Chord substitution

In this article we will explore chord substitution. This phrase is exactly as it sounds: we replace one chord with another. This will result in increased harmonic options that will enhance your solos.

Chord substitution: major to minor and minor to major

Let’s begin with a very easy chord substitution. Take a major 7 chord, 1-3-5-7, and then play its inversion building from the 3. This results in 3-5-7-9. Here’s an example. My original chord is Fmaj7 and its chord substitute is Amin7.

Chord substitution from Fmaj7 to Amin7.

Now look at this basic I-VI-II-V sequence in F major.

1625 before chord substitution.

I will now swap the F major 7 in bar 1 to A minor 7.

The chord substitution  for Fmaj7 is Dmin7

Here’s a short solo over these four bars. Notice in bar 3 I’m playing a broken chord of Bbmaj7 but am retaining the G shell in my left hand. In Bar 4 I am playing a diminished broken chord over C7(b9).

1625 solo with substitutes.

Chord substitution of a minor 7 chord with a dominant 7.

I could now take both the Dm7 and Gm7 and substitute them for for D7 and G7

Chord substitution of minor chords changed to dominant 7s.

As I’ve said many times before, dominant 7 chords furnish us with greater harmonic possibilities such as option to add altered notes (alterations).

In the next example my chord sequence is a pretty regular turnaround
but notice the broken chords I play in the right hand at bars 3 and 4.

The use of chord substitutes in the form of broken chords over the original chord.

And here’s my YouTube video about chord substitution.

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