Understanding the II-V-I chord progression

Understanding the II-V-I chord progression could be difficult as we learn chemical component, OR it could be as easy as listening into it. As we know this progression is one of three-chords progression variations. In modern music this could be the very popular one. There are a lot of popular music made based on II-V-I chord progression. What I'm trying to do here is to introduce you the basic characteristic of this chord progression in a song analysis. But at very first you must understand the interval, scales and modes as your previous understanding.

let's take one song example for this whole article. i pick Maroon 5's song called "Sunday Morning" as the object to be analyzed. this song is built by II-V-I chord progression from the first intro until the end of song. we can call it a "turnaround". If you listen to the studio version of this song, you may find that the song is in the root of C#, and the whole turnaround would be D#m-G#-C#.

let me put this way, when you see II-V-I, try to put them in order first and then mark the II-V-I. here I write them down.

"I - II - III - IV - V - VI - VII" and the intervals are; I -whole note- II -whole note- III -half note- IV -whole note- V -whole note- VI -whole note- VII. (get your readings about Intervals, Scales and Modes first if you are stuck here)

if C# = I = do, then the order will be
  •  I = C# 
  • II = D#m 
  • III = Fm 
  • IV = F# 
  • V = G# 
  • VI = A#m 
  • VII = Cm7b5
now i mark them, so they would be: I - II - ii - iv - V - vi - vii
This II-V-I Chord Progression has the C# as root, and the turnaround is started with the II chord which means it starts with D#m, then the next chord is the fifth, that is G#, and the last chord is on the root, C#. you play this repeatedly and try to get the characteristic of this progression.
now you can play along with "Sunday morning" song and you will find there are so many song built by II-V-I Chord Progression.

for your information, you can colorize II-V-I Chord Progression more by using different chordal sounds. i recommend you to listen to the live acoustic version of maroon 5 "Sunday morning" (they turned the pitch down into I = C), or other similar songs with the same chord progression. from there you can find some nice chord sounding such as:
  • Dm7 - G7 - Cmaj7 
  • Dm9 - Gaug - Cmaj7 
  • Dm7 - G11 - Cmaj7(9)
and a lot more. I hope this helps. happy learning guitar and enjoy in playing it

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