Retrofitting II over V | Enhance Your Harmonic Vocabulary 

In the quest for rich and colorful harmonies, one powerful technique stands out: adding a II chord before a V chord. This approach, while often associated with jazz, is incredibly versatile and can be applied across various genres, including funk and rock. You can create intriguing fills, making your playing more compelling.

The Power of II-V

Breaking the Misconception: While many believe that II-V are exclusive to jazz, they can enhance harmonic complexity in any genre.

Application Across Genres: Incorporate II-V in fills, solos and bass lines to introduce new tonal possibilities and enhance phrasing.

Benefits of II-V

Creating Tension and Resolution: Adding a II chord before a V chord creates a sense of tension and resolution, propelling your bass lines forward.

Harmonic Enrichment: This technique expands your harmonic vocabulary, trains your ear to anticipate and recognize harmonic movements and opens up new improvisational opportunities.

Practical Application

Common Options:

  • Dm/G7: A basic II-V.
  • Dm/G7b9: Adds a flat ninth for more complexity.
  • G7 Dim Subs (Abdim, Bdim, Ddim, Fdim): Use diminished substitutions for a jazzier feel.

  • Melodic Minor Variations:
    • Dmin/Fmin (F melodic minor): Adds melodic minor color.
    • Dmin/Bb7#4 (Bb Lydian Dominant): Introduces Lydian dominant flavor.

Practice Tips:

  1. Start Simple: Begin retrofitting a II min over Vs
  2. Explore Variations: Incorporate different substitutions and melodic minor variations.
  3. Contextual Application: Practice within the context of your preferred genre, using backing tracks to experiment with fills and solos.

Integrating II-V into your playing is a valuable tool for any musician. It enhances your harmonic vocabulary, improves your ability to create dynamic lines, and connects you to a tradition of musical excellence. Practice regularly and experiment with different variations to unlock the full potential of this technique.

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