Tip #136 – Plurality in Chord Substitution

In Western classical music theory, there are three groups of “harmonic areas,” that being:

  • Tonic
  • Pre-dominant
  • Dominant

Jazz theory expands upon this by assigning a specific chord/function to each of these harmonic areas:

  • I for Tonic
  • ii for Pre-dominant
  • V for Dominant

Not only do these chords and types word as specific harmonic areas, but they can also be used as diatonic passing chords in certain harmonizing situations.

That being said, it seems a bit boring that music is reduced down to the I, ii, and V chords. What about the other diatonic chords? Do they fit any purpose?

Well, here comes the idea of plurality – that because certain chords share multiple notes with each other, that they can be interchangeable. Take a look below:

See how both the iii and vi chord can function as a tonic I. Plus, the IV works as a pre-dominant because it shares a lot of chord tones with ii. And vii is interchangeable to V.

So now, we can potentially revise this as:

  • I , iii , and vi for Tonic
  • ii and IV for Pre-dominant
  • V and vii for Dominant

Thank you so much for taking the time to read! Feel free to comment, share, and subscribe for more daily tips below! Till next time.

Author: Bryan M. Waring

Bryan Waring is a graduate of USM's School of Music with a B.M. in Performance – Composition and is now attending Belmont University for a M.M. in Commercial Media – Composition & Arranging. During his time at USM, he studied violin with Dino Liva and composition with Dr. Daniel Sonenberg, as well as has premiered several pieces during the semiannual Composer's Ensemble concert series. In 2017, Bryan was a writer for the original musical theater work of "Molded By The Flow," directed by Paul Dresher and Rinde Eckert. Outside of school, Bryan has been involved with writing music for videogame developers at Portland's CI2 Lab, collaborating with the King Tide Party, and studying with Larry Groupé (Straw Dogs) in San Diego. Now living in Nashville. Along with composing, Bryan teaches music to children, receiving the Master Teacher Award for his work at ESF Camps; and does audio engineering for live ensembles. Besides talents in music, Bryan is a team-player in any competitive work environment; equipped with skills in leadership, organization, mathematics, creativity, communication, and managing. On the side, Bryan has worked as a model for several skilled artists in the New England area. Among his other accomplishments include obtaining the rank of Eagle Scout in April 2013 with a project of building a side parking area with guide rails for Webb Mountain Park in Monroe, CT.

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