What are some common progressions for Jazz improvisation?
I have been playing with ii-V-I and variations -- what are some others? Is the answer here just to really dig through standards until I've 'internalised' this stuff a little better?
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There are, of course, an enormous variety of chord progressions used in jazz. That said, here are three you should know:
The basic 12-bar blues as played in jazz (not as played in blues) usually goes something like:
In blues, all these chords would be dominant sevenths. Jazz players, however, frequently play their diatonic versions.
Common variations include replacing the chords in a given bar with a ii-V cadence that resolves to the chord in the next bar. For example, you could replace the I in bar 4 with a ii-V that resolves to the IV in bar 5.
Rhythm Changes is a progression based around the chords of the popular Gershwin tune "I Got Rhythm". It's in the usual 32-bar AABA format, and the traditional key is Bb:
A section: BbM7 Gm7 | Cm7 F7 | BbM7 Gm7 | Cm7 F7 | Fm7 Bb7 | EbM7 Edim | Cm7 F7 | Bb7 turnaround | B section: D7 D7 | D7 D7 | G7 G7 | G7 G7 | C7 C7 | C7 C7 | F7 F7 | F7 F7 |
These changes are so popular among jazz musicians in large part because they offer myriad opportunities for variation. You can substitute to your heart's content here and find different ways to navigate the same basic structure. Here are some common substitution ideas.
Like a challenge? Try this on for size. I recommend reading this Wikipedia article, which does a better job of explaining the ideas behind the so-called "Coltrane Changes" (as most famously used in "Giant Steps") than I could do.
If it is not yet part of your "II-V-I" variations, you want to learn about the tritonic substitution concept, which consists in changing a V7 chord in a progression with a bII7 chord. The interval between V and bII is 3 tones == 1 tritone == diminished 5th == augmented 4th. The progressing IIm7 -> bII7 -> IM7 adds some nice chromaticity opportunities.
Try practising the minor II-V-I (II-7b5, V7 with b9, #9 #11, #13, Im (with nice extensions such as m69, mM7).
Bebop sound with IVm7 bVII7 IM7.