I learned recently in a Jazz improvisation class that in a major ii-V-i (2-5-1) it's possible to superpose the arpeggios in the V using the relative harmonic minor field in the same root note as the original key, for example:

ii-V-i in C major:

Dm7 G7 C7M

When the G7 is played I can throw C minor harmonic arpeggio shapes, like Dm7b5 (half-diminished), Fm7 or even (diminished), that it sounds good.

My question is: Is this arpeggio superimposing technique only possible in major 2-5-1 kind of harmony and changing only for harmonic minor harmonic field?

- - EDIT - -

I forgot to add that this question is actually related to "Outside playing", and it kinda feels like the harmony is modular when the technique is applied.

The rationale beyond this was told to me by a lecturer that said that it was because generally a minor ii-V-i progression had to include a dominant 5th to ask for resolution, in the example, it would be:

Dm7b5 G7 Cm7

Having the same chord on the 5th, so the C harmonic minor harmonic field is the "glue" that binds the two keys together, sounding really great when applyed.

The problem was when I tried to play this at home. It sounded great in this specific case, but it didn't sound very well when I inverted this, I found a C minor ii-V-i backtrack and tried to play using C major arpeggios on the 5th, and it sounded crappy.

Is this a very specific case that no one can explain or there is some higher concept here that I'm missing?

  • Am I the only one who doesn't understand 'playing out'?
    – Tim
    Commented Jun 24, 2016 at 12:59
  • @Tim You mean you don't understand the concept or the expression? I'm talking about this: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Outside_(jazz) Commented Jun 25, 2016 at 4:59
  • Thanks - it's 'outside playing'! 'Playing out(side)' I did as a kid! And last night at an open air concert, as it happens!
    – Tim
    Commented Jun 25, 2016 at 7:56
  • @Tim thanks, I adjusted the question as asked. I was almost sure that I heard someone saying "Playing out", and as English is not my mother language I thought it was as natural as it is in Portuguese, "tocar fora". Thank you for the info :) Now related to the question, do you have some knowledge that you can share about this technique? Commented Jun 27, 2016 at 0:40
  • @Tim - Playing Out is definitely an expression I've heard before. It's definitely more slang though. Commented Jun 29, 2016 at 15:11

1 Answer 1


I'm not entirely familiar with that term but I believe I can provide some insight.

There appear to be two things happening in your example. The first is the idea of arpeggio superimposing and the second being an alteration to the G7 chord. If I'm properly understanding what I briefly looked up just now, arpeggio superimposing is basically playing an arpeggio for one chord on top of another chord, such as a B diminished arpeggio on top of G7. So I would say that this could happen with any chord and any arpeggio, however, it is probably going to sound much better in some situations than others. A superimposition would potentially introduce some dissonance, so it would be easier to superimpose arpeggios over dissonant chords without changing the function of the chord. In this example, G7 is the dissonant chord seeking to resolve to tonic, so it will be easier to superimpose over this chord and have it continue to function the same. The G7 already being a dissonant chord will also allow the superimposed arpeggio to sound less out of place with the dissonance it adds.

This should be able to work in a number of ways for a number of reasons. The first that comes to mind is that playing a B diminished arpeggio on top of the G7 would be playing the G7 arpeggio without the G. If it is a B diminished 7, it is adding a b9 to the chord, which would be the alteration I was referring to. The other two arpeggios that you mention are a little different but also supply the b9 alteration. The thing that is strange is that the other two examples include a C (5 on the F-7 and 7 on the D-7b5), which will clash with the B in the G7 (some would argue that this subverts the function of the G7). I'm not sure what the intention or consequences of adding the C would be without some sort of context to consider them within but the approach of superimposing arpeggios from outside the given key seems to be a means of stepping outside the changes a bit and playing outside has different 'rules', so the C, while a part of the actual key and the key the superimposed arpeggios are coming from, could, in some regard or another, be interpreted as playing outside as well, within the context of a G7. I would definitely recommend asking your teacher the thought behind including the 4 on a major or dominant chord within this sort of approach. If you're familiar with chord-scales, you should be aware that a major chord will not have a natural 4 or 11, which is essentially to maintain the functionality of the chord, as well as avoiding the additional dissonance it would bring.

In short, you should be able to utilize the concept of arpeggio superimposition with any chord and any arpeggio but depending on the desired effect, it should be approached with caution and will tend to work better/easier in some places than others.

  • Thanks, your answer provides many great information! I forgot to add in my question that it was related with playing out, I'll edit to add that info. The lecturer gave some info about why that happens, I'll add that in the question... Commented Jun 22, 2016 at 20:07
  • added more info, please read the EDIT section Commented Jun 22, 2016 at 20:27

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