Hey Jazz Guy

June 1, 2010

GP0610_JHHey Jazz Guy,
Can you explain the basic concept of a IIm-V progression and why it’s so important? —Chordless in Cleveland

Dear Chordless,
A IIm-V (two-five) is a basic progression that is taken from the cycle of 5ths. Root motion in 4ths or 5ths is motion around the circle and it is what we call the “tonic/dominant” relationship. When you listen to older music, such as baroque and classical, you hear this relationship very clearly. In jazz, it is often obscured a bit by more modern harmony, but the idea is the same. It’s the combination of root motion and the guide tone motion

of these chords that makes the IIm-V work. The 7th of the IIm chord (C) becomes the 3rd of the V chord (B). The 3rd of the IIm (F) chord stays the same, but when the root note changes, the F functions as the 7th of the V chord. Notice how the same concept applies when the V chord moves to the I chord. For the chords in Ex. 1 (Dm7, G7, and

Cmaj7), we only use the guide tones. Keep in mind you can invert them as well [Ex. 2]. To really hear the harmony, add the bass notes in Ex. 3 to get the full effect.




When you practice these, play them in all keys, with the proper voice leading. Then when you’re playing lines over this progression, like the one in Ex. 4, make sure your line reflects that voice leading and highlights the guide tone motion and you will be on your way to a much richer harmonic vocabulary. - JAKE HERTZOG

Jake Hertzog is the jazz ambassador to the non-jazz world. Send your questions to guitplyr@musicplayer.com. Jake’s latest release is Patterns [Buckyball].

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