Improvisation and II-V

Discussion in 'Music Theory [DB]' started by nikkis67, Mar 1, 2006.

  1. nikkis67


    Nov 24, 2004
    Utrecht NL
    hello guys.

    i would like your opinion on the way to improvise over a II-V

    thank u
  2. TomSauter


    Dec 22, 2004
    Kennesaw, GA
    There's a million ways to approach a II-V, so I'll just name a few. The most basic way is to play diatonically. If you're in C then you would play D dorian-G mixolydian. If it's diatonic, then you know that D dorian and G mixolydian are made up of the same notes, so you could just think of it as D dorian or G mix. for the whole thing. I can see that this is going to take forever, so I'm just going to list a bunch of different harmonic devices that people use for II-V's:

    D-7|D-7 G7|C
    D7|D-7 G7|C
    D-7|Eb dim|C/E
    A-7 D7|D-7 G7|C
    A-7 D7|Ab-7 Db7|C
    Eb-7 Ab7|D-7 G7|C
    Eb-7 Ab7|F-7 Bb7|C

    Keep in mind that you can change what type of dominant you play. Whenever you see a G7 on this list, you can play it as G mixolydian, G7b9 (G Ab Bb B Db D E F), G7#9 (G Ab Bb B Db E F), G7#11 (G A B C# D E F), G9#5 (G A B C# D# F), and a few other sounds. When you see a D7 on here it probably implies a D7#11 or D mixolydian.

    My advice is to not worry about all this stuff and just transcribe what players like Charlie Parker, Clifford Brown, Coltrane, etc. play on a II-V and figure out exactly what type of harmony they are implying. I would also suggest that you sit down at a piano or with a piano player and try to get as many II-V sounds in your ear as you can.

    Pretty much all the progressions I listed show up in standards and modern tunes alike, so maybe try to find some tunes that use these progressions and listen until the sounds become familiar to you. Also I should note that many if not most of these are substitutions for a II-V, and when you're accompanying someone, you should use them with discretion. All of them except the last four are common progressions, and the last four are just some other progrssions that resolve to a I chord.

    I'm sure I didn't explain this very clearly, so if anyone wants to make corrections, clarifications, etc., please do.
  3. tzadik


    Jan 6, 2005
    What he said.


    Shut your eyes and sing something simple and beautiful.

    Then transcribe what you sang.

    And then play it.
  4. TomSauter


    Dec 22, 2004
    Kennesaw, GA
    Sorry, I guess that may sound confusing--I got F's in writing all through high school. I was trying to say that you should get as much harmony in your ear as possible and get familiar with different types of sounds. Tzadik gives good advice, but you can't sing what you can't hear. To answer the question directly, my opinion on the way to improvise on a II-V is to transcribe what other people have played, and when you start to build a vocabulary, you should try to put your own spin on their ideas.
  5. nikkis67


    Nov 24, 2004
    Utrecht NL
    well....i liked tzadik's approach lol
  6. ii7-V7


    Aug 4, 2002
    Baltimore, MD
    The advice that you've been given already is incredibly solid...I think that if you take this advice above that you will go far.

    When I first started improvising over changes in a band setting I found that finding the right notes to play was a pretty small part of the struggle. I learned quickly that I couldn't always hear the chords change, couldn't keep the tempo, and I would get just downright lost. By the time I figured out what I wanted to play over a snippet of the chord progression those chords had already come and gone. Even if I know what to play executing it in time was difficult. With that in mind I will make two suggestions.

    Learn the tune that you are going to be playing exceedingly well and be able to hear the melody in your head while you improvise.

    Simplify the chord progressions. Most chord progressions are meant to create harmonic tension and release. The most basic tension and release is the V-I cadence. When starting out I would simplify the ii-V7 progression by treating both chords as a V chord. In other words when you see... Am7 /D7 / think... D7 /D7 /. This will lessen the amount of material that you have to wrestle with at 208 bpm. Once you can create melodies off of this you will have the concept of keeping up with the changes resolving tension....then you can start improving on more complex structures.

  7. nikkis67


    Nov 24, 2004
    Utrecht NL
    so the secret is....SIMPLIFY....
    i guess thats a start.....thanx guys
  8. Though not completely related, I am currently struggling to clarify my walking lines over ii-Vs. What is the best way to approach these sections? My combo leader made a comment about the bridge of the standard we're working on being a very elusive section, and I can't help but feel responsible for this. Any suggestions?
  9. NickyBass

    NickyBass Supporting Member

    Nov 28, 2005
    Southern New Jersey
    When I started learning jazz, my teacher gave me a few Ron Carter Walking Lines books. These have proven to be invaluable. There are so many available. Nothing beats transcribing, but it's nice to have such a wealth of information at your fingertips. I also love the Paul Chambers solos books. Again, transcription is without equal, but these kinds of materials can get you started.
    One other peice of advise that I recieved early on is the use of passing tones to create linear lines. i.e. In a ii-V7-I progression in Bb, the note 'e' is not part of the c min, but can be used to get from the 3rd (eb) to the V7 (F7) chord.
  10. nikkis67


    Nov 24, 2004
    Utrecht NL
    i actually started playing the I over the II-V and its sounds so beautifull....

    My teacher also gave me reference for Ron Carter and Paul Chambers...i need to work more on that i guess