How To Master The ii-V-I Progression: 25 Essential Lines You Need To Know

There are certain things that you need to do if you want to improve your musical skills…Setting aside time each day to practice. Listening to important recordings. Seeking out teachers to guide you along the way.

The same is true if you want to improve your jazz improvisation skills. You need to spend time listening, transcribing solos, building technique, and learning language. But there’s one crucial element that a lot of players seem to avoid…

…the ii-V-I progression.

If you want to sound great over jazz standards, if you want to create flowing melodic lines, and if you want to improvise music within the jazz lineage…you need to master the ii-V-I progression.

That’s why today’s lesson is dedicated to showing you the steps necessary to master this chord progression. So you can stop struggling and guessing, and finally know exactly what to practice and how to practice it.

In the examples below, you’ll find 25 essential ii-V lines that we’ve transcribed and analyzed from the best improvisers, extracting specific melodic and harmonic techniques – techniques that you can start using today in your solos.

A Brief Theory Explanation…

Before we jump into the music, let’s take a look at some theory. The good news is that you don’t need to know a lot of complex theory to understand the ii-V-I progression.

Why is it called a “two-five-one” (ii-V-I) progression?

If you take the diatonic chords in the key of C Major and isolate the ii-, the V7, and the I chords, you’ll end up with a ii-V7-I progression:

The ii chord leads to the V7 chord and in turn, the V7 chord resolves to the I chord. Remember, this chord progression is a central part of many styles of music, not just jazz.

Understanding the chord quality and resolutions:

Next take a ...

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