The role of the ii-V-I progression in jazz piano improvisation

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    Greg PercifieldGreg Percifield
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    Greetings, fellow jazz piano enthusiasts!

    The ii-V-I progression is arguably the most common and important chord progression in jazz. It serves as the foundation for many jazz standards and can be found in countless solos and improvisations. Understanding and mastering the ii-V-I progression is crucial for any aspiring jazz pianist.

    In this thread, let’s dive into the role of the ii-V-I progression in jazz piano improvisation. We’ll discuss tips, exercises, and approaches for practicing and improvising over this essential progression. We encourage you to share your experiences, insights, and any questions you might have on this topic.

    To kick off the discussion, here are three ideas for practicing ii-V-I improvisation:

    Start with simple scales: One of the easiest ways to begin improvising over ii-V-I progressions is to use the diatonic scale of the key you’re in. For example, if you’re in the key of C major, try improvising using only the C major scale over a Dmin7-G7-Cmaj7 progression. As you become more comfortable, explore other scales and modes, such as the Dorian mode for the ii chord and the Mixolydian mode for the V chord.

    Practice voice leading: Good voice leading can make your improvisation sound more connected and melodic. Focus on connecting chord tones smoothly by moving to the nearest available chord tone in the next chord. For example, when moving from Dmin7 to G7, try connecting the 7th of Dmin7 (C) to the 3rd of G7 (B).

    Use arpeggios and chord tones: Arpeggios and chord tones can serve as the backbone of your improvisation, providing a strong harmonic foundation. Practice playing arpeggios and chord tones over ii-V-I progressions in different keys, and experiment with combining them with scales and other melodic ideas.

    Share your tips, exercises, and questions about ii-V-I improvisation, and let’s grow together as jazz pianists!

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