Jamie Holroyd Guitar

Jamie Holroyd Guitar

The Easy Way To Play Minor ii V I’s on Guitar

The Easy Way To Play Minor ii V I’s on Guitar

Quite often when learning jazz guitar we can spend more time shedding major ii-V-I’s leading us to neglect the minor ii V I.

In this lesson I will be showing you a cool and easy trick you can use when blowing and comping over minor ii-V chord progressions to give you some new ideas.

For this lesson you will need to know your minor 7b5 inversions like the back of your hand, so I have written them all out here in the resource section of the website for you to check out.

Not only will this method give you new ways to solo and comp over minor ii-V-I’s it will also double your alt dominant chord dictionary as well as give you cool new minor 6th chords.

Don’t forget you can always use the ii-V voicings over major chord progressions and just change the I chord to a major 6 or 7.



Up a Minor 3rd, Up a Major 3rd Concept


In an earlier article I explained how dominant 7th chords can be symmetrical and today we are looking at how mi7b5 chords can also be.

As much as I enjoy smoothly voice leading minor II-V’s within a small fret span, another easy and tasteful way to comp and play in a minor ii-V-I situation is to simply move the arpeggio or chord shape up a minor third or 3 frets to get an altered dominant chord, than up a major 3rd or 4 frets to get a minor 6th chord.

Check out the example below which shows how you can move two drop 2 E-7b5 inversions up and achieve this.



I have only used two inversions to avoid going too high up the neck, but this will work with each minor 7b5 drop inversion and certain inversions will obviously work better in different keys.

The next few examples are some of my favourites that work for the full ii-V-I and sound particularly effective because you have free fingers to have movement within the voicings.

Check out the example below for two positions that give you a free fourth finger to create movement to use in chord solos or solo jazz guitar arrangements.



The first example uses drop 2 voicings on strings 1234 and I’m using a minor ii-V-I in the key of D- (E-7b5, A7b9, and D-7) so that we stay within good fret range.



Using the Major 7#11 in ii-V


Still not enough minor ii-V-I volcab? There’s more! Another very cool trick that you can do is use the major 7#11 as a half diminished or minor 7b5 chord.

Typically in a minor blues progression you will see the D-7b5 in the turnaround tritone substituted for a dominant 7th or a major 7#11 chord.


Minor Blues Progression


Abmaj7#11 contains the same notes as D-7b5 — Ab (b5), C (7th), D (R), and G (11), so what does this mean?

It means that we can move the #11 chord the same, first by a minor 3rd, then by a major 3rd for a minor ii-V-I voicing, pretty cool huh?

Check out the example below to see how this works using a favourite major 7th#11 chord grip.



Of course this works with all the major 7#11 chord inversions that you know, but here’s a cool trick you can do with this one.

If you loose the root to each of the voicings in the example you get some hip first inversion 4th voicing chords.




How To Practice This Minor II-V-I Concept


  • Work through minor ii-V-I’s in all keys in each inversion
  • Apply the concept to tunes that you are working on
  • Practice one chord per measure at first, then start to increase change


Hopefully you will find this lesson useful in developing your minor ii-V-I chops. This is a great concept and using them for a chord is only the beginning, don’t forget you can superimpose these changes in your single line blowing too.

Have you come across this way to play minor ii-V-I’s before? What are some of your favourite ways to play this progression? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

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Jamie These are great lessons. I always look to what tid bits of ideas you have

Thanks for your hard work.

Jamie Holroyd

No problem Eddie, thanks for checking them out!

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This lesson was very interesting for me!
Thank you very much for your work.
I have studied jazz guitar for two years, but still afraid minor II-V-I :)))

I'd read your Ways to Improvise Over minor II-V-I with great pleasure.
Thank you.

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Liam Murray

Hi Jamie - loving this 'up m3 / up M3' thing for Min ii-V-1 but playing around I'm not sure it works with every inversion? I'm thinking - "2-131-", the drop 3 inversion, first one at the bottom of your Resource page on Drop 3 (Cm7-5 here)?

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HI Jamie,
I've always had a hard time understanding how Dizzy would look at m7b5 chords as m6 chords with the 6th in the bass. That is until I saw this particular lesson, it suddenly became clear in my mind,(always a big step for me on the road to understanding a concept).
Thanks, in a big way!!

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