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Skip to 0 minutes and 8 seconds What we want to look at now is II-V-I in a minor key. You’ll often find that II-V-I in a minor key, the II has a flat 5, and the V has a flat 9. They turn out to be the same note. So, for example, let’s be specific, supposing we’re going to C minor then we have a D-based chord and it will be a minor chord typically and the fifth is flattened - which is an A flat. Then we go to a G chord and put the ninth in - G7 - G7 with a flat ninth that’s with an A flat in - and then we’re going home to C minor. Why is it, you may ask?

Skip to 0 minutes and 59 seconds Perhaps the rather surprising answer is - I don’t know. Someone suggested to me that it’s because it’s going to a harmonic minor - and if you think of the harmonic minor, it has an A flat in it … I don’t really find that very convincing. I wonder if it’s to do with an inner voicing that is esentially kind of like a long Amen. So Amen in a major key is a IV-I, from F to C. In a minor setting if we root both chords on C we get … But instead of having an A in the chord we have an A flat in the chord.

Skip to 1 minute and 58 seconds Then we get a stronger resolution so that inner voices are doing that … But I don’t really know. The point is it’s what crops up in practice and we need to be able to deal with this situation. I’m going to have a look at II-V-I. To be specific with the I, I’m going to use C minor7. I could use just C minor and perhaps put a ninth in it or a second and maybe just improvise on the lower part of the scale, so not be too specific about what goes on at the sixth and seventh level. I could use C minor with a natural seventh, but for this exercise I am just going to use C minor7.

Skip to 2 minutes and 50 seconds Them just to recap, our D minor7 - we’re going to use F melodic minor (ascending) rooted on D … For our G7 flat 9 we use C diminished … so it becomes … when we root it on G - C diminished rooted on G. For our C minor … we have the usual Dorian mode - B flat major rooted on C. I’ve made myself a little playalong iRealB -

Skip to 3 minutes and 39 seconds using iRealB: 2 bars of D minor7 flat 5, 2 bars of G7 flat 9, 2 bars of C minor7. I’ll play it twice in the lower position first, in the upper position second. Again I’m more interested in just getting the notes out that belong to the scale, rather than playing anything musical.

Skip to 5 minutes and 5 seconds I hope most of the notes were right there. Let’s try now using the Locrian mode for our half diminished chord which is E flat major rooted on D. Again twice through using upper and lower voicings.

II-V-I in a minor key

We look at the standard ways of playing a II-V-I sequence in a minor key.

You can download the “II-V-I C Minor” chart in PDF format at the bottom of this step. Click here for a playalong for “II-V-I C Minor”.

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Learn Jazz Piano: II. Improvising on Jazz Standards

Goldsmiths, University of London