by Gjermund Sivertsen
II-V-I to minor

Do you know the 2-5-1 to minor chords? Many people don’t! There are multiple ways to add a 2-5-1 to minor as a jazz pianist. If you play in a ballad style, you’d play differently than if you played in a medium or up-tempo swing tune.

I have to say that I had been playing for many years until I realized the importance of practicing 2-5-1 to minor in all keys. Not only so that I would be able to play medium and/or up-tempo tunes where 2-5-1 to minor occurs, but in ballads as well.

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When you want to play a II-V-I progression to minor, remember that the II chord is always a (b5) (flat 5), the V- chord is always a Dominant 7, and the I chord is a minor7

You can play whatever voicings you’d like, but for this example I played for you the “Slow-ballad-style” voicing. This doesn’t have a good name, but I call it C- voicings in the exercises. 

This is how it looks like:

  • On the II chord (the Dmi7(b5)) you play 1,11,(b5),7. So you do not play the minor 3rd at all at this stage. 
  • On the V chord, you just move down your top note a half step. Then the result is a 5,1,(b9),3. 
  • On the I chord, you go through minor-major7 before you end up on a minor 7. (see image above)

Snowing on the sulx vulx

When you play a tune like this one:

This is a perfect tune for using the “C-voicings”. It goes really slow, and there is plenty of time to make the fat voicings stand for itself. You simply don’t need to add anything else than the melody and the C-voicings to make it sound great! Try it out for yourself!
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How to practice:

Here’s how I recommend that you practice the II-V-I to minor: 

  1. Practice the II-V-I progression to minor through the following cycle: Dmi7 (b5) - G7 - Cmi7. Then: Cmi7 (b5) - F7 - Bbmi7. Continue until you've done the cycle. Then remember to play where you start from Ebmi7 (b5)..
  2. Play the chord changes over the tune “Snowing on the sulx vulx” or similar tunes. You could try this over any slow- ballad (as said, it doesn’t work so well over an up-tempo tune).