13 to G major 9 progression. This progression has extensions; however, it’s rooted firmly in the key of G, with no outside notes.
Next, we will flatten the 9. Everything stays the same except the 9. The flattened 9 begins to introduce more tension. This tension in the V chord is one of the trademarks of jazz music (and classical).
This next chord involves a pretty good stretch, a D7#9, 13 (So the 9 is now sharpened and it has a 13).
We hold the #9 but now flatten the 13th. This is called a D7#9b13. In my world, I call this a FULLY ALTERED chord. That is because both the 9 and the 13th have been altered. Later on, we will learn that this is tied to the Tritone Substitution.
From here, we move the #9 back down to a regular 9 and keep the flatted 13 (D9b13). You don’t call this chord a D79b13 for obvious reasons. That would be a mess, what’s a 79b13 chord? Almost sounds like a home address! I’m quite fond of this chord voicing. I like having one alteration in there (b13) while the regular 9 smooths it out. These sorts of voicings can be used more as they are less dissonant.
Next, we move the b13 down a fret. This creates something with a simple name for a change-A D9 chord. 9 chords are quite common in most music, nothing too outside here. You can use 9 chords in blues (Stormy Monday is a great example if you want to hear it clearly) and even bluegrass music.
Out of everything here, I would say that the standard 9 chord is the one you can swap for a D7 the most often.
Our last chord for the day is D9#11. You have now flattened the 9 and brought the regular 5th down a fret. You don’t call this chord a D7#5 (that’s a common mistake). Since the chord has a 7th and a 9th in it, it’s a #11. I find using #11’s requires a bit more care; you can’t throw them wherever you’d like. Random side note-Debussy loved using this chord.
Video of All Chord progressions:
Final Wrap up
Ok, so that is A LOT of different ii-V-I chord progressions for you to practice. Hopefully you get the idea with the names of the chords and how you can move the extensions around. Try moving these ideas to other fingerings and keys so you’re prepared regardless of the key.
I recommend using the circle of fifths and going around it, playing in each key.
Stay tuned, I plan on bringing a lot more JAZZ GUITAR material your way over the next month.
If you’d like the pdf for the above exercises to download and print out, here is the link:
Be sure to check out my minor 3rd chord substitutions as well.