5 Must Know Major ii-V-I Outlines for Guitar
By: Matt Warnock
When learning how to play jazz guitar, one of the most important skills to get under your fingers and in your ears is the ability to correctly and musically outline short, major ii-V-I chord progressions in your solos.
In today’s lesson we’ll be looking at 5 common and important phrases that you can use to outline short ii-V-I chord progressions in your jazz guitar soloing ideas.
Each of these examples is written out in the key of G major, but feel free to explore them in all 12 keys, as well as bring them to your solos over jazz standards that you know or are working on in the practice room, as you explore these ideas further in the woodshed.
To explore these ideas further, check out my article “5 Easy Ways to Outline ii V I Chords on Guitar.”
Short Major ii-V-I Outline 1
The first outline that we’ll look at uses the 1-3-5-7 arpeggio for the iim7 chord, Am7 in this case, that leads by 1/2 step from the 7th of Am7 to the 3rd, F#, of D7.
From there, the D7 run moves down the D Mixolydian scale until it then moves from the 7th of D7, C, to the 3rd of Gmaj7, B, to complete the line.
This type of voice leading, smooth movement between chords, can really help bring a linear sense to your lines, outlining the underlying chords properly, while sounding musical at the same time.
For this reason, explore those half-step resolutions from one chord to the next is something that you should continue to explore in the practice room going forward.
Short Major ii-V-I Outline 2
The second outline is almost the same as the first example we looked at, but in this instance the E over D7 has been lowered to Eb, producing a D7b9 sound in this outline.
Sometimes something as simple as changing one note in a pattern will allow you to extend your usage of this lick without repeating yourself exactly each time.
Here is outline number 2 written out in the key of G major.
Short Major ii-V-I Outline 3
This outline uses a common jazz rhythm in the first half of the first bar, starting on the #7 of Am7 and running up the arpeggio from there with a triplet rhythm to get you to the top of that shape.
From there, you will use two approach notes to move from the 7th of Am7, G, to the 7th of Gmaj7, F#. Again, this is an example of using voice leading to smoothly and musically move between various chords in a progression.
Short Major ii-V-I Outline 4
The fourth outline that we’ll explore in this lesson uses the 1-3-5 triad of each chord with a passing note between the 5th of the first chord and the root of the next chord. Again, this is an example of using voice leading to connect each chord in the ii-V-I chord progression smoothly and naturally.
Here is how that outline looks in the key of G major.
Short Major ii-V-I Outline 5
The last outline that we’ll look at is based off the 6th-string root of the iim7 chord, uses the 7-3 voice leading concept to connect the iim7 and V7 chords, only this time we’re using an F#dim7 arpeggio to outline the D7 chord.
When playing over any 7th chord, you can play a dim7 arpeggio from the 3rd of that chord, in this case it’s the F# from D7, to outline a rootless 7b9 sound over that chord. The dim7 from the 3rd arpeggio will spell out the intervals 3-5-b7-b9 over that 7th chord, giving you all the color notes you need, without containing the root in your line.
Here is that example in the key of G.
As you can see, with only these 5 licks under your fingers, in a number of keys, you will be ready to tackle any short, major ii-V-I chord progression that comes your way the next time you’re faced with one on the bandstand or in the practice room.
Do you have any questions about these outlines? Post your thoughts in the COMMENTS section below.
About Matt Warnock
Matt Warnock is the owner of mattwarnockguitar.com, a free website that provides hundreds of lessons and resources designed to help guitarists of all experience levels meet their practice and performance goals, and is the author of the widely popular “30 Days to Better Jazz Guitar” series. Matt lives in the UK, where he is a lecturer in Popular Music Performance at the University of Chester and an examiner for the London College of Music (Registry of Guitar Tutors).