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Beginning Jazz Guitar - Lesson 2

Lesson 2 - Understand Chord Progressions

In this next lesson we are going to learn how to put those chords we learned previously to use! This will be a very basic, and hopefully not too theory intensive, overview of a basic jazz chord progression, the ii-V7-I. There is a whole lot to learn about harmony, which is one of my favorite subjects, but the object of these lessons is to keep it pretty simple and give us a solid foundation to start with that we can expand over time. So let's get to it!

We are going to start by taking a look at the diatonically harmonized C major scale. In this case we are harmonizing each chord up to its 7th degree. If you aren't sure how to harmonize a seventh chord that's ok, you can still check out the chord progressions later in this lesson. Try to get with a good teacher who can explain how to do this, or do some research!



As you can see, each chord in the harmonized scale has a degree number that goes with it. You will also notice that not all of the chords are the same quality. When I mention chord quality I am talking about if a chord is a minor 7th, or a major 7th, or some other type of chord. For our first chord progression we are going to use chords that are in our harmonized scale, and we will be using the iim7, the V7, and the Imaj7 chords.



Notice that the above chords are the iim7, the V7 and the Imaj7 chords from the harmonized C major scale. The ii-V7-I is the most common chord progression in jazz music. You should learn how to play these chords in any key. Here is another example of a ii-V7-I chord progression in the key of G.



You will notice that in the above ii-V7-I chord progression we used different chord forms. A good first exercise would to be to try and build a ii-V7-I chord progression in every key using different chord forms. A lot of standard jazz tunes will have ii-V7-I chord progressions in multiple keys throughout the tune, so being able to play this chord progression in any key is extremely important.

Something else we havent talked about yet is adding rhythm to these chords. We will start with one simple jazz style rhythm you can apply to any chord.


This is a pretty simple, and standard, jazz style rhythm. It is just a dotted quarter note followed by an eighth note. We can actually get a lot more out of this rhythm by offsetting it by an eighth note rest. You will see what I mean in the example below.



What we did was offset the rhythm by adding an eighth note rest before our rhythm we used in the previous example. This is also called rhythmic displacement. However, plaything this rhythm over and over gets boring as well, so what we need to do is vary our rhythms. Mix in our first rhythm with our displaced rhythm, like in the next example below.



In this example we varied our rhythm, and the results are much nicer to listen to.  You could continue to vary this rhythm by offsetting it by a quarter note, or possibly even a note of even longer time value. There are a lot of possibilities, try it out!

This is a very simple overview of the ii-V7-I chord progression and a simple rhythm to use to play it with. We will be adding more to this chord progression, as well as learning other chord progressions, in future lessons! The ii-V7-I is a very important chord progression that you should spend a significant amount of time learning. It may be simple, but it is something that should be mastered.

Seth Holobaugh is a jazz guitarist and instructor in Plano, TX.http://www.sethholobaughmusic.com http://www.guitarlessonsplano.com

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