A simple chord substitution

by Ken Wilkinson

Here's another way to make your practise more interesting, by using a simple chord substitution. It's a 'tritone substitution', or what was more traditionally called a 'flat five substitution'.

If you think about a basic C7 chord,
it contains the following notes:


You can describe a C7 chord using fewer notes. In fact you can describe a C7 chord with just two notes, the third and the seventh.

The 3rd - E, tells you whether the chord is major or minor, and the 7th - Bb, tells you the 'tense' of the chord, whether it's a dominant chord, major chord etc.

So you can describe a C7 chord with two notes, E and Bb:

3rd and seventh

This is where things become more interesting. There is another chord which also uses those notes as it's third and seventh.


F#7 uses the Bb/A# as it's 3rd,
and the E as it's seventh.

Both chords use the same two notes to describe them, so they can be interchanged. This makes for an interesting and complex sound.

Try this on your instrument:

triad 1

You can make yourself think a little more by moving up and down to the nearest triad tone:

triad 2

Then add the seventh......

triad with 7th

There are six pairs of chords that can be used this way:

C and F#
B and F
A and Eb
D and Ab
Bb and E
G and C#

Far more interesting than working on basic triads and arpeggios.