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Minor II v I Article

Minor II v I Article

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How to improvise over minor II V I chords by Wayne McConnell
How to improvise over minor II V I chords by Wayne McConnell

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Published by: Brighton Jazz Musicians Co-op on Sep 17, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Minor II-V-Is
Minor II-V-Is make up a large part of the jazz repertoire varying from wholesongs in minor keys (like Yesterdays, Beautiful Love and Minor Blues) totunes that have sections of minor tonality (such as Autumn Leaves, NoGreater Love and Softly As in a Morning Sunrise). Due to this, it is importantto be able to negotiate around them in any key. There are two ways of thinking about Minor II-V-Is; harmonic minor and melodic minor. This sessionis concerned with the latter; the melodic minor scale. The melodic minor scale is the ‘descending’ melodic minor scale used inclassical harmony. A simple way of remembering how they are constructedis ‘it’s the same as a Ionian scale (major scale) with the flattened 3
or minor3
. Therefore C melodic minor will be :CDEbGABCOne of the challenges with playing over Minor II-V-Is is that each chord in theprogression comes from a different key. Rather than bombard you withtheory (and you’ll have to trust me on this) I’m going to label themaccordingly.
– the two chord in a melodic minor key is actually from the 6
mode of the melodic minor scale (sometimes called Locrian II). The alterations in thescale means that the II chord has a b5th naturally occurring in the chord. Soa II in a minor II-V-I in the key of C would look like this:D-7b5 which is the same as DØ the spelling is D F Ab C in root position.Because we are thinking of this chord as the II of C it is easy to forget that itdoesn’t actually come from the key of C (there is no Ab in Cmajor!) Think of itas being the 6
mode of the melodic minor scale. Therefore DØ comes fromF melodic minor. You can also think of it as coming from the key a minor 3
up from the root of the chord.
 The five chord in a melodic minor key comes from the 7
mode of themelodic minor scale (often called the altered scale). The chord symbol forthis in the key of C would be G7alt. So which melodic minor scale does G7alt
come from? The answer is Ab melodic minor. You can also think of it ascoming from the melodic minor scale a semitone above the chord.
 The one chord actually comes from the root of the chord. The alterationmakes the one chord a minor/major. This might sound strange but it ispossible to have a chord that has a minor 3
and a major 7
. The symbol forthis can be : C-maj, C-∆. This spells out the following chord in root position:C Eb G B (it’s the last chord in the famous James Bond Theme – play it onpiano and you’ll know what I mean).So, as we can see, the Minor II-V-I is more complex than it’s ‘major’ brotherbut memorise the following chart and refer to it when you need to
- The scale comes from a minor3
– The scale comes from asemitone above
- The scale is the Melodic Minor of the Root of the chord.
Chord/Scale Relationships of the first four chords;
Concert: BbEb
D- (D dorian) E- (E dorian)B- (Bdorian)(D melodic minor) C#Ø (E melodic minor) AbØ (Bmelodic minor)EØ (G melodic minor) F(A melodic minor)C#Ø (Emelodic minor)A7alt (Bb melodic minor)B7alt (C melodic minor)F#7alt (Gmelodic minor)
Even though the chord symbols on the lead sheet are slightly different (thedominant chords are notated as +9) you can change them into full minor II-V-Is as above. Look for minor II-V-Is in new tunes you learn and apply theabove to find out what scales to use.
Scales to Music
OK, so now you know how to derive the scales and chords but how do youturn the scales into music? Well, if I’m honest, you will spend the rest of your

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