II V I Progression
Just as I mentioned before, in Jazz improvisation the most important concept to learn is how to connect the improvised lines with the harmony. If we take a II V I progression in C major, basically we have to connect our improvised lines and melodies to the basic notes of the chords. In this first example, we are going to start from the 3rd of Dm7, then we are going to move to the 3rd of G7 and we will resolve on the 3rd of Cmaj7.
The second variation of this exercise is starting from the 7th of Dm7, moving to the 7th of G7 and resolving to the 7th of Cmaj7.
These two voice leading exercises are very used in Bebop vocabulary, in some melodies from the Jazz Standard repertoire to Classical Music. This a basic and powerful way of connecting scales with the important notes of the chords. By practicing it in different keys, you will also start hearing and understanding chord changes and progressions, which is another important skill that Jazz musicians need to develop: Ear training or the ability to understand and follow the changes that you are playing.
I have to say that this is a lot easier for piano players, because while they are improvising with the right hand, they have the advantage of the left hand, which they are using to play and follow the harmony.
The next examples are two famous Jazz standars where the melody features the use of the voice leading technique. In All the things you are, the first 16 bars of the melody has been composed playing mostly the 3rd of each chord and creating a fourth interval which descends parallelly until we reach Gmaj7. Additionally, the rest of the tune has been composed mostly landing in the third of the chords.
In Fly me to the moon, the first 8 bars of the melody has also started on the 3rd of the chord and is also landing on the 3rd of the next chords, but this time alternating between descending and ascending scalar patterns.
Just as we saw in these examples, the voice leading technique is so important, that has been use not only for improvisation, but as a tool for composition as well. The next Jazz lessons will explain how to keep developing the voice leading exercises. but this time using arpeggios and inversions of the chords.
Next lesson: The II V I Progression (part 2)