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Tom Quayle Modern Guitar Part 5: Modern Voicings for the Minor II-V-I Progression

Lesson Notes

** As featured in issue 27 **

Hey guys and welcome back to my column for issue 27. This is definitely one of the most complex tutorials I’ve done so far, be sure to take it slow and watch the video for pointers. We’re going to be changing tack this issue and looking at a really cool voicing concept for use in our minor II-V-I progression. Hopefully, if you’ve been following my columns over the last few issues, you’ll be familiar with this progression in its basic form and the scales that we use to solo over it. If not, I highly recommend checking out some of the back issues so that you can get up to speed before attempting this issue’s column! As a quick recap, in the key of Dm, our II-V-I progression would look something like: - Em7b5 - A7alt - Dm7 or DmMaj7 Over these chords we can use the scales, E Locrian, A Superlocrian/Altered and D Dorian/Melodic Minor.

This progression has a very specific sound and it can become tiresome after a while if you are yearning for some more modern voicings in your music. If we look at the II and the V chord we discover that the scales that these two chords come from only differ by one interval. Let’s have a look at those intervals now. Locrian - 1, b2, b3, 4, b5, b6, b7 Superlocrian/Altered - 1, b2, b3, b4, b5, b6, b7 (can also be written 1, b9, #9, 3, b5, #5, b7) You’ll notice that only the 4th degree of the scales changes, with a natural 4 in the Locrian scale substituted for a b4 in the Superlocrian. This similarity allows us to create voicings for both scales that are identical, so long as they don’t contain this 4th. There are some really interesting chord voicings that we can create by using the remaining intervals and constructing Sus2 triads above the root note of each chord. A Sus2 triad is a 3 note structure containing a root, 2nd and 5th, instead of the normal root, 3rd and 5th. These sus chords give us an ambiguous character and sound great against the root notes of our II and V chords. For reference, all of the voicings that I create in the video for this lesson can be found in the accompanying chord diagrams PDF fi le that you can download.

Let’s check out some of the voicings we can make for the E Locrian - II Chord. Our obvious voicing would be the normal Em7b5 containing the intervals Root, b3, b5 and b7, but for the sake of this tutorial we want to create something more modern sounding and less obvious.

Let’s construct a Bbsus2 triad a tritone above the E root note using the notes Bb, C and F. Against the E root note this gives us the intervals b5 (Bb), b6 (C) and b2 (F). All of these intervals come from Locrian scale so we can use this voicing as our II chord. If you play it you’ll find it’s much more dissonant and modern sounding than our standard m7b5 chord. We can construct another sus2 triad from C - giving us Csus2 to play above our E root note. Csus2 contains the notes C, D and G giving us the intervals b6 (C), b7 (D) and b3 (G) against our E root note. These intervals are all from the E Locrian scale so this voicing also works for our II chord.

Try playing both voicings one after the other - it’s a very cool and modern sound. We can also play an Fsus2 against our E root note giving us the notes F (b2), G (b3) and C (b6), all intervals from E Locrian. These three voicings all sound very modern and give us sounds that are very much Locrian sounding but with a twist. None of these voicings contain the 4th degree of our Locrian scale so the really great news is that we can easily transfer these voicings to work with our V chord - Superlocrian or Altered scale. Remember, these two scales contain all the same intervals except for the 4th degree. Our V chord is A7alt so we can take the voicings we’ve already learnt and move them so that the root note is now A instead of E. I have written these voicings out for you in the accompanying PDF file - be sure to make a note of which sus2 triads are used and how they relate visually and aurally to the root note.

Try playing the minor II-V-I progression using these voicings in place of the normal II and V chords. This technique is especially effective if you use two or all three of the voicings for each chord. When you solo over the progression you can still use the same scales that you would normally use for the minor II-V-I.

Good luck with this. In the next issue we’ll be modernising the Major IIV-I progression. See you then!

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