Lesson #9: Jazz Basics-2: ii-V7 licks

The PDF for this lesson is here:

ii-V7 Licks

Bernd Moser’s transcription of the intro solo can be found here:


There are a lot of advanced topics I want to make video lessons on but I think it’s important to focus on some basic ideas before I go into anything else. That is why I wanted to do 3 videos discussing basic concepts in respect to the jazz idiom. Too many people are overly concerned with playing the “hippest” shit right off the bat without respect for fundamentals. Admittedly, I’m not a very academic musician. Often, when I’m making a video, I find that I have to really think about what I played in order to properly explain it in theoretical terms. In my mind, I actually compartmentalize and reduce topics in a number of very simple ways. The only thing I tend to define is the quality of the chord. In most cases, I reduce it to either Major, minor, or Dominant 7th. I will explain all of this in greater detail in a blog I am currently working on. I will say that, for me, all of those “100 ii-V7 Licks” books have yielded very little in terms of actual results. I used to look at that Jamey Aebersold book on the ii-V7 progression and just feel so confused. Transcribing licks from master musicians and writing variations on them is truly the best way to learn to play over ii-V7’s. Anyway, I figured I would just show 3 very basic licks and try to explain them a little bit in hopes that others might be inspired to write their own variations on them.

LICK # 1

For Lick #1, I tried to create something that would be about as basic as it gets. This line utilizes smooth movement between the chords by using a step-wise motion between the 3rds and 7ths of each chord. When approaching ii-V7’s, you always want to be aware of the notes in each chord and be on the look out for lines that move by half-step. This will insure the clearest outlining of the changes.

Chords:                                       C-7    F7    Bb Major 7

3rds and 7ths voice-lead:

Bb     A       A

Eb    Eb      D


In this particular lick, I alter the V7 chord by placing tensions on top of it. In order to do this, I use the melodic minor scale (Major scale with a flatted 3rd) a half-step above the root of the chord. My recommendation to every player interested in working on altered dominant sounds is to start by learning your melodic minor scales inside and out. Specifically, one should be able to play melodic minor in all 12 keys in all directions and positions. Once you have completed that arduous task, you should learn all of the triads in the scale and follow the same procedure. Once you  have a full grasp of the melodic minor scale, explore other options. For example, you can play a diminished scale (Whole/Half version) a Half-step above the root of the chord or a Whole-Tone scale from the root. Other options include a Harmonic Minor scale (try up a 4th from the root for starters) or a minor Pentatonic a minor 3rd above the root.

Check out Jamey Aebersold’s scale syllabus for an example of how many options there are:

Scale Syllabus


I’ve spent a lot of time studying the music of John Coltrane. Currently, I’m engaged in extensive studies that relate to  pentatonic scales and triads in the jazz idiom. The further I get in my musical growth with this material, the more I am able to grasp the musical genius of Coltrane. For example, I spent 2 months of the last year just voice-leading Major triads a whole-step apart in every single key, position, and direction on the neck.  This type of study is known as “triad pairs.” If you play the same triads in a scale-wise fashion, one could also call it Hexatonic. In any case, I’ve been paying particular attention to way in which Coltrane (and other players) voice-lead triads in their solos and I am convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that he mastered triad pairs.

Here’s on example of how Trane uses pairs over a chord:

Over a G7= G B D F

He plays the following pair: A Major/Eb Aug.

Here’s the notes contained with in the triads and their function in relation to the G7:

A (9), C# (#11), E (13)/Eb (#5 or b13), G (Root), B (3rd.)

As a Hexatonic scale it looks like this: G, A, B, Db, Eb, E.

As I said in the video, I can just take a look at the two triads and just apprehend the harmony without reference to the lick. Luckily, I’ve practiced voice-leading these triads in all 12 keys and positions, so I am free to implement the idea conceptually right away. Throw in a few chromatic approaches and/or a neighboring tone in order to formulate a 8th or 16th note line and the original idea quickly becomes obscured.

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  1. thanks for the licks, very usable stuff.
    could you please comment on the chord progression used for the intro?
    it’s my favourite bit and i’d like to transcribe it.
    thanks in advance,

  2. Great stuff and thanks for sharing !!!

    Can you give more examples to the triad-pair to better understnad the concept over major, minor and dominate?

  3. Hi,

    Great stuff..I really enjoy your sound!
    Could you give me a tune or two to apply this tune? (I know there are manys, but many there are a few which are really good for this stuff)
    Thanks for all.

    Thomas from Paris

  4. Hey

    A few monts into coltrane. Started many years ago to put some charlie christian into my blues. Got later into barney kessel and montgomery. Got some lessons from a pro, he played some coltrane, but i didnt like it, to much *&%*(_ you know. As if somebody talked chinese. Now i cant stop listening to the guy. That pianoplayer Mcoy, is awesome. Now youre site comes for me right on the spot, the triad playing makes sense.


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