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JAZZ THEORY (BeBop Drills)

The IIm7 - V7 Progression - II V series

One of the most difficult aspects of improvising on BeBop chord progressions is the rapid harmonic changes indigenous to the art form. Passing and approach chords appear and disappear, pivotal and direct modulations are the order of the day, and cycle of fifths root motion is everywhere. The most typical solution to this challenge is to isolate and manipulate recurrent patterns of harmony in practice sessions. In light of this, we will examine the most prevalent chord pattern in BeBop, the IIm7 - V7 relationship.

The IIm7 - V7 represents the chords built on the second, then fifth degrees of a major scale, identified in functional harmony as the secondary sub-dominant and primary dominant. In C major, the chords are Dm7 and G7. These chords create a sense of movement towards the primary tonic or Imaj7, Cmaj7 in our example. Equally as often, the target chord is something other than a maj7, but one which has the same root.

Three practice chord progressions isolate the most typical chains of IIm7 - V7 [II - Vs], the first two using II - Vs from major key areas moving down in whole steps, the last using major key areas moving down in half steps. These are: 

  • 1) Dm7 - G7, Cm7 - F7, Bbm7 - Eb7, Abm7 - Db7, F#m7 - B7, Em7 - A7, 

  • 2) C#m7 - F#7, Bm7 - E7, Am7 -D7, Gm7 - C7, Fm7 - Bb7, Ebm7 - Ab7, and 

  • 3) Dm7 - G7, C#m7 - F#7, Cm7 - F7, Bm7 - E7, Bbm7 - Eb7, Am7 - D7, Abm7 - Db7, Gm7 - C7, F#m7 - B7, Fm7 - Bb7, Em7 - A7, Ebm7 - Ab7.

To begin your work with these II - V series progressions, first arpeggiate each chord in a root-3-5-7 [ l-&-2-& ] fashion, as in d-f-a-c, g-b-d-f. This will apply to situations in which both chords appear in one measure of 4/4 time. Next, play the arpeggio twice for each chord in a 1-&-2-&-3-&-4-& fashion, as in d-f-a-c-d-f-a-c, g-b-d-f-g-b-d-f. This covers situations where each chord lasts a full measure. Harmonic instruments should also practice chording these II - V chains in both harmonic rhythms indicated above.

Look for these chord patterns in your favorite jazz tunes, and listen for their distinctive sound in recordings and performances. Experiment with as many ways as you can think of to play solos on these progressions, and as always,  happy drilling!  [top]
- Frank Singer 2002

I originally learned these concepts from Charlie Banacos, private instructor.



The Language of BeBop
The Use of Tensions 1
The Use of Tensions 2 
The Use of Tensions 3 
The Jazz Sub-Dominant Chord - II-7 
The Jazz Dominant Chord - V7  
The II-7 V7 Progression - II V series  
The Key of the Moment  
"Watch out for those chromatics!"    
Ear Training  


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