Minor Harmony in Jazz
The chord progression is the backbone of western civilization music. The harmony created by chords provide added expression to the melody. Jazz harmony consists of a set of typical progressions directly derived from the European classical music tradition.
The goal of the jazz accompanist is to compliment the soloist’s ideas while outlining the given chord progression clearly. As we know, most jazz improvisations use and outline the harmony as a foundation for melodic ideas
This chord progressions series demonstrates the most common progressions found in jazz. They will help you hear and understand the recurrent harmonic traits found in traditional jazz repertoire.
The Diatonic Cycle in Minor
Every major key has a relative minor. For instance C major contains the same notes as A minor. We can play the same progressions in minor keys simply by changing the chords’ qualities. Make sure you check out this page of diatonic chord cycles also!
Let’s play the diatonic cycle in C minor (same notes as Eb major):
IV – bVII – bIII – bVI – II – V – I
This progression can also be seen as a II-V-I in the key of Eb followed by a minor II-V-I in C. In fact it could even be seen as a II-V-I in Eb major followed by a modulation to the key of VI minor (which is C minor) Whatever way you look at it is fine as long as you play and hear all this!
I – VI – II – V and friends
Like the major I-VI-II-V there are plenty of variations in minor. Here’s the basicone from which you can derive more progressions:
And don’t forget my suggestion from the major harmony page (first article in series) … start on the II! We then get II-V-I-VI as follows:
The basic blues progression is also played in minor tonalities. And guess what? … yes: it contains a modulation to the IV … minor! Their exist two main kinds of minor blues progressions:
The first one uses a “tonic minor” sound (melodic and harmonic minor scales) with the I and IV as minor 6th (or minor maj7th) chord quality:
The second one, often called “modal” blues, uses the minor 7th chord quality (Dorian sound) for the I and the IV:
This is the progression found in John Coltrane’s “Mister P.C.”
All done? You can play every possible jazz progression in world on the guitar? in all keys? In all styles? At all tempos? (etc etc.) Great! (-;
Seriously, if you feel comfortable with most of the progressions above, consider using some chord substitutions ideas. Chord changes are fascinating and I believe every jazz guitarist should continually study jazz and classical harmony. Don’t forget: we comp… lots! Have you every noticed your “comping to soloing ratio” on a gig? In the context of a band, we obviously accompany more than anything.