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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.

5 thoughts on “Jazz Chord Cycles

  1. Is this method a generality or is your style? Please your answer would be very useful to me.Thanks.
    Lee Surf.

    • Hi Lee, I don’t quite understand your question, but I’ll answer as best I can. This is just one of the dozens or even hundreds of ways I think guitarists should approach their instrument when they sit down to practice. The more different patterns you familiarize yourself with on your instrument, the better you end up understanding it and the easier it is for you to access your instrument in those different ways.

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