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Lesson 11 - Minor key progressions

The strong progressions in a minor key have the same root motion as in a major key. The II-V-I is still the classic jazz progression even when played in a minor key. For example in A minor:

BØ → E7(+5±9) → Am7

Any standard major key progression can be transformed into minor with success. For example the I-VI-II-V in A minor:

Am7 → FΔ(b5) → BØ → E7(+5±9)

This is an extremely strong progression as is the I-VII-III-VI-Il-V-I in A minor:

Am7 → G#°7 → CΔ#5 → FΔ(b5) → BØ → E7(+5±9) → Am7

The standard minor key blues still has twelve bars distributed between the I, IV, and V chords.

| I		|		|		|		|
| IV		|		| I		|		|
| V		| IV		| I		| (V)		|

In Am:

| Am7		|		|		|		|
| Dm7 or Dm6	|		| Am7		|		|
| E7(+5±9)	| Dm7		| Am7		| E7(+5±9)	|

For variations on the minor key blues consult the appendix on blues.

Very often in jazz progressions the mode changes from major to minor or vice versa. For example, the progression:

|Am7		|D9		|GΔ		|		|
G:II		 V		 I

changes to:

|AØ		|D7(b9)		|Gm7		|		|
Gm:II		 V		 I

Modal interchange between major and minor on the same root and the modulation of the major to the key of the relative minor (for example C major to A minor) are the most widely used transitions from major to minor. However, expect to see modulations from any major key to any minor and from any minor to any major. You should know the chords to every minor key and every major key instantly in order to be able to improvise well on any progression the first time you see it.


  1. Play the following progressions.
  2. Analyze each progression and determine key centers.
  3. Practice soloing ever these chord sequences by using a tape recorder to make a rhythm track or have a friend play the progression while you solo.

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