1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  

Minor ii-V-I in Jazz... WTH?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Matthew_84, Aug 4, 2018.

  1. So, I’m a bit of a newb in Jazz, and I’m no music theory major...

    From what I understand the Major ii-V-I is pretty straightforward. The progression is diatonic and based off of the natural major (Ionian) scale. The ii would be the Dorian mode of the root scale, and the V would be the Mixolydian mode of the root scale.

    However, the Minor ii-V-I seems to be a bit of a mess. I’ve read a few TB threads and read a few other sources and there seems to be many ways to play this progression. A lot of examples actually seem to modulate keys for every chord... WTH is going on?

    I’m assuming there’s no standard way to play it, and everyone plays it however they want for the song.

    Is there any way someone could list the various ways it can be played, and maybe list which ways are the most common, or recommended for a jazz newb to start with?

    Thanks in advance.
    joebar and leonard like this.
  2. foal30


    Dec 3, 2007
    New Zealand

    I think the way you understand the Major ii-V-I is good

    With the Minor version of this progression it's possible to think of all three chords as Melodic Minor

    In C minor :

    Dm7(b5) think F melodic minor
    G7(b9) think Ab melodic minor
    Cm (maj7) think C melodic minor
  3. foal30


    Dec 3, 2007
    New Zealand
    You can think of the three chords in the above example as all being from
    C Harmonic Minor

    As another way to look at things

    Also a minor ii-v may not end with a m/maj7 chord

    "Fly me to the Moon" goes to a m7

    "Stella by Starlight" goes to a maj7
    Matthew_84 and Spin Doctor like this.
  4. foal30


    Dec 3, 2007
    New Zealand
    I don't know very much about Jazz but it's the best thing I have ever studied. Every day is new learning or ideas or listening

    It's truly a Great Art Form
  5. This book is pretty helpful in understanding minor progressions. It's in treble clef but it lays out the general way of thinking well. I wish it came with a CD/mp3 but it's not too mind bending... I don't think you're really gonna get a "full" answer from an internet thread though. It's gonna take some time and focus.

  6. GastonD


    Nov 18, 2013
    Belgrade, Serbia
    Joe Hubbard does the best coverage of this topic I have ever seen in his online course.
    bassfuser, jacoman and Matthew_84 like this.
  7. Whousedtoplay


    May 18, 2013
    Would you play E or Eb with Dm7(b5) in your example where C Minor is our i - tonic?
  8. Thanks @foal30, that helps!

    Thanks @Spin Doctor and @GastonD! Do either of your recommendations cover the various chords/scales and substitutions to covering the minor ii-V-I?

    I agree that to get into all of the cracks and crevices of it, I’ll need to read a fairly thorough theory book/course with examples; train my ear to hear to hear the different variations as I’m playing along; and learn a lot of different tunes where it’s implemented in its various approaches.

    I haven’t dug into any of books/courses yet regarding the minor ii-V-I, but some resources I have looked into seem to pretty much state one way of playing it as if that is how it’s played, though to me, it seems like there are many ways to play it.
  9. Well, if that chord is based on the F Melodic Minor then it should be an E...

    You bring up a great point though because clearly that would turn the key of C Minor into C Major, though it does modulate back to C Minor for the I chord, in Foal30’s example.

    It really seems odd to me that in a three-chord chord progression, one would change keys every chord (that’s not bashing Foal30 by the way, I’ve seen this mentioned in several other places and it doesn’t always modulate to the same keys/modes/scales).

    Also, when you’re playing this and someone throws in a iii, IV, or vi chord, what the heck would you play?! Would it modulate into other keys, stay in the last one you played, etc?
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2018
    Whousedtoplay likes this.
  10. It is a great American art form. Really. Shame it is not more popular, except among we few die hards who seek it out, though many foreigners are fans. Kids are oblivious to it.
  11. This may clear up some things.

    The ii and IV are both sub dominant and want to go to a dominant chord. So they can sub for each other.

    The V and vii are both dominant and want to go to the tonic I chord. They can and do sub for each other.

    Keeping this all major key.....
    Good ole boy bands like the I-IV-V7-I progression.
    Jazz will like the ii-V7-I progression.
    Both resolve to the I tonic chord.
    The ii introduces the minor ii sound into the mix.
    Jazz likes minor and flat keys because of the horns, sax, etc, that are used in jazz.

    Offered for what it is worth.
  12. obimark


    Sep 1, 2011
    I think your problem is the same as mine in trying to learn jazz. Many of the songs use the 2-5-1 for PART of their chord progression but then go into all sorts of other chord changes.
    So a jazz tune may start out as A-D-G for instance standard 2-5-1 but then it goes through other chords.
    Matthew_84 likes this.
  13. Whousedtoplay


    May 18, 2013
    Maybe only 10% of songs/compositions follow that Cm(maj7) as Tonic rule.
    What's more, Cm(maj7) is associated more with the Harmonic minor scale than with Melodic one.

    Most minor 2-5-1/ii-V - i progressions end with the Minor triad of Minor7 as Tonic as from Minor Natural/pure.

    C minor natural scale.

    Harmonizing C minor natural.
    How to Harmonize Minor Scales With 7th Chords - Learn Jazz Standards

    As you can see, we have Gm7 as our v7 chord, but we need G7.

    Let's harmonize our Melodic minor scale.
    Now, we have G7 (!!!) and A(natural)min7(b5).
    But what about that (b9) from G7(b9)?


    Harmonizing C harmonic minor scale.

    Now, we have what we need - G7(b9) - Ab as b9.

    While playing that G7(b9) I would think about the C harmonic minor scale.

    There are three types of Minor Scales: Natural Minor, Harmonic Minor and Melodic Minor.
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2018
  14. Short answer from my cell phone.

    If the 1 is minor with a m7, then the 5 would be minor 7 in diatonic major, which has less push to resolve back to the i.

    If you switch to jazz melodic minor with a imaj 7, the 5 chord is switched from a m7 to a dom 7 which has more urgency to resolve. Hence the idiomatic iim7b5 / V7b9/imM7 used in jazz and Latin. You can also use Harmonic minor, but cant do the math in the car (not driving).
  15. I see Whoused to play was typing the same time i was .
  16. Whousedtoplay


    May 18, 2013
    The Minor Scale and its Natural, Harmonic and Melodic Forms

    "The minor scale is one of the most important scales in Western music. Unlike the major scale, which has a single fixed form, the minor scale has three recognised forms, which are known as natural minor, harmonic minor and melodic minor.

    Music in a minor key is music that has been composed primarily by using notes of any or all of the above forms of the minor scale. Unlike the scales, minor keys don't distinguish between the different scale forms. A song or composition in a minor key may feature any or none of the above modifications as the composer chooses. Don't make the mistake of talking about music in the key of G harmonic minor, for example. There's no such thing. It's just the key of G minor.

    The distinguishing feature of all forms of the minor scale is the interval between the first note (called the tonic or key note) and the third note. This interval is one semitone smaller than the corresponding interval of a major scale and so is called a minor third. This is why the scale and key are also called minor."
  17. Do you have Excel?
  18. Whousedtoplay


    May 18, 2013
    You were first!
  19. Yes I do
  20. OK, I just got in the door. I started making a spreadsheet to answer all these scale/mode theory questions last night. Its not ready to release in in the wild with all the TB Theory Barracudas. I will Email you a beta version later today.

    One way to visualize movement through modes in your head is simple math approach (cyclical group approach). I tried typing this out but erased it as it would some peoples head explode. Hint, If you are familiar with cyclical groups, a move from 1 to 5 is 4 slots.

    Spreadsheet underway. Give me a an hour. It will give you the 7 modes with degrees for any 7 note scale plus slash chords. Have the scale degrees of about 60 scales, but double checking some of the harmonic hungarian modes.
    Matthew_84 likes this.

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.