Jazz Chord Progression

Written by Patricia Tunstall
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Common Jazz Chord Progression

A jazz chord progression that is commonly used by all musicians is the ii, V, I chord. The "ii" refers to a minor note, the capital Roman Numerals to major notes. See "Jazz Guitar Chord" on this site for a more detailed explanation. Technicality aside, instrumentalists use this chord progression because it gives that jazzy sound that is so distinctive.

If you take the key of C on a keyboard, the common chords are C, Dm (minor), Em, F, G, A, Bdim (diminished). Following the jazz chord progression above, we have the chords ii (Dm7), V (G7), I (C). The roots (bottom notes) of each of these chords is a fifth apart. Intervals of fifths are known for their powerful harmonics, and jazz musicians extend these ii, V, I chords into major 7ths, 11ths, diminished 7ths, and so on.

Start with Basic Music Scales

Such playing is advanced, and the beginner may be overwhelmed by musical terms and concepts. Fortunately, no one has to know everything at once. The easiest way to start to understand music theory might be with a practical, concrete chart or poster that lays everything out, but guides you from the fundamentals to the more complex.

Any beginner starts with jazz guitar scales, for example. Such practice is not merely a beginning exercise, but sets the foundation for learning the relationships among chords, keys, and intervals. With the scales and easiest musical drills on the left, or beginning of a chart, you can readily pick out basic, but essential information, and proceed at your own pace.


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