How to Solo on II7 Chords: An Easy Guide

I’m sure you have heard of the song “Girl From Ipanema.” If not, then perhaps the classic “Take the A Train”? Both these songs (and plenty of other tunes) use this chord progression: Imaj7 II7.

free lessonsWhat is cool about this chord progression? The second chord II7 is a dominant chord (has a major 3rd) instead of a normal II min7 chord (has a b3).

In this lesson will show you the easiest and most effective approach to improvising over II7 chords.

The Big Picture

Before I get into too much detail, let’s zoom out. Why make things tricky with a II dominant7 instead of a normal II min7?

The answer is: because it sounds cool.

The new II7 chord is unexpected. It is also the V of the V chord of the key, meaning it pulls towards the V of our key center. This unexpectedness (is that a word?) and the pull of a II7 chords gives a song harmonic interest. It just sounds good :)

Alrighty, let’s get stuck in:

II7 Chord Example

Take A Train

So we have the following:

  • Key centre: C
  • Tonic I chord: Cmajor
  • II7 Chord: D7#11

The Scale

Play the lydian dominant scale over II7 chords.
Here is a Lydian Dominant fingering that can be used in any key (root on 6th string).

II7 Guidelines

Scale: Lydian Dominant
Chord: Dom7#11, dom9#11, dom13#11
Chord tones: 3, b7
Color tones: 9, #11, 13
Avoid note: none

The most important note for you to hit are the major 3rd and #11. Why? Because these are the two notes not played in our normal II min7 dorian chord. We WANT to outline this interesting sound, so focus on the major 3rd and #11 of a II7 chord. Check out my lesson on the Lydian Dominant scale here. Brush up on your dom7 #11 arpeggios here.

A Cool Trick for Advanced Guitarists

Playing a major triad from the 2nd of a dom7#11 chord sounds super awesome!

Try it out, play a E triad over a D7#11.

In relation to D7#11 you are playing the 9th, #11 and 13th – all the hip notes. This concept is called Upper Structures. By playing a simple triad onto of a chord you can INSTANTLY play all the beautiful colour tones. This also works for chord voicings, check out my dom7#11 voicings here. See if you can tell which ones use this triad concept.

II7, Putting It All Together

Follow these 5 steps to get your ears and fingers around the II7 chord progression:

  1. Play 2 measures of Fmaj7 chord, then 2 measures of G9#11. Listen.
  2. Chord Tones: Play 3, b7 and #11 of G9#11.
  3. Arpeggiate each chord. Repeat.
  4. Play 2 measures of F Ionian then 2 measures of G Lydian Dominant Scale
  5. Record yourself comping the two chords then have fun: Improvise! Play around with it. Let your ears be your guide.

Thanks for stopping by, please leave a comment below with any suggestions or questions.

~ Sam Blakelock |

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