Generating ii-V-I Progressions Using Diminished Seventh Chords

Chord voicings on guitar are seemingly infinite in number. In an attempt to come up with some new ones, at least for myself, I decided to begin with a diminished seventh chord voicing commonly used by guitarists on the inside four strings (B-F-Ab-D) in first position. This will be my rootless 7b9 chord, in this case G7b9. This will serve as my V chord in a ii-V-I progression in C major. By moving two tones of the diminished seventh chord up a half-step (B to C and Ab to A natural) we can generate the ii chord (Dm7). So B-F-Ab-D (rootless G7b9) becomes C-F-A-D (Dm7). The D and F (root and third of Dm7) remain as common tones.

For my tonic chord (I) I decided to use a Major thirteenth since I do not have many voicings for this particular chord. If the chord is voiced using the seventh, third, thirteenth and ninth we end up with a quartal structure (B-E-A-D) which I happen to like very much. This resolution to the CMaj13 is also accomplished by moving two tones of the G7b9 chromatically. This time one moves up and one moves down. The F (seventh) in the G7b9 resolves down to E (third of CMaj13) as it would traditionally and the Ab resolves up to A natural, giving us the sixth or thirteenth of the CMaj13 chord. The B and D (seventh and ninth of CMaj13) remain as common tones.

I also decided to duplicate this exactly on the first four strings as well, which as we all know will give us a completely new set of fingerings for the same chords.

The third and sixth lines of the examples utilize the voicings shown in the two lines immediately above these lines but laid out in a pleasant descending pattern that makes it a bit more enjoyable to practice.

Notice that since we are using the root position as well as the three inversions of the diminished seventh chord as our starting point for these voicings we are generating root position, first, second and third inversions of the Dm7 (ii) chord as well as inversions of the quartal structure (tonic). By placing these chords into a common context (ii-V-I) the hope is that they will more easily become incorporated into your chord vocabulary. I have found that learning chords out of context, as in say learning inversions for each separate chord type in various positions, to be a waste of time.

Most everything is quite playable with the one exception of the CMaj13 voicing at the end of measure two, although if you hold the two common tones (D and B) of the preceding G7b9 with fingers two and one respectively, then add in the A and E of the CMaj13 with fingers four and three it is not so bad.

As with most everything it is always a good idea to transpose these voicings through all the major keys. Get used to how the fingers move from chord to chord within the groups of three through repetition and transposition becomes quite easy.

I hope you find some new and interesting voicings here. We will take up ii-V-i in minor keys in the next edition.


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