ii-V resolving back to ii ?

Question by Mathias
(Stockholm, Sweden)

Hello. Thank you for your great site!

I am working with the Jazz Guitar Licks Video 1, and the leading notes from the arpeggio in the ii-V-I you are showing there.

The question I want to ask is: the video takes up a ii-V-I progression, so the 7th note of the V chord is resolve back to the I chord. But what if there is no I in there, but instead is going back to a ii?

In Satin Doll, for example, the progression is ii-V-ii-V. But the 7th note in the V chord does not resolve back to the ii chord, it’s actually the same thing as the third note in the ii chord. How would I apply this video to this progression?

Best regards,

Hello Mathias,

This is a very good question. The short answer is : There’s not a particular rule or “natural gravity” to repeating a II-V cell, and then the same II-V cell up a whole-tone (as in Satin Doll).

Here’s why …

The most natural chord progressions happen in the cycle of fourths. Progressions can be long or short, and they often get “broken” right in the middle (by a change of key, change of direction, inversions, repetition etc.)

In this case, the II-V is the shortest cycle you can find (only 2 chords in the progression!) Since the cycle is broken so fast, it’s up to the player/improviser to handle the melodic material. (Often done by harmonic generalization … Dm7-G7 = in C major … Em7-A7 = D major).

So, that for the long answer! Applying the concepts discussed in the video you have to :

1- Come up with beautiful melodies for two repetitions of Dm7-G7 and two repetitions of Em7-A7

2- Be aware that there’s a “C-B” movement on Dm7-G7 and a “D-C#” movement on Em7-A7 (that is, the 7th of the ii chord resolving on the third of the V7 chord in each case).

3- That’s it, you’re done! Everything after that is yours to create. You can push as for as creativity allows. No quarter-tones and fuzz pedals, please!


Some more cycling …

This is not related to your “Satin Doll” question. But it’s good to have the big picture!

If you were to continue the cycle, it would go full circle and come back diatonically :

ii V7 I IV vii III7 vi (VI7 to repeat)

In C : Dm7 G7 C F Bm7(b5) E7 Am (A7 to repeat)

It’s called the diatonic cycle and you could start with any chords and to the complete cycle…

Melodically you could simply descend the c major scale (from F note) and fall the third of each diatonic chord (exception : E7 needs a G# note). The most well known tune that employs the full diatonic cycle is “Autumn Leaves”.

To conclude, common pop and jazz progressions are often made of a shorter part of the cycle.

Example : All the Things You Are

vi ii V7 I IV … then a ii-V-I in the key of III.

Same thing twice, first time in Ab, second time in Eb.

I hope this helps,
Leave any comments here with more questions and suggestions.

Marc-Andre Seguin


Old Comments for ii-V resolving back to ii ?

May 03, 2011
by: Marc-A (Admin)


Yes I understand. I think you should really check out the Connecting chords with Linear Harmony book.

It’s were those licks “come from”. There’s always a way to work in eights-notes, quarter-notes or skip/jump to make sense of your lines…

Practice Well,

May 02, 2011
Thank you.
by: Mathias Hellsten

Thank you for your quick and very informative answer – I think I’m getting the hang of it. Ideas I’m ponder is:

1. Trying to make shorter lines, instead of endless strings of quarter notes up and down the major scale, trying to make shorter “words” – the licks you described in the video. Perhaps by simple making the licks a bar each. That way I could use the spaces between the notes as well.

2. Making bigger “jumps” at the end of the bar. If there’s no ‘perfect’ way to resolve from V to ii again, maybe then I can make a bigger “jump” than just continuing on the scale, starting another phrase from another note when the chord switches back to the ii.

Again, merci beaucoup!

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