Besides simple half step approaches to the next chord do you know of any nice transition chords between the ii and V and/or the V and ii when playing on a ii-V vamp?

  • You can try a dominant 7th a fifth above. So ii II7 V. And VI7 ii II7 V. And mess around with those combos.
    – b3ko
    Jan 10 '20 at 22:31
  • Are you talking about soloing over a ii-V vamp, or are you creating an arrangement of a song? Jan 11 '20 at 10:16

There's plenty of things that can be done (and ii goes to V/v pretty well without any intermediate transitions and is a very common progression in jazz), which also kind of depend on whether the piece is in major or minor. These are some of the more "complex" progressions I use:

  • Major: ii → vii° → iii → (vi) → IV → V

iii can be followed by ii, with the whole progression cycle starting again.

  • Minor: ii → VII/vii° → i → III/III+ → VI/#vi° → (IV/iv) → V

You can cycle between III/III+ and VI/#vi°, also IV/iv and VII/vii° indefinitely.

Feel free to add 7ths, 9ths and 11ths on top. Inversions can make some of the more dissonant transitions "cleaner", but it depends on what kind of sound you are trying to achieve.

More "sophisticated" techniques, like tritone substitutions and Coltrane changes can be employed as well to "spice up" the all-too-common ii → V → I.

  1. "°" denotes a diminished chord.
  2. "()" means a chord can be omitted from the sequence.
  3. "/" between chord numbers means "either ... or".
  4. "+" denotes an augmented chord.
  5. "#" before numeral means all notes of the chord are raised by a semitone.
  6. Major/minor chords based on the tonic can appear pretty much anywhere within those progressions. Minor keys give more options (and, in my personal opinion, sound better and will be more suited for a transition between ii and V).

I am using ii (an example would be ascending melodic minor within classical music, can be done both in ascending and descending jazz progressions) instead of the "regular" ii° for minor keys, because OP asked for a transition between ii and V specifically; and I am suggesting a schematic for triads only for the sake of simplicity. Naturally, all the chords mentioned can be extended, reduced and inverted, it all depends on the style and instrument played.

  • Your point 5 - in minor keys, won't 'ii' be 'iio'?
    – Tim
    Jan 11 '20 at 8:43
  • @Tim, OP wanted a transition from ii to V specifically... It can work for melodic minor (ascending for classical music, any direction for jazz). Could also be an "implied" minor triad with a missing 5. Should I clarify it better?
    – Pyromonk
    Jan 11 '20 at 11:26
  • 1
    Yes, I forgot about 'ii' in mel.min. Could even be m7b5. Probably worth qualifying.
    – Tim
    Jan 11 '20 at 11:38
  • 1
    Another notational point: Pyromonk is using "X/Y" here to mean "X or Y", not "X of Y" or "X over the bass note Y".
    – Rosie F
    Jan 13 '20 at 7:22
  • @RosieF, thank you, that is a very good addition. I forgot that the slash could be interpreted differently. The progressions are from my personal notes for gigs.
    – Pyromonk
    Jan 13 '20 at 12:47

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.