Backdoor ii-V(jazz theory)

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BranshenBranshen Frets: 833
edited October 20 in Theory
Just learned a jazz concept called the backdoor ii-V (edit: not ii-V-I) . I haven't had a chance to try it out but I love it already. Time to try it everywhere! 


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  • vizviz Frets: 5093
    edited October 17
    I love it. For that bVII chord try playing a 13 chord, in other words if you’re resolving to C, you’re playing fm-Bb-C; and the Bb chord would be (in ascending order) Bb, Ab, D, G. And the melody would be (starting from the top G) G -> F -> E 

    Absolutely gorgeous. 

    The tritone sub is also so cool. 
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  • Matt_McGMatt_McG Frets: 116
    That is lovely.
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  • matt1973matt1973 Frets: 291
    Seen this little progression quite a lot but never had explained in that way. Thanks for posting.
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  • Phil_aka_PipPhil_aka_Pip Frets: 9301
    Nice. Has this any relationship to the chord progression used by Focus at the end of Sylvia? If you put that piece in C the last 3 chords would be Ab Bb C. F-7 is related to Ab, Bb7 is a flavoured Bb, C is where you end up.
    "Working" software has only unobserved bugs. (Parroty Error: Pieces of Nine! Pieces of Nine!)
    Seriously: If you value it, take/fetch it yourself
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  • vizviz Frets: 5093
    edited October 18
    Edit - not especially, though the iv (f MINOR BTW) is related to the bVI as you say, but the progressions sound very different because the backdoor ii-V tricks you into thinking it’s going to resolve to the Eb, whereas the Focus song tricks you into thinking it’s going to finish on the c minor.

    The bVI bVII I cadence is a borrowed minor progression that then resolves to the major tonic. It’s like a Tierce de Picardie, except as the whole song is in major not minor, it’s the b6 and b7 that are the anomolies, not the tonic.
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  • vizviz Frets: 5093
    edited October 18
    That bVII chord is excellent. It can either replace the iv chord in a IV-vi-I (as in Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your NOSE), or happen after a iv chord (as in the backdoor ii-V). 
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  • VeganicVeganic Frets: 408
    Pedant alert: The vid calls it a backdoor ii-V.  It never gets to that I but goes up to a completely different I.  

    I have questions but I will have a play first. 
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  • Phil_aka_PipPhil_aka_Pip Frets: 9301
    @viz thanks :)

    "Working" software has only unobserved bugs. (Parroty Error: Pieces of Nine! Pieces of Nine!)
    Seriously: If you value it, take/fetch it yourself
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  • jpfampsjpfamps Frets: 1455
    viz said:
    I love it. For that bVII chord try playing a 13 chord, in other words if you’re resolving to C, you’re playing fm-Bb-C; and the Bb chord would be (in ascending order) Bb, Ab, D, G. And the melody would be (starting from the top G) G -> F -> E 

    Absolutely gorgeous. 

    The tritone sub is also so cool. 

    Tritone sub is great device, and opens plenty of doors.
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  • vizviz Frets: 5093
    jpfamps said:
    viz said:
    I love it. For that bVII chord try playing a 13 chord, in other words if you’re resolving to C, you’re playing fm-Bb-C; and the Bb chord would be (in ascending order) Bb, Ab, D, G. And the melody would be (starting from the top G) G -> F -> E 

    Absolutely gorgeous. 

    The tritone sub is also so cool. 

    Tritone sub is great device, and opens plenty of doors.
    I am on a train but am trying to audibleise (is that a word) what a back-door ii-V sounds like with a tritone sub. It’d be fm-E7-C. Sounds ok to my inner ear; anyone got a guitar to hand?
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  • jpfampsjpfamps Frets: 1455
    viz said:
    jpfamps said:
    viz said:
    I love it. For that bVII chord try playing a 13 chord, in other words if you’re resolving to C, you’re playing fm-Bb-C; and the Bb chord would be (in ascending order) Bb, Ab, D, G. And the melody would be (starting from the top G) G -> F -> E 

    Absolutely gorgeous. 

    The tritone sub is also so cool. 

    Tritone sub is great device, and opens plenty of doors.
    I am on a train but am trying to audibleise (is that a word) what a back-door ii-V sounds like with a tritone sub. It’d be fm-E7-C. Sounds ok to my inner ear; anyone got a guitar to hand?
    Sounds cool to be (on a guitar!!).
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  • vizviz Frets: 5093
    jpfamps said:
    viz said:
    jpfamps said:
    viz said:
    I love it. For that bVII chord try playing a 13 chord, in other words if you’re resolving to C, you’re playing fm-Bb-C; and the Bb chord would be (in ascending order) Bb, Ab, D, G. And the melody would be (starting from the top G) G -> F -> E 

    Absolutely gorgeous. 

    The tritone sub is also so cool. 

    Tritone sub is great device, and opens plenty of doors.
    I am on a train but am trying to audibleise (is that a word) what a back-door ii-V sounds like with a tritone sub. It’d be fm-E7-C. Sounds ok to my inner ear; anyone got a guitar to hand?
    Sounds cool to be (on a guitar!!).
    I worry that the E note itself will sound a bit static in the move from the E7 to the C major. Good banter
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  • BranshenBranshen Frets: 833
    viz said:
    I worry that the E note itself will sound a bit static in the move from the E7 to the C major. Good banter
    The tritone sub sounds good! You're right that E sounds static if u keep it as a top note when moving from E7 to C. I find moving the top note to G helps create movement to keep it interesting.

    I've only just had time to play some guitar and it seems that the backdoor V (bVII) does not necessarily need to take up a dominant quality to sound good. a Maj7 seems to work well too. 

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  • vizviz Frets: 5093
    edited October 21
    Branshen said:
    viz said:
    I worry that the E note itself will sound a bit static in the move from the E7 to the C major. Good banter
    The tritone sub sounds good! You're right that E sounds static if u keep it as a top note when moving from E7 to C. I find moving the top note to G helps create movement to keep it interesting.

    I've only just had time to play some guitar and it seems that the backdoor V (bVII) does not necessarily need to take up a dominant quality to sound good. a Maj7 seems to work well too. 

    Yes, makes it more mixolydian than mixo b6. I prefer the bVII7 meself because the iv chord is supposed to be minor, and the bVII chord therefore “should” itself have a flattened 7th, but both are nice - the maj7 one is like sprinkling some thyme on top; the flat 7 is like dousing it in gravy. 
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  • stratman3142stratman3142 Frets: 773
    edited October 20
    Veganic said:
    Pedant alert: The vid calls it a backdoor ii-V.  It never gets to that I but goes up to a completely different I.  

    I have questions but I will have a play first. 

    If I understand this correctly (and I might not ), the I chord still stands but it's arrived at via iv - bVII.

    For example (as @viz said earlier) in the key of C, that's fm  Bb  C.  The home key in this example is still C.

    I find the term "backdoor ii V I" a bit confusing, but I suppose that's because there's a movement of a 4th, in going from ii to V and also going from iv to bVII.

    Anyway it's good to have a label for the sound of that chord movement so I can recognise it when I hear it. It's immediately recognisable in Free by Deniece Williams.

    It's not a competition.
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  • vizviz Frets: 5093
    edited October 20
    Veganic said:
    Pedant alert: The vid calls it a backdoor ii-V.  It never gets to that I but goes up to a completely different I.  

    I have questions but I will have a play first. 

    If I understand this correctly (and I might not ), the I chord still stands but it's arrived at via iv - bVII.

    For example (as @viz said earlier) in the key of C, that's fm  Bb  C.  The home key in this example is still C.

    I find the term "backdoor ii V I" a bit confusing, but I suppose that's because there's a movement of a 4th, in going from ii to V and also going from iv to bVII.

    Anyway it's good to have a label for the sound of that chord movement so I can recognise it when I hear it. It's immediately recognisable in Free by Deniece Williams.

    Yep, that’s why it’s called a backdoor 25, not a backdoor 251. As you rightly say, it’s not a ii-V-I, it’s a iv-bVII-I, but the ii-V and the iv-bVII have the same interval, so it sounds like it’s going to be a ii-V-I, but then suddenly isn’t. 
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  • BranshenBranshen Frets: 833
    Ok. Edited original post so I won't further misinform anyone. 
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  • octatonicoctatonic Frets: 19125
    Reminds me of some advice I was given at music school by a tutor:

    Knowledge is understanding you can ii V any chord.
    Wisdom is knowing that you don't always need to.
    I am the juice of four limes.
    Trading Feedback

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  • BarneyBarney Frets: 357
    The 5 chord chord works up in minor 3rds so could choose either or all of them for different extensions on the 7th chord ...same way as diminished really but using 7ths
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  • vizviz Frets: 5093
    Barney said:
    The 5 chord chord works up in minor 3rds so could choose either or all of them for different extensions on the 7th chord ...same way as diminished really but using 7ths
    Sounds cool - what do you mean exactly?
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  • jpfampsjpfamps Frets: 1455
    viz said:
    jpfamps said:
    viz said:
    jpfamps said:
    viz said:
    I love it. For that bVII chord try playing a 13 chord, in other words if you’re resolving to C, you’re playing fm-Bb-C; and the Bb chord would be (in ascending order) Bb, Ab, D, G. And the melody would be (starting from the top G) G -> F -> E 

    Absolutely gorgeous. 

    The tritone sub is also so cool. 

    Tritone sub is great device, and opens plenty of doors.
    I am on a train but am trying to audibleise (is that a word) what a back-door ii-V sounds like with a tritone sub. It’d be fm-E7-C. Sounds ok to my inner ear; anyone got a guitar to hand?
    Sounds cool to be (on a guitar!!).
    I worry that the E note itself will sound a bit static in the move from the E7 to the C major. Good banter
    E7 to Am in the key of C is a very common change in Gospel music (eg If I Can Dream by Elvis), and of course that will have a static E in it too.

    That change subs nicely for the classic C, G/B, Am change in much popular music, and preserves the C B A bass line as you can play the E7 as an E7/B.
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  • BarneyBarney Frets: 357
    edited October 20
    viz said:
    Barney said:
    The 5 chord chord works up in minor 3rds so could choose either or all of them for different extensions on the 7th chord ...same way as diminished really but using 7ths
    Sounds cool - what do you mean exactly?
    So 251 in key of C ..try G7..Bb7...Db7..or E7...or combinations of them ..or just on there own
    And as lead lines as well 
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  • vizviz Frets: 5093
    Barney said:
    viz said:
    Barney said:
    The 5 chord chord works up in minor 3rds so could choose either or all of them for different extensions on the 7th chord ...same way as diminished really but using 7ths
    Sounds cool - what do you mean exactly?
    So 251 in key of C ..try G7..Bb7...Db7..or E7...or combinations of them ..or just on there own
    And as lead lines as well 
    Interesting - I normally use major 3rds, so in C I’d play Gdim6, Baug5 or Ebdim6
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  • BarneyBarney Frets: 357
    viz said:
    Barney said:
    viz said:
    Barney said:
    The 5 chord chord works up in minor 3rds so could choose either or all of them for different extensions on the 7th chord ...same way as diminished really but using 7ths
    Sounds cool - what do you mean exactly?
    So 251 in key of C ..try G7..Bb7...Db7..or E7...or combinations of them ..or just on there own
    And as lead lines as well 
    Interesting - I normally use major 3rds, so in C I’d play Gdim6, Baug5 or Ebdim6
    It's good to convert to minor as well..so Bb7 woulnd become Fm..D7 ..Am and E7..B min..you have to get good resolution to the 1 chord ..
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  • bigjonbigjon Frets: 640
    My favourite backdoor ii-V occurs in Allan Holdsworth's version of Isotope, a 12-bar in C which has the chords F7 Bb7 C in bars 5 6 7.

    In Allan's guitar solo which starts at 3:45 he plays lots of interesting lines over the Bb7 chord in bar 6, which can be analysed in any of 4 ways -

    For example, in the 2nd chorus starting at 3:59 he plays 12 triplet quavers over the Bb7 chord on the top two strings

    8-13-11--------------11------------------------------10
    --------------13-12----------13-12-11-10-11-------

    The notes are
    C F Eb C B Eb C B Bb A Bb D

    I'm sure Allan is thinking over the home key of C at this point - 
    Analysis 1 over C: 1-4-b3-1-7-b3-1-7-b7-6-b7-2, a mix of C minor pentatonic and C melodic minor.

    But the line makes good sense over the F IV chord which is governing this 2-bar section -
    Analysis 2 over F: 5-1-b7-5-b5-b7-5-b5-4-3-4-6, starting in F Lydian dominant and ending in F mixolydian over an implied F7 chord continued from the bar before.

    I think the least satisfying analysis is that over the actual chord played. Bb7! -
    Analysis 3 over Bb: 2-5-4-2-b2-4-2-b2-1-7-1-3, a Bb major scale with a prominent added b2 which gives an altered dominant flavour implying motion towards a non-existent Eb chord in bar 7.

    But the pièce de resistance, and the reason why I love backdoor ii-Vs, is the analysis also works a treat over an imagined G7alt chord as a V chord leading back into the key of C - the notes Bb D F and Ab in the Bb7 chord being treated as substitutes for a #9 5 7 b9 in G7alt (G7#9-b9)!!!
    Analysis 4 over G: 4-b7-b6-4-3-b6-4-3-b3-2-b3-5, a beautiful Mixolydian b6 line in the first half with the repeated 4-3 resolution followed by Dorian for the last 4 notes.

    Well done if you've  stuck with me thus far, this must be my most pretentious and spoddy post ever!!! :-)

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