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"Good improvisation communicates harmonic progression melodically. Effective melodies manipulate harmonic content through the use of guide tones and preparatory gravity notes, masterfully woven in systematic tension, release, and transparent harmonic definition."

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February 21, 2013 | Major 'ii7 V7 I' 3-note Mandolin Chord Blocks

ii7Cake.pngA chocolate cake can take many incarnations. Devil's Food, Tiramisu, German Chocolate, these are all variations on a food that functions as a dessert, more specifically a chocolate cake. Arguably, the context dictates which of these is more appropriate in a meal, as an example, the liqueur of the Tiramisu would make it inappropriate for a children's party, the Devil's Food might not be exotic enough in the final course of a fancy French restaurant meal. That's not to say one is better than another, it just needs to fit within the context of function.

We bring this up because many have looked at our Stock 'ii V7 I' blocks in our past resource pages as confusing. We interchange an Fm7 with an Fm9 (ii7), a C Maj7 with a C6/9, and it's not because we're haphazard. We just think generically in terms of function, and the music theory novice that's just now learning chord spellings would be thrown off by anything outside the line.

The Maj6 chord is standard in the Texas swing vocabulary, a little campy in jazz fusion. The Maj7 is great for ballad and the Great American Songbook list, but completely out of place in the seriously austere world of modal jazz.

Realtors say "Location. Location. Location. Jazzers say "Context. Context. Context."

We'll start this new look at Major 'ii7 V7 I' 3-note Chord Blocks with all this in mind. We don't want to worry about complex extensions just yet. We may look at variations on down the line, but if we're only going to express three of the voices in a hypothetical six note chord, it's moot anyway.

We've run 7th chord blocks in Major and Minor, introduced streams of these with connecting chords, and recently, some 'I vi ii7 V7' blocks, too. Hopefully, you've already run across them (see links below), but if not, this is as good a place as any to jump on board with 3-note chords. Again, these voicings are great in the lower three strings for tone color and power, and we like to keep the E string free for chord extensions, and voice leading in chord melody playing.

3-note chords. Harmonically complete, sonically sound.

This week we introduce four variations of the simple 'ii V7 I' pattern. Have some fun with them, and immediately start moving them up and down the fretboard into other keys. Start with just two frets (a whole step), try them in between that, and beyond. Once in your fingers, you'll be able to employ them in every jazz standard ever written.

Important Chords!!

Download PDF: pdf_sm.gif Major 'ii7 V7 I' Blocks

ii V7 I Home Positions
Vamps. Expanding the Diatonic triads
Vamps. Minor modal
Minor 7th Chord Streams
7th Chord Streams. Under the hood

Posted by Ted at February 21, 2013 5:33 AM

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