These ii–V–I melodies are intended for the beginning jazz student interested in learning how to “play the changes.” Each melodic idea contains only notes present in the tonal center, yet clearly outlines each of the chords in the ii–V–I progression by using a mix of arpeggios and clear vocie leading.

The primary voice leading mechanism in a ii–V–I progressions is the half-step and common tone movement of each chord’s 3rd and 7th, collectively known as “guide tones.” The guide tone movement is presented at the top of the lesson.

After developing familiarity with the basic 3rd and 7th guide tones, try applying melodic voice leading to other common functional progressions, as well as experimenting with alternative melodic guide tones through a ii–V–I progression. After becoming familiar with the diatonic guide tones, chromatic guide tones can be utilized, including lines that use the ♭9 and ♯5 on the V7 chord. Examples in the key of C major are E–E♭–D and A–A♭–G (one note per chord).

The second page of this lesson takes the first collection of lines and adds chromatic embellishments, including passing tones and enclosures. These chromatic notes add color and interest, but are still secondary to the arpeggios and voice leading present on the first page.

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