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5 Easy ii V I Exercises for Jazz Guitar

There are certain things that alljazz guitarist must be able to doin order to make the gig or sit in on a jam
session, and comfortably navigating major ii V Is in all 12 keys is one of them.

While many people like to check out scales for each chord, the easiest way to dig into these common
changes, and really bring out the sound of each chord, is to usetriads, arpeggios and bebop scale

Asnone of us have enough time to spend in the woodshed every day, Ive brought together 5 of my
favorite ways to outlinemajor ii-V-I chordprogressions.

Methods that I have found to be very successful inmy own playingas well as with my students in their

Check them out, you can never have too many ways to get through major ii V I chord progressions as a
modern or traditional jazz guitarist.

Have a question or comment about this lesson? Share it in theii V I Exercises for Jazz Guitar thread in
the MWG Forum.

ii V I Exercises 3 to 7 Triads

Triads are an essential tool for any jazz guitarist, especially when it comes to outlining common chord
progressions such asmajor ii-V-Is.

While using normal,R-3-5, triadswill get job done, they can become pretty boring, pretty quickly.

But dont worry, you dont have to scrap all thetriad fingerings youve learnedover the years, you can
simple use the second triad for each chord, the one that outlines the notes 3-5-7.

To do this, takeany chord youre working on, well look at Dm7-G7-Cmaj7, a ii-V-I in C major, for this
example but make sure to practice these ideas in all 12 keys, and look at the notes that fall on the 3rd, 5th
and 7th of the chord.

Dm7 = F A C (Fmaj Triad)

G7 = B D F (Bdim Triad)

Cmaj7 = E G B (Emin Triad)

So you can use the same triads you already know,maj, min and dim, to solo over these chords, without
having to have the root in your lines at any point.

Here are some of my favorite ways to practice3 to 7 triadsthrough a major ii-V-I chord progression.


Play ascending 3 to 7 triads for each chord

Play descending 3 to 7 triads for each chord

Play both the ascending and descending 3 to 7 triad, and vice-versa, for each chord

Improvise using only the 3 to 7 triad for each chord in the progression

Learn more about3 to 7 triadsin my in-depth article Bebop Vocabulary: 3 to 7 Triads

ii V I Exercises 3 to 9 Arpeggios

You can alsobuild arpeggiosoff of the 3rd of each chord to outline any major ii-V-I chord progression.

So, instead of getting a 3-5-7 triad, you build a3-5-7-9 arpeggio. As an example, lets look at the 3 to 9
arpeggios for each chord in a major ii-V-I in F major.

Gm7 = Bb D F A (Bbmaj7 Arpeggio)

C7 = E G Bb D (Em7b5 Arpeggio)

Fmaj7 = A C E G (Am7 Arpeggio)

So again, you arent learning anything new, just taking the samefour-note arpeggiosyou already know,
starting them on the third note of each chord, and youve got a new way to outline chord changes without
landing on the root in your lines.

You can practice3 to 9 arpeggioswith the same exercises you used with the 3 to 7 triads, ascending,
descending, improvisation etc.

Learn more about3 to 9 arpeggiosin my in-depth article Bebop Vocabulary: 3 to 9 Arpeggios

ii V I Exercises Arpeggios with Chromatic Notes

You can also take any normal, 1-3-5-7, arpeggio and use to outline major ii-V-Is, but instead of keeping
things vanilla, you canadd chromatic approach notesto spice up your lines and add an extra level of

This concept is fairly simple, practice running ascending and descending arpeggios, as we did in the
above two exercises, but you can now approach any/all notes in the arpeggio with a chromatic note
below or aboveto make things more lively.

Heres an example ofhow to add one noteabove each note in a C7 chord:

C7 with Chromatic Approach Notes Below

And heres an example of that same arpeggio, C7, withone note added aboveeach note in the

C7 with Chromatic Approach Notes Above

You can practice this technique with any chord in the major ii-V-I progression, and can venture forward to
addtwo notes above and-or belowif you choose.

This is a great way to maintain the sound of each chord, but add alittle bebop flavorto your lines at the
same time.
Learn more about addingchromatics to arpeggiosin my article Bebop Guitar Vocabulary: Adding
Chromatics to Basic Arpeggios

ii V I Exercises Bebop Scale Patterns

Apart from using the triads and arpeggios for each scale, you can also dig into somebebop
vocabularyon each of the chords in any major ii-V-I progression.

By using the different bebop scales, minor bebop for iim7, dominant bebop for V7 and major bebop for
Imaj7, you can keep the flavor of each chord intact, whileadding scale-based linesto your solos.

Though running bebop scales is sometimes a good idea, at least to get thesound of the scalein your
ears, I really like to work on adding familiar patterns to my bebop lines to bring them to the next level.

Some of my favorites are:

Enclosures:Playing one note above and one note below the root, fifth or other note in the scale

Diminished off third:playing an ascending diminished arpeggio from the third of any chord to
reset the scale back to the top

Ascending iim7 chordand descending V7 bebop scale with enclosures off the root and 5th

You dont have to know amillion bebop scale patternsto make the gig, but you should have a handful
of these common vocabulary devices under your fingers and in your ears to bring a little bit of bebop
flavor to your lines and solos.

Learn more about thesepatternsin my article 21 Bebop Scale Patterns for Jazz Guitar

ii V I Exercises Arpeggios Up and Bebop Scale Down

This is a very common technique used by many great bebop players, includingCharlie Parker and Dizzy

The technique does just what it says, you play and ascending arpeggio to climb up the neck, thenuse
scale tones, in this case a bebop scale, to descend the neck.

For each chord in the major ii-V-I progression, you could do the following exercises toaccomplish this

Ascending arpeggio for ii chord, descending bebop scale for the V chord, ascending arpeggio for
the I chord

Ascending arpeggio and descending bebop scale for each chord,minor bebop for ii,dominant
bebop for Vandmajor bebop for I

Mixture of both of the above approaches

Use the above approaches but with 3 to 9 arpeggios for each chord to ascend and descend with
each related bebop scale

The whole crux of the exercise is touse leaps, coming from arpeggios, to ascend your lines, and to use
step-wise motion to descend your lines.

Along with practicing outlining the harmony for the major ii-V-I progression, it is very beneficial to
addmore musical aspectsto your practice routine at the same time.

You can spice up each ofthese five exercisesby focusing ondiversifying your phrasingas well as
usingvaried rhythmic patterns and melodic accentsin your practice routine.

Being able to comfortably navigate major ii-V-I progressionsin all 12 keysis an essential skill that every
jazz guitarist must possess in order to make the gig.

Whilerunning scales up and down each chordis one way to get your fingers around thiscommon
progression, using triads, arpeggios and bebop vocabulary will not only help you get inside each chord
change, it will allow you to sound jazzy at the same time.