# minor ii-v-i question

Discussion in 'Ask Michael Dimin' started by jeff schmidt, Dec 14, 2004.

1. ### jeff schmidtno longer red carded, but my butt is still sore.

Aug 27, 2004
Novato, CA
Hey Mike - Can you help me sort out minor ii-v-i? I originally learned to negotiate this prog 1 way - but Mark Levine's Jazz Theory book has a different approach.

The way I originally learned - My 1 minor chord is natural minor from the 6th degree of the relative major key and I play natural minor scale over it. From there I derive a m7b5 as the ii chord and play locrian over that. And the 5 is actually the 3 of the major (a minor)- so to make it perform the dominant function I raise the 2nd & 3rd giving me the 7th mode of melodic minor.

The Mark Levine method is to treat the minor ii-v-i as coming entirely from melodic minor but different keys for each chord.

So if my 1 chord is C min/maj - I play the C melodic minor scale over that. My 2 is D half diminished - I play the 6th mode of F melodic minor over that - and my 5 chord is G7alt - and I play the 7th mode of Ab melodic minor over that.

2. ### Chris FitzgeraldStudent of LifeStaff MemberAdministrator

Oct 19, 2000
Louisville, KY
*subscribe*

This is a pet peeve subject of mine, but since it's Mike's forum, I'll wait for the master.

3. ### Mike Dimin

Dec 11, 1999
Mark Levine's has good rationale for his decisons. He bases much of his ideas on what has been played, not some theoretical premise. On the II-7(b5), he states that the natural 9 from the locrian #2 works better than than the b9 of the locrian mode. I tend to agree with this. After reading this in his book, I realized that I had always done that, just becuase it sounded better.

As for the dominant chord, the coventional theory would be to raise the 7th degree of the natural minor (creating a HARMONIC minor scale) thereby making the V chord dominant. hence the name Harmonic minor. Yet, we find, that in most minor II-V's, the V is usually a b9 chord. This use of the b9 prohibits the use of the domiant 7h deriived from the harmonic minor. I also remember a lesson that I leaned at Bezerklee, "b9 imples #9". The #9 is also the "blue note" (b3). This implies the half-step/whole-step diminshed scale, which I think works really nicely. This scale is not from MM harmony. It incudes all the chord tones (1,3,5,b7,b9) as well as the blue notes (b3 and b5).

Although you can use the harmonic minor scale for your lines, I think that the latter sounds a bit more interesting.

Chris ....?

Mike

4. ### Chris FitzgeraldStudent of LifeStaff MemberAdministrator

Oct 19, 2000
Louisville, KY
By way of answering the question with qualifications, I'd start by saying that I don't think there exists one "true" answer that works in every situation. The important thing is to play what you hear, and only what you hear. But if you're just getting started with the topic, it's good to have a good organic place to start. For me, this means going back to my golden rule of improvisation: "What Does the Melody Do?" (WDMD). My biggest problem with what Mark has put forth in his book is that while I think there are beautiful sounds to be had from that approach, it's not the approach I hear most tune melodies being written from, and therefore it's probably not the best starting place for beginners.

Rather than just type all of this stuff again, I'll paste in something from an earlier post and see if it still makes sense:

Jeff,

does this make sense in relation to what you are asking about? In short, using this sound as a starting point gives you the tonalities Mark was talking about except the #4 of the dominant chord (if you want this sound, you can replace the "D" and "E" with a D# during the V7alt chord) and the #2 of the ii chord (if you want this sound, simply change the "F" to F# during the duration of the ii chord. These notes can sound really great, but they're more of an advanced concept, and I can't think of any melodies off the top of my head that use them.

Mike - sorry for the novella in your forum!

5. ### Mike Dimin

Dec 11, 1999
Jeff and Chris,

I too, like the idea of developing a blanket scale to fit the entire progression and often do the same. I often use Dorian as the base and add the chromatics in as I see fit. If you look at Chris's scale, I think you can see the Dorian nature of the blanket scale he proposes.

It is a wonderful idea and I really like it. Realize though that it is more practical than theoretical and an understanding of both is in order.

Addtionally, from a performance aspect, it is just too difficult to play through three different keys in the span of a measure or two. The Blanket Scale idea is the way to go

Dimin

6. ### jeff schmidtno longer red carded, but my butt is still sore.

Aug 27, 2004
Novato, CA
That's really interesting. As I'm sure you guys know - Mark maintains there is no "blanket scale" in this context and his ammo is that if there was - all the greats would have been using it.

But I see you're really just using the term to organize the all chord tones into a single scale - from which you choose fragments to play depending on which chord your'e on. Couldn't this be done with any set of changes?

I'll play around with this approach to minor ii-v and see how it sounds when I play it.

And Mike - I agree - negotiating 3 modes of melodic minor derived from 3 different keys over the course of 4 bars is daunting - thus my inquiry.

A somwehat related question - I'm unfamiliar with any ii-v-i equivilent progression derived from MM harmony - is there one?

Thanks!

7. ### Chris FitzgeraldStudent of LifeStaff MemberAdministrator

Oct 19, 2000
Louisville, KY
I would argue that all the greats have already been using it all along subconsciously - but as a point of sonic departure rather than a fixed entity found in a theory book.

If you have time, check this thread out. It's an oldie, but there are lots of interesting viewpoints both pro and con about the topic.

8. ### Mike Dimin

Dec 11, 1999
I don't look at it as a single, blanket scale, but rather a physical, fingering position or form - a geometric pattern (at least on the BG)

Mike

9. ### jeff schmidtno longer red carded, but my butt is still sore.

Aug 27, 2004
Novato, CA
So that would be a similar approach that Gary Willis advocates - keeping all the tones directly under your hand and a fret away in either direction by locating key centers.

10. ### jeff schmidtno longer red carded, but my butt is still sore.

Aug 27, 2004
Novato, CA
In terms of collecting common chord tones? I agree. I think Mark was referring to the idea that in Major ii-v-i you can stay within the key and cover all the chords - but in minor you have to shift between scales (or fragments) that are not exlcusive to a single key. Am I understanding this correctly?

11. ### Chris FitzgeraldStudent of LifeStaff MemberAdministrator

Oct 19, 2000
Louisville, KY
I think that's what Mark is saying, I just don't agree with it completely. I think that the set of tones I outlined above is the sonic "key center" for minor, and that most people intuitively start from that sound and expand outward into more complex formations based on what theiy're hearing in the moment. But if you're a jazzer and can sing the melodies to minor standards, you'll hear that the essence of minor harmony is much simpler than the melodic/harmonic embellishments that you hear many soloists using. I think that "minor" really is a "key center" just like major - it's just a little more complex.

12. ### jeff schmidtno longer red carded, but my butt is still sore.

Aug 27, 2004
Novato, CA
Not to nitpick - cuz I'm simply trying to fully understand this idea - but the scale Chris layed out (to me anyway) is a Natural minor form with b6 or 6 and/or b7 or 7 depending on the chord. Almost like a bebop natural minor. It's kinda funny - I always play that form with the maj 7 as a passing tone anyway - so the addition of the natural 6 makes it appear like a bebop scale.

In running thru this a few different ways - I actually play more freely and thus more melodically if I view the progression from the vantage point of the ii and use that as the leaping off point - making alterations along the way. I don't know why that works for me both geometrically on the board - and in the sounds I hear - but it seems to allow me greater freedom.

As a general rule - every once in a while I start to self-examine the way I do things. And I ask myself "is this the only you could approach this". I started feeling like there was more to know about this particular type of sound so I began exploring alternative ways of approaching it. That's what led to Mark's 3 modes from 3 keys point. That still seems like a lot of extra work - but I'll play with it and see if I can't pull a few ideas outta there as well.

13. ### Chris FitzgeraldStudent of LifeStaff MemberAdministrator

Oct 19, 2000
Louisville, KY
I teach the 1, 2, b3, 4 5 b6, b7, 7, 8 tonality as a "minor bebop" scale, since it gives people a concept in minor that they can relate to concepts already learned in major. I think that the ability to paint with a broad brush when improvising is an absolute prerequisite to fine detail work - in music, as in visual arts. As an artist in any medium gains skill, they gain the abilty to conceptualize their craft on a more detailed level. In music, this means that it's easier to start hearing the general key centers first (as Mark will be the first one to tell you), and then delve into finer detail as your ear learns to deal with the more detailed sounds.

14. ### jeff schmidtno longer red carded, but my butt is still sore.

Aug 27, 2004
Novato, CA
Do you distinguish this from the "formal" minor bebop scale as the dorian form with an added major 3rd? And what specific concepts in major does it relate to in your teaching?

I suspect some of my confusion is instrument related - shifting between views from the persepective of Piano - URB and EBG.

15. ### Chris FitzgeraldStudent of LifeStaff MemberAdministrator

Oct 19, 2000
Louisville, KY
I relate it to the dominant bebop scale with the added #7 as a passing tone. I'm not aware of the dorian bebop minor bebop scale (??). It's always been my impression that bebop scales are basically artificial constructions designed to keep chord tones on downbeats, so the passing 7th in minor and dominant makes sense. There is a major "bebop scale" (according to Jamey, anyway) that has a #5 added, which I suppose is designed to help outline a Ma6 tonality.

16. ### jeff schmidtno longer red carded, but my butt is still sore.

Aug 27, 2004
Novato, CA
I got the minor bebop (dorian + major 3rd) from Jamey as well.

I just googled it and found another source that describes it the same way.

http://www.e-saxophone.net/minor_bebop_scales.htm

I actually find the idea of a formal "bebop scale" kind of funny because I am personally apt to use any non-chord tone within a half step as "filler" to keep chord tones on strong beats. It happens almost automatically sometimes. Not nearly enough of the time though

17. ### Mike Dimin

Dec 11, 1999
I definetly subscribe to this idea. Although I love Gary's book, it really only scratches the surface of what is possible using this idea. I am currently writing a book that is MUCH more in-depth on the premise. It is comprehensive, in that it addresses all aspects of bass playing, from reading, to creating bass lines to soloing.

Mike

18. ### Mike Dimin

Dec 11, 1999
Yes, but if you think of a geometric pattern, you do not have to change the scale, just the appropriate tones

Mike

19. ### Mike Dimin

Dec 11, 1999
Could not agree more. The point is, however, that as you grow as a player and your melodic sense becomes more sophisticated, you need more "tools in the toolbox", more resources to draw from.

I always laugh when I listen (or should I say forced to listen to) Claude Bolling's Suites for Jazz whatever. He idea of "jazz" is really so very immature.

Mike

20. ### Mike Dimin

Dec 11, 1999
I find that if you are using Dorian, it is easier to access both the b6 and natural 6 as well as the b7 and natural 7

Mike