Lesson 11
The IIø - V7 - Im Progression
of the Harmonic minor scale

  1. Scale-tone Chords of the Harmonic minor scale
  2. The IIø - V7 - Im Progression
  3. Lonesome Bossa (Song)
  4. Practice for 'Lonesome Bossa'
  5. Improvisation
  6. The Woodshed
  7. Keyboard Chord Voicings
  8. Quiz and Quiz Answers
  9. Practice Materials

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Im 11.1 - Scale-tone Chords of the Harmonic minor scale

Scale-tone chords for the harmonic minor scale are constructed in the same wayas those for the major scale.

C harmonic minor scale : C - D - Eb - F - G - Ab - B - C

Simply stack three alternate notes of the harmonic minor scale on each of the >seven tones in the scale. This produces once again 7 different scale-tone chords :

Audio 11.1

We can do the same in any key. In the key of F for example :
F harmonic minor scale : F G Ab Bb C Db E F

Audio 11.2

The chord qualities of the scale-tone 7th chords are the same in all 12 keys.
Therefore :
  1. The I chord of any harmonic minor scale is always minor major 7th (ImM7)

  2. The II chord of any harmonic minor scale is always half diminished (IIø)

  3. The bIII chord of any harmonic minor scale is always augmented major 7th (bIIIΔ#5)

  4. The IV chord of any harmonic minor scale is always minor 7th (IVm7)

  5. The V chord of any harmonic minor scale is always (V7)

  6. The bVI chord of any harmonic minor scale is always major 7th (bVIΔ)

  7. The VII chord of any harmonic minor scale is always (VIIo7)

There are two new chords in the above series :
  • The minor major 7th chord is a minor 7th chord with a raised 7th

  • The major 7th#5 is a major 7th chord with an augmented 5th

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Im 11.2 - THe IIø - V7 - Im Progressions

The IIø and V7 chords of the harmonic minor scale are extensively used in Jazz and (especially in) Latin music for songs in minor keys or with minor key modulations.

The ImM7 chord, with its minor Major quality, does not function well as a final chord. Instead an minor triad or minor 7th chord is used to complete the so called 'minor II-V-I progression'. Here are the basic minor II-V progressions :

Audio 11.3

The V7 chord is commonly extended to include the 9th of the chord, which using the notes of the associated harmonic minor scale is a b9.

This V7b9 chord stays entirely within the harmonic minor tonality.

Use the harmonic minor scale of the I chord throughout over the following progressions

Audio 11.4

The Im7 chord does not fit into the Harmonic minor scale, because it contains a b7 instead of a major 7. Therefore in the following progressions use the harmonic minor (of the I chord) over II and V, but the Dorian mode (of the I chord) over the Im7 chord.
Audio 11.5

Another V chord, the V7#9, is sometimes also used in minor chord progressions. This chord requires a special scale for improvisation, the so called 8-note dominant scale (alternating semitone and tone intervals). But the natural minor scale of the I chord also works well in most cases.

Looking back at Lesson 8 and the song Where there's Rain we can now understand that the G7 chord functions as the V7 scale-tone chord of the C harmonic minor scale. This is clearly more appropriate as the whole song is in the C minor key.

Therefore always beware. A dominant chord is always a V7 chord, but

  • whenever it is preceded by a IIm7 chord it is part of a major scale tonality

  • but whenever it is preceded by a IIø chord it is part of a harmonic minor scale tonality

Also, as stated in Lesson 10, after a V7 chord anything can happen, just to create some musical suprise. Therefore you see in quite a number of songs a minor IIø-V7 resolving to a major 1 chord : IIø - V7 - IΔ !!

For example the ending of 'Stella by Starlight' is : Cø - F7b9 - BbΔ

During the old Classical era a minor chord was not perceived as a final resolving rest point. Therefore musical pieces in a minor key in the end had to resolve (and end) on a major triad chord. This is the socalled Picardi triad.

With our contemporary ears we now do accept a minor chord as a point of rest and an appropriate ending. However in these times the Picardi triad is still used (commonly expanded to a major 7th chord to amplify the effect) as a wonderful harmonic ploy to surprise the listener.
Good examples are :
  1. Alone Together (ending of A section) - by Dietz & Schwatrz
  2. Once I Loved (ending of A section) - by A.C. Jobin
  3. Stella by Starlight - by Victor Young
  4. What is this thing called Love - by Cole Porter

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Im 11.3 - Lonesome Bossa (Song)

Lonesome Bossa is a 32 bar song. It can be described as an ABCB format.
The chord progression consists of a 4 bar IIø - V7b9 - Im sequence which is repeated 8 times.

Audio 11.6

There are many Jazz and Latin songs that use the IIø - V7 progession.
Some famous examples are :

  1. A Foggy Day
  2. Alone Together
  3. A Night in Tunisia
  4. Autumn Leaves
  5. Black Orpheus
  6. Desafinado
  7. How Insensitive
  8. Little Boat
  9. Stella by Starlight
  10. The Shadow of your Smile
  11. There will never be another You
  12. What is this Thing called Love
    and many more....

Lonesome Bossa : Demo - Play-a-Long - Swapping 4s.

  1. 1st chorus : I play the first 4 bar phrase of each 8 bar section, you play the following 4 bars.

  2. 2nd chorus : You play the first 4 bar phrase of each 8 bar section, I play the following 4 bars.

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Im 11.4 - Practice for 'Lonsesome Bossa'

All chords in 'Lonesome Bossa' are scale-tone chords of the C harmonic minor scale.
Practice in the usual way :

  1. Chord root tones in semibreves (1/1 notes) or rhythm patterns

  2. Chord tones only in crotchets (1/4 notes)

  3. Scale tones in quavers (1/8 notes)
Start each bar on the root note of the chord :
Audio 11.4

On the Song's Play-along track I have used the Cm triad chord throughout.
This allows you to provide some variation by practising the C Dorian mode on the Cm chord.

Audio 11.5

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Im 11.5 - Improvisation

A most important improvisation skill is varying phrase length. This can create extra energy, interest and excitement. Check out the Charlie Parker Omnibook for example. He was a master in this aspect.

You can develope this skill by practicing over the Blues and over II-V-I progressions. Lonesome Bossa is a good tune for this as it contains only three chords and stays in the same C harmonic minor scale throughout.
But start with the Blues.

First determine a phrase pattern you are going to follow, then stick to it.

Start with this pattern for example :


In words : two 2-bar phrases over the first 4 bars. Then a whole 4-bar phrase over the second 4 bars. Finally another two 2-bar phrases over the last 4 bars.

It does not matter where you start in a bar, but once you start keep going (playing 1/8 and 1/4 notes) to keep the phrase pattern as defined.
Keep playing this pattern until you have good control over it. Then try out these patterns :

  1. 4 - 2 - 2 - 2 - 2

  2. 2 - 2 - 2 - 2 - 4

  3. 4 - 2 - 2 - 4
Next step is to practise phrases that go across natural phrase ending points of the blues. These occur at the end of bars 4 and 8.
Here are some good patterns :
  1. 2 - 4 - 2 - 2 - 2

  2. 2 - 4 - 2 - 4

  3. 2 - 4 - 4 - 2

  4. 2 - 6 - 2 - 2

  5. 4 - 2 - 4 - 2

  6. 6 - 2 - 2 - 2
The final step is to phrase across the end of a chorus.

For example : 2 - 2 - 4 - 2 - 4 - 2 - 4 - 2 - 4 - etc.

The red phrases above span across the end of a blues chorus.

On Audio 11.7 I play the following phrases :

  1. Chorus 1 : 2 - 2 - 4 - 2 - 2
  2. Chorus 2 : 2 - 4 - 2 - 6 -
  3. Chorus 3 : - 2 - 2 - 6
This is all really good practice. As you become more in control of the phrases your improvisation will really start to lift above average.

Phrases of an even number of bars make it easier to keep track of the chord progression in the beginning. But you can also use phrase lengths of 1, 3 and 5 bars. As stated above also apply this technique to Lonesome Bossa and your II-V-I practice (both major and minor).

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Im 11.6 - The Woodshed

Practise the harmonic minor scale over the IIø - V7 - Im progression in all keys.

Audio 11.8

Also practise the variation with the Dorian mode over the Im7 chord

Audio 11.9

I have used the Cm triad chord on the Woodshed Play-along. This allows you to practice both above versions with the same track.

The Play-along chord sequence is :

Woodshed Play-long

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Im 11.7 - Keyboard Chord Voicings

Below shown two basic keyboard chord voicings for the IIø - V7 (b9) - Im7 progressions.
Note that the popular voicing for a V7b9 chord is the same as a IIo7 chord. It contains all the chord tones of the 7b9 chord except the root itself (G) B D F Ab.

Audio 11.10

Practice these voicings in left hand and 1 octave lower than written below.


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Im 11.8 - Quiz

  1. What are the 'minor II-V-I progressions' in these keys.
    1. Fm
    2. Ebm
    3. Dm
    4. Gm
    5. Bbm
    6. Am

  2. Which harmonic minor scale do you use for improvisation over these dominant
    1. F7b9
    2. E7b9
    3. G7b9
    4. A7b9
    5. Bb7b9
    6. D7b9

  3. What scale(s) do you use over these chord progressions
    1. Fø - Bb7 - Ebm
    2. Aø - D7b9 - Gm7
    3. Ebm7 - Ab7 - DbΔ
    4. Gø - C7 - Fm
    5. Eø - A7b9 - Dm7
    6. F#m7 - B7 - Em7

  4. Name five (or as many as you can think of) aspects of phrasing we have dealt with in this course.

  5. Name five (or as many as you can think of) aspects of tone selection for improvisation we have dealt with in this course.

  6. Name five (or as many as you can think of) fundament chord progressions we have dealt with in this course.


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Im 11.9 Practice Materials

Lonesome Bossa Lead sheet Bb Eb Melody & Impro Play-along
Swapping 4s
The Woodshed Harmonic minor scale Demo Pal = IIø-V7-Im
Pal = IIø-V7-Im7
Keyboard Voicings IIø - V7b9 - Im7
Ruler Harmonic minor scale Ruler

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Copyright © 1997 - 2007 Michael Furstner.