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.

Tip #105 – Weird Minor Chord Substitution

Here is another fun/interesting/odd/useful tip I learned from a professor:

Say you have these chord progressions below:

What you can do for minor chords acting as a ii, iii, or vi chord in the progression is replace them as a major chord one whole-step below while keeping the bass. So, the substitution would look like such:

Now, if we were to alter the progression from before – changing the minor chords functioning as a ii, iii, or vi – we would get these new progressions:

Some of them sound odd and funky. Personally, I preferably like the ii substitution better than iii and vi, but that is just my opinion. Feel free to try it yourself and see if it expands your harmonic pallet.

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.

Tip #101 – Weird Third Interval Substitution

This is an odd tip I received from a professor on a way to do chord substitutions.

First, it involves taking a composed progression. Like this one below:

From there, you take a chord you want to substitute (be it in this case the Fmaj7 chord) and change the root to a minor/major third below or above the original. For the pitch F, we get Db, D, Ab, and A.

After that, you change the quality of the chord from the root you choose to a minor chord (either a min7 or a min7(b5), otherwise known as a half-diminished seventh chord).

And there you have it. 8 different substitute possibilities for one chord. However, as I have learned from using this professor’s tip, not all the possibilities work. So, take this as a “last-resort” idea when you are stuck and in need of a more interesting harmonic progression.

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.

Tip #85 – Basic Cheat Sheet to Jazz Style Harmonic Substitution

“It’s just a ii-V-I”

I heard that phrase a lot whenever I took a class in jazz or played with a jazz group. And rightfully so, as there are a lot of ii-V-I chord progressions found in jazz standards.

That being said, would jazz music get boring over time if it uses this progression over and over again? Maybe “predictable” is a better word, but the great jazz composer’s & arrangers new how to use harmonic substitutions to create interesting progressions that still resembled the original.

In the famous ii-V-I progression, the ii is the pre-dominant area. The V is the dominant area. And that leads into the I that is the tonic area.

A crash course in harmonic substitutions:

The I tonic chord can be replaced by bIII , III , IV , bVI , and VI since they all share a common tone on the tonic scale degree. In addition, minor and diminished versions of the I chord can work as well.

As for the dominant chord, they can be replaced by the dominant or major chord versions of the bII harmony. Also, they can be the dominants or tritone substitutes of the tonic area’s substitutions acting on the original.

Pre-dominant areas are more open, being the ii, iv, and tritone substitute in relation to the dominant area harmony.

Below is a compromised (but still relatively large) sheet of various combinations of the harmonic substitutions mentioned above with a few extras, based in a starting key of C:


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.