Must-Know Licks with Extensions : Connecting the Dots using II-V-I

Must-Know Licks with Extensions : Connecting the Dots using II-V-I

New Series of Hands-On Jazz Guitar Lessons!

Welcome to our new series, “Hands on Jazz Guitar." This is Volume #1 "Must-Know Licks on II-V-I -- Connect the Dots with Extensions. This series aims to help you learn to play some solid jazz lines. The lesson comes in two forms, both this blog post and in the form of a video lesson from yours truly.

Hands On Jazz Guitar 1 - Connecting Chords with Extensions

Through searching our transcriptions we're going to get a close look at some great and interesting jazz ideas for you. This lesson, “Must-Know Licks on II-V-I: Connect the Dots with Extensions" uses an idea that outlines the iim7-V7-IMaj7 chord progression in a colorful way. 

Download ALL of the licks here: "Connecting the Dots with Extensions" PDF (includes TAB)

Four Steps

There are four steps to follow:

  • Step One -- Learn the line and get it in your fingers
  • Step Two -- Study the theory
  • Step Three -- Explore creative ways of using the idea
  • Step Four -- Use the idea to create your own stuff

First, some context: This issue's line is from Issue #3 of our Tune of The Month Club (ToTMC), “Autumn Leaves”. It was released online in September 2015. The ToTMC lesson contains many resources, including video instructions with clear PDFs and TABS sheet music.

Step 1: Learning The Line

Here is the line to learn, the "Original Lick."

Hands On Jazz Guitar 1 - Original Lick

Your goal in this step is to play the line enough so that you feel comfortable with it. In the PDF attachment, this is the "Original Lick." The lick is played over a common iim7-V7-Imaj7 chord progression, in the key of G Major. Watch the Youtube video, and play along at slower tempos at first. When your fingers learn the line at one tempo, move to the next! Start at 50%, move on to 80% then finish with 100% of the original tempo.

Once you’ve got the lick under your fingers, it's time to move on!

Step 2: The Theory

Now that you have the line under your fingers, studying the music theory is the next step. Listen to the idea many times to understand it with your ears. Then study the idea with your eyes to learn the theory.

The main lesson is that there are many colorful ways to connect chords beyond the natural 3-7 and 7-3 pathways. Look closely at the boldface, underlined type in Example 1. Here we see the pathway between the Am7 and D7b9 chords is not the typical 7-3 or 3-7 path. Instead, the lick uses another source. Starting on the 5th of the Am7, the “path” leads to the b9 of the D7b9 chord. It’s a very solid movement, and it provides easy access to chord extensions -- in particular the b9 of the D7b9 chord.

Hands On Jazz Guitar 1 - Theory

If music theory is confusing for you, it’s no problem! You can learn. Our course “Jazz Guitar Improv 101” will get you to started. You’ll learn some great scales, learn about the 3-7 and 7-3 pathways mentioned earlier. Most importantly, you’ll come away with some solid know-how about jazz music.

Step 3: Explore Creative Ways to Use the Line

The goal of step three is simple: create three of your own new "pathways." There are many ways for you to do this. I like to write out my ideas, so you might want to try this idea. What's cool is that by writing out my stuff, I unexpectedly found ideas I didn't even know would be possible!

Here are my ideas. You’ll find the full PDF notation with TABS for my three examples by clicking on the links.

Example A is a simplified version of the original line. It contains all of the essential information of the lick, which gives us the color and force of the line.

Hands On Jazz Guitar 1 - Example A

Example BThis example is a bit different. Look closely at Examples A & B. What are the differences between them? Study the chord changes-- you'll find your answer. The difference is Example B uses a iim7-V7-IMaj7 in the key of C major. Our original lick is in G Major. By playing the exact same notes in a new context (C Major) we find a whole new sound for our line. The theory: This creates a pathway between the 9 of the Dm7 and the #5 of the G7 chord. Two chord extensions, 9 and #5. Double hipness, and a new life to the same old notes as before.

Hands On Jazz Guitar 1 - Example B

Example C uses the key of the relative minor of G Major, E minor. You’ll see that this pathway outlines the bare essentials -- the 7th and 3rd -- between F#m7b5 and B7b9.

Hands On Jazz Guitar 1 - Example C

Step 4: Use The Line in REAL TIME

Now you're really going to "go for it." It’s time for you to create your own new lines. In. The. Moment. In real time! No more writing out ideas ... just play! Watch the video to see my attempts. No transcriptions for this part -- it's on you!

A little reminder for you: If you’ve reached this point, and you have many questions, you may want to study some basics.

Improv 101

Check out the lesson “Jazz Guitar Improv 101”. You’ll learn the basics of scales, chords and II-V-I jazz theory!

Finishing Up

I hope you've enjoyed this little adventure as much as I have. Remember, take your time when learning the line and the theory. In time, these ideas will become a solid part of your playing ... for years to come!

Download ALL of the licks here: "Connecting the Dots with Extensions" PDF (includes TAB)

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How Licks Can Keep You Out of Trouble - Check out our blog post on how licks can get you out of a tight spot!