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.

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

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.

A I - vi - ii - V progression in another key 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

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

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.

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