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Jazz Chord Cycles

Diatonic Chord Progressions

When attempting to learn a key (also called tonality), I find it’s important to learn as much material from it as possible : intervals, triads, seventh chords, “triads over bass” chords and other relationships.

If you didn’t do so already, please read and play through The Advancing Guitarist by Mick Goodrick.

A great “formal” way of learning all the seventh chords (and triads) present in a key is going through cycles : they consist of systematic root movements covering all the chords of the key.

As far as seventh chord, goes the key of C major contains:

Chord Progression - Major scale

 

The motion of this progression is “cycle 2” because each new chord is a diatonic second up from the previous one…

The question is :

In how many “patterns” could we play those same chords from above?

Six !!!

We have cycle 2 (above), cycle 3, cycle 4, cycle 5, cycle 6 and cycle 7. So, here’s a reference chart for diatonic jazz chord cycles :

Make sure you also check out NON-diatonic jazz chord cycles

Cycle 2 as seen in this article

C major
Cmaj7
Dm7
Em7
Fmaj7
G7
Am7
Bm7(b5)
Cmaj7

C melodic minor 
Cm(maj7) – Dm7 – Ebmaj7(#5) – F7 – G7 – Am7(b5) – Bm7(b5) – Cm(maj7)

C harmonic minor
Cm(maj7) – Dm7b5 – Ebmaj7(#5) – Fm7 – G7 – Abmaj7 – Bdim7 – Cm(maj7)

Cycle 3

C major
Cmaj7
Em7
G7
Bm7(b5)
Dm7
Fmaj7
Am7
Cmaj7

C melodic minor
Cm(maj7) – Ebmaj7(#5) – G7 – Bm7(b5) – Dm7 – F7 – Am7(b5) – Cm(maj7)

C harmonic minor
Cm(maj7) – Ebmaj7(#5) – G7 – Bdim7 – Dm7b5 – Fm7 – Abmaj7 – Cm(maj7)

Cycle 4 as seen in this article

C major
Cmaj7
Fmaj7
Bm7(b5)
Em7
Am7
Dm7
G7
Cmaj7

C melodic minor
Cm(maj7) – F7 – Bm7(b5) – Ebmaj7(#5) – Am7(b5) – Dm7 – G7 – Cm(maj7)

C harmonic minor
Cm(maj7) – Fm7 – Bdim7 – Ebmaj7(#5) – Abmaj7 – Dm7b5 – G7 – Cm(maj7)

Cycle 5 (negative cycle 4)

C major
Cmaj7
G7
Dm7
Am7
Em7
Bm7(b5)
Fmaj7
Cmaj7

C melodic minor
Cm(maj7) – G7 – Dm7 – Am7(b5) – Ebmaj7(#5) – Bm7(b5) – F7 – Cm(maj7)

C harmonic minor
Cm(maj7) – G7 – Dm7b5 – Abmaj7 – Ebmaj7(#5) – Bdim7 – Fm7 – Cm(maj7)

Cycle 6 (negative cycle 3)

C major
Cmaj7
Am7
Fmaj7
Dm7
Bm7(b5)
G7
Em7
Cmaj7

C melodic minor
Cm(maj7) – Am7(b5) – F7 – Dm7 – Bm7(b5) – G7 – Ebmaj7(#5) – Cm(maj7)

C harmonic minor
Cm(maj7) – Abmaj7 – Fm7 – Dm7b5 – Bdim7 – G7 – Ebmaj7(#5) – Cm(maj7)

Cycle 7 (negative cycle 2)

C major
Cmaj7
Bm7(b5)
Am7
G7
Fmaj7
Em7
Dm7
Cmaj7

C melodic minor
Cm(maj7) – Bm7(b5) – Am7(b5) – G7 – F7 – Ebmaj7(#5) – Dm7 – Cm(maj7)

C harmonic minor
Cm(maj7) – Bdim7 – Abmaj7 – G7 – Fm7 – Ebmaj7(#5) – Dm7b5 – Cm(maj7)

Points to Keep in Mind

  • Practice the diatonic jazz chord cycles in different keys!
  • See if you can memorize the diatonic cycle you’re working on.
  • Chords can have different duration (1 bar each, 2 bars each, etc.)
  • By all means, use the metronome, at least sometimes.
  • The cycles can be used in different time signatures.
  • Practice diatonic cycles in different voicings (drop2 and drop3).
  • Try to voicelead each diatonic cycle (in drop2 and drop3).
  • Remove one note from each chord to get just the diatonic triads.