Jazz School: ii7-V7-IM7: Basic Scale-Chord Pairings

Time and time again, you are going to rediscover that scales and chords are intimately inter-related. Knowing your chords helps you know your scales and knowing your scales helps you know your chords!

One way to conceive of the ii7-V7-IM7 chord progression is as three sets of “scale-chord” or “chord-scale” pairings as follows:

The Dm7 chord is paired with the D [Dorian] mode of the C major scale…

piano-ology-jazz-school-major-two-five-one-progression-scale-chord-pairings-d-minor-7-dorian

Note: This is NOT the same as Dorian modal music. This is tonal major harmony in the key of C, not the key of D.


The G7 chord is paired with the G [Mixolydian] mode of the C major scale…

piano-ology-jazz-school-major-two-five-one-progression-scale-chord-pairings-g-dominant-7-mixolydian

Note: This is NOT the same as Mixolydian modal music. This is tonal major harmony in the key of C, not the key of G.


The CM7 chord is paired with the C [Ionian] mode of the C major scale, which is simply the C Major scale you already know…

piano-ology-jazz-school-major-two-five-one-progression-scale-chord-pairings-c-major-7-ionian


Now let’s put it all together (with voice leading in the left hand)…

piano-ology-jazz-school-major-two-five-one-progression-scale-chord-pairings-putting-it-all-together

… paying attention to the overall sound-feelings of the melodic and harmonic motion… the first step in developing the experience required to recognize a ii7-V7-Imaj7 when you hear it.

Understanding and mastering such scale-chord relationships is a prerequisite to fluent improvisation. This is yet another set of musical patterns that help us to organize our musical thoughts. Knowing where the notes are, how they relate to each other, and how they look and feel on the keyboard will also pay huge dividends when sight reading, transposing, and playing by ear!

You still have HOMEWORK to do: Using your knowledge of scales and chord structure (and your ears of course), play these scale-chord pairings in all twelve keys. In doing so, you are going to build an enormous chord vocabulary that integrates the aural, visio-spatial, kinesthetic and lays a solid foundation for fluent improvisation.


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About Frank J Peter

A uniquely burdened and blessed citizen of the world thinking and acting out loud!
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