Jazz Theory Cheat Sheet: The ii V I In All 12 Keys

jazz theoryAs you continue to develop your jazz theory skills you’re going to want to make it a goal of being able to instantly play a ii-V-I chord progression in all 12 keys.

Since you’ll hear the ii V I chord progression in so many great jazz tunes it’s vitally important that you learn how to play it quickly.

It’s for that reason that many players (including myself) will practice a lot of musical concepts they learn (new voicings, patterns etc.) in context of a ii V I chord progression.

This type of practice will help you take new pieces of jazz vocabulary you learn and quickly make it musical. It’s all about being musical right? 🙂

Jazz Theory Shortcuts

Not everybody can transpose quickly just yet. Sometimes it can take a while to build your jazz theory skills to the point where you can instantly know what a ii V I is in any key.

While your building your jazz theory and transposition skills I wanted to give you a reference guide you can use for practicing the ii V I in any key.

So, I’ve created a handy 2 5 1 progression ‘cheat sheet’ you can use as a reference to help you practice your patterns in all 12 keys.

You should still make it a goal of memorizing the 2 5 1 chord progression in every key but this guide will jump start the process for you and make it easier.

I encourage you to save this page and/or print it out for your reference. Enjoy your practice! (Please feel free to share this page if you find it useful.)

Here is the ii V I in every key. I’ve listed the keys below in order of the circle of fifths. I encourage you to practice them in any order you’d like though (half steps, whole steps, random, throw them in tunes, etc.)

Don’t get hung up on what pattern you should practice them in. Instead just focus on memorizing the 2 5 1 in each key and the rest will take care of itself! 🙂

ii V I’s In All 12 Keys

Key of C: Dm7  G7 Cmaj7

Key of F: Gm7  C7 Fmaj7

Key of Bb: Cm7  F7 Bbmaj7

Key of Eb: Fm7 Bb7 Ebmaj7

Key of Ab: Bbm7 Eb7 Abmaj7

Key of Db: Ebm7 Ab7 Dbmaj7

Key of Gb: Abm7 Db7 Gbmaj7

Key of B: C#m7 F#7 Bmaj7

Key of E: F#m7 B7 Emaj7

Key of A: Bm7 E7 Amaj7

Key of D: Em7 A7 Dmaj7

Key of G: Am7 D7 Gmaj7

What About Sharp Keys For The 2 5 1?

One thing that’s real important to mention is that jazz tends to be played and written in flat keys. This is because of the strong influence of horn players on jazz.

Every instrument has it’s own unique design features. Because of the unique way trumpets and saxes are designed it’s usually easier for them to play and think in flat keys.

That’s why most of the time you’ll see a Bbmaj7 chord as opposed to an A#maj7 chord or an Ebmin7 chord as opposed to an D#min7.

So, that’s why I listed the chart above using flat based keys like Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb. It’s just easier to think 2 5 1 jazz in flat keys since you’ll see these keys ways more often than the sharp keys.

jazz theorySpecial Note For Premium Members And Jazz Masters Method Owners

For owners of the Jazz Masters Method Improvisation DVD

You’ll want to practice all the improv patterns and licks you learn in there using the reference guide above.

By practicing all the licks and vocab you learn in the DVD in every key it will really take your skills to a whole other level. You’ll be able to improvise more freely over many tunes after that.

For members of The Premium Membership Course

You’ll want to use the reference guide above and use it with all the chord voicings you learn inside the Chords Library.

You can use it with any of the Chords Library lessons but you can especially use it for Chords Library Lesson 1 and Chords Library Lesson 2.

Extra Credit

luke-skywalker-01-iconWhen I was in 1st grade I used to get Star Wars stickers when I did extra reading homework. 🙂

Holy geez..did that motivate me to read. I loved Luke Skywalker when I was 6.

These days Luke Skywalker and stickers don’t quite have the same motivational pull anymore. But, I do get motivated by playing jazz on a higher level. That’s true extra credit and freedom for me. 🙂

My guess is that if you’re reading this you’re also motivated by the thought of playing jazz piano on a higher level.

So, if you want an additional challenge you could use the ii V I key chart above to take a tune or 2 in all 12 keys.

I never recommend an exercise that I haven’t done myself. When I was at Berklee I used to take EVERY tune I learned in all 12 keys. That opened huge doors in my playing and taught me to transpose very quickly.

It also helped me learn tunes on a much deeper level. I felt more connected spiritually and emotionally to the tune too. It was a very cool feeling.

The fact that a simple transposition brought so much joy is something I’ll never forget. I’ve always found that the more I put into my music the more it gave back. Have you found the same?

Questions About The 2 5 1 Progression?

Do you have questions about this ii V I in all 12 keys cheat reference guide? Can you think of some cool ways of using the 2 5 1 chord progression reference guide above? Do you have any practice tips to recommend that I didn’t mention above?

Please feel free to leave a comment below and let me know! I look forward to helping.

Steve Nixon