ii V I jazz guitar lick in C major

Here’s a ii V I jazz guitar lick in C major. Let’s have a listen first:

I did a video on this lesson:

The main idea in this jazz guitar phrase is to repeat a melodic, memorable motif. The motif forms a melodic ‘shape’ where shape means a series of intervals and melodic contour. But the lick also has a physical shape that repeats on the fretboard adjusting for different string tunings of course.

The shape is basically: play a note, descend a scale tone, descend 2 scale tones, and descend a scale tone. I repeat this for each chord then on on E of the C major 7 chord. Each motif’s starting note goes down in 3rds (G to Eb to B).

The second idea contained within this phrase is the use of minor pentatonic scales. If you’re a former rocker like me you might appreciate the power of pentatonic scales, but instead of playing one scale for an entire song we can superimpose different scales to get different effects.

I start out with a D minor pentatonic scale over Dm7, then move to Bb minor pentatonic over G7 then to E minor penatonic over C major. This is a super powerful method that can not be emphasized enough.

Dm7 – D minor pentatonic gives you D, F, G, A and C which are notes of the Dm7 plus the 11th (G)
G7 – Bb minor pentatonic gives you Bb, Db, Eb, F and Ab which are altered tones of the G7 plus F (minor 7th)
Cmaj7 – E minor penatonic gives you E, G, A, B and D which are chord tones of Cmaj7 plus major 6 (A) and major 9 (D)

One way I like to think of these pentatonic ideas is to play a repeated sequence within one scale and then shift the sequence to other adjacent scales as the chord changes.

Enhance this – play more notes within each scale (eighths or sixteenths), make up lines using the same scales but in the other 4 scale positions of the neck.

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