Jazz chord progressions

Jazz is often played with a 12 bar structure, as in blues, although the 32 bar structure is very common. Presented here are some common blues jazz progressions, mostly in the form of 12 bar. Each 12 bar progression is presented in one key, but an advice is to practice them in various keys. The most common keys in jazz in general are Eb, Bb, F, Ab and Db. Most compositions are written in flatten keys since they are suitable for horns.

You are advice to used suitable jazz chords instead of regular chords for all presented examples. Also, the dominant seventh chords could be substituted for other extended chords like 9th and 13th as well as altered chords like #9.

Common jazz progressions

ii - V - I

The ii - V - I is the first jazz progression to learn. The Roman numerals could for example be translated to Dm7 - G7 - Cmaj7.

A way to play Dm7 - G7 - Cmaj7 with jazz chords and economical movements:
Dm7: X5756X - G7: XX5767 - Cmaj7: X3545X

A ii - V - I progression in another key could be Gm7 - C7 - Fmaj7, with suggestion of chords:
Gm7: 3X333X - C7: X3231X - Fmaj7: 1X221X

ii - V - I - vi

The ii - V - I can be expanded with another chord into ii - V - I - vi, or ii - V - I - VI. The Roman numerals could for example be translated to Dm7 - G7 - Cmaj7 - Am7 or Bm7 - E7 - Amaj7 - F#7.

I - vi - ii - V

The I - vi - ii - V (turn back progression) is another frequently used progression in the genre. The Roman numerals could for example be translated to Cmaj7 - Am7 - Dm7 - G7. It is also referred as the I - vi - ii - V - I progression since it normally leads back to a new section what starts with the I chord.

In another key, the I - vi - ii - V progression could be Fmaj7 - Dm7 - Gm7 - C7, with suggestion of chords: Fmaj7: XX3555 -Dm7: X5756X - Gm7: 3X333X - C7: X3231X.

The turn back progression is also refrerred to as I - VI - ii - V (with a dominant VI chord).

12 bar jazz blues progressions

How to read the tables

These tables present the structure in 12 bars that you should read from measure 1 to 12 like this:

1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12

Basic 12 bar form progression in G

This is a very basic progression with a 12 bar structure.

G7 C7 G7 G7
C7 C7 G7 G7
Am7 D7 G7 G7

As already said, you have the option to use substitutions. Dominant 7th chord can be replaced by extended chords such as 9th, 11th and 13th chords.

12 bar progression in G

This is another of the most common 12 bar structures in the jazz blues style, (only the eight bar differ from the previous).

G7 C7 G7 G7
C7 C7 G7 E7
Am7 D7 G7 G7
To vary the progression a tip is to use half steps and slide into the following chord, for example G#7 to G7. This method could of course be used for all presented 12 bar progression presented here.

12 bar progression in G with more changes

To the 12 bar progressions above, additional chords and some shorter changes could be added.

G7 C7 G7 G7
C7 C7 G7 Bm7 / E7 /
Am7 D7 G7 Am7 / G7

12 bar progression in A

Same as "12 bar progression in G" above, but in another key, and with a turnaround on the two last measures.

A7 D7 A7 A7
D7 D7 A7 F#7
Bm7 E7 A7 F#7 Bm7 E7

Blues jazz progression with substitutions

The same 12 bar as above with substitutions.

A13 D9 A13 A13
D9 D9 A13 F#9
Bm11 E9 A7 F#7 Bm7 E7
You could also try A11, Bm9 and so on.

Blues jazz progression with chromatic substitutions

Here is a progression with some chromatic ideas.

A7 Ab7 A7 Eb7
D7 Ab7 A7 F#7
Bm7 E7 A7 F#7 Bm7 E7

Minor 12 bar progression

Here is a suggestion of a basic minor jazz progression.

Gm7 Gm7 Gm7 Gm7
Cm7 Cm7 Gm7 Gm7
A7 Ab7 Gm7 Gm7

A second basic minor 12 Bar progression

Here is another easy minor jazz progression, quite similar with the previous.

Am7 Am7 Am7 Am7
Dm7 Dm7 Am7 Am7
Bm7b5 E7 Am7 Am7

The Bm7b5 chord with short notation: x2323X.

A third minor progression

Here is a variation on the above 12 bar, including a turnaround.

Am7 E7 Am7 A7
Dm7 Dm7 Am7 Am7
Bm7b5 E7 Am7 Bm7b5 E7

Some of the progression presented here were listed in the book Blues Guitar Rules (#CommissionsEarned) in which you can find more on the same subject. For learning famous jazz tunes, you should search for so-called Fake books.

See also The Jazz Guitar Chords ebook over 75 chord progressions including fingerings.

Go back to main section of Jazz guitar.

8 bar jazz blues progressions

How to read the tables

These tables present the structure in 8 bars in the same fashion as the 12 bar above:

1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8

8 bar progression in F

This is one example of a 8 bar jazz progression.

Fmaj7 Bbmaj7 Em7b5 Am7
Dm7 Gm7 C7 Fmaj7

8 bar progression in G

The same progression transposed to G major.

Gmaj7 Cmaj7 F#m7b5 Bm7
Em7 Am7 D7 Gmaj7

8 bar progression (Autumn leaves)

This progression is from the famous "Autumn Leaves" tune.

Gm Cm F7 Bb
Eb Am7b5 D7 Gm

With an intro turnaround

A turnaround can also be used as an intro, preceding the first chord.

Turnaround

A way to play this as an intro in the key of C is:
Cmaj7 (two bars) - Dm7 - G7 (leading to C)

Turnaround with tritone substitution

A way to play this as an intro in the key of C is:
Cmaj7 (two bars) - Abmaj7 - Dbmaj7 (leading to C)

Turnaround in Minor key

A way to play this as an intro in the key of Dm is:
Dm7 (two bars) - Em7b5 - A7 (leading to Dm)

Coltrane Turnaround

A way to play this as an intro in the key of C is:
Cmaj7 - Ebmaj7 - Abmaj7 - Dbmaj7 (leading to C)

Ragtime Turnaround

A way to play this as an intro in the key of C is:
C - A7 - D7 - G7 (leading to C)

This exposition of introduction turnarounds in jazz follows the terminology used in Chord progressions for Songwriters by Richard J. Scott.

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