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Chord Substitutions

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by c-ba55, Jul 25, 2003.


  1. I am confused by some of the chord substitutions in "serious" jazz. I get tritone substitution OK. What confuses me is why you're allowed to do things that have not only no notes in common with the original chord, but would in fact produce horrible dissonance when played with the original chord. Because if you the bass player are trying to play a Gm9 (G Bb D F A) and the piano player decides to play something like Do (DFAbB) instead, you have two potential half-step clashes. But I see this in transcriptions all the time. Not that particular example which is entirely made up, but stuff like that.

    And I have bass transcriptions by themselves where the bass player will just play a B on the downbeat of a measure of a Bb something. Like, often. Not as a b9, but as some mysterious other thing. Like maybe it's a Bo instead of a Bb? Or whatever. Don't take my examples as my question. My question is what in general are the rules for chord substitution beyond tritone substitution on the dominant.
     
  2. moley

    moley

    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    If the pianist is playing a Ddim7 instead of Gm9, then what's happening is they're subbing a Gm9 chord for G7b9. What happens is, the bass player hits a G on the downbeat, the pianist hits the diminished chord, and the bass player notices the substitute, and walks under the G7b9.

    However, think about it, what scale might the bass player have played on a Gm9? G Dorian... All the notes of which, with the exception of the A and the C would fit with a G7b9.

    And with regard to clashes, e.g. the playing a B on a Bb chord - you can get away with that kind of thing, especially with a double bass, and pianist playing rootless voicings. Because of the very different sounds of the piano and the double bass, the clash isn't nearly so noticeable.

    As for rules for substitutions, well, there are many different substitutions you can do. Can I suggest you check out The Jazz Theory Book by Mark Levine. He details many of them in there.
     
  3. For the curious, here's what Mark Levine has to say about common substitutions:

    On ii chords not part of a ii-V, you can play a minor major chord

    On V chords, tritone substitution

    On V chords part of a ii-V, add b9

    on V chords NOT part of a ii-V add +11

    On I chords, +4

    On I chords, maybe +5

    On vi chords, substitute V. I don't get that one.
    That's the sort of thing I was originally trying to understand, where you are just playing a different unrelated chord that seems to have a different function even.
     
  4. LiquidMidnight

    LiquidMidnight

    Dec 25, 2000
    I always wondered, what's the harmonic function of a tritone sub? It seems to be a cool tool if you want to modulate a half of step down, but what are it's other purposes?

    p.s. what's a minor major chord?
     
  5. Aaron

    Aaron

    Jun 2, 2001
    Bellingham, WA
    A minor chord with a maj 7th. It's a bit of a bipolar chord.
     
  6. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    There's a lot of good stuff about Tritone subs in this thread:

    http://www.talkbass.com/forum/showthread.php?s=&threadid=11726
     
  7. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    I'd have to be looking at the page of Mark's book you're talking about, but what I suspect he meant was that for vi chords in a major key, you can substitute a V/ii. For example, in C Major, instead of playing an Ami chord, play an A7 instead if it resolves to Dmi. If you want to be really particular about it, you'd use an A7#9(#5) if you want to be really "inside" with your substitution, as the #5 would become the third of the resolution chord, and the #9 would be the root of the parent key (or the 7th of the ii chord, however you want to think about it).

    An easy way to remember this function is to say that for any dominant chord that resolves to minor, alter the 9th and 5th if you want the resolution to sound organic. For any major key, there are three instances where these altered secondary dominants may commonly occur: V7alt/ii, V7alt/iii, and V7alt/vi. I won't swear to it, but I bet that's what Mark is talking about in the book you quote.
     
  8. moley

    moley

    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    Minor triad with major 7th. Chord I of the melodic minor.
     
  9. moley

    moley

    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    Chris - I think you're right about what Levine was talking about there. I assumed when I read the question that he meant subbing a vi chord for a VI7 chord - e.g. in C, subbing Am7 for A7b9 or A7alt.
     
  10. He seems to mean use a G instead of an A.

    for example I-VI-II-V, make I-V-II-V. (Capitalization his...I don't know if he means for them to all be major, diatonic, or what.)

    He basically goes on to say play whatever sounds good to you and fits the situtation. If you want to play random ****, go ahead. If it works, do it again next time through. If you get fired, stop doing it or find a different band.

    I've been especially looking at Paul Chambers basslines a lot lately, and he often seems to ignore the chord and play a different one. I have some ensemble transcriptions as well as bass alone transcriptions, and with the group ones the piano, bass, and soloist are on different wavelengths quite a bit. One will play something besides the changes to "stimulate" the others, and maybe they follow maybe not. I guess that's what's going on.
     
  11. moley

    moley

    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    What page of The Jazz Theory Book is this?

    I've read the whole book, and I don't remember seeing anything suggesting you replace an Am with a G.

    He *did* talk about replacing the VI chord with a V chord, but he *didn't* mean replacing Am with G - he meant replacing the VI chord with a dominant 7th chord - i.e. A7.

    I think maybe you've misunderstood?
     
  12. moley

    moley

    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    ...ok I've found the bit I think you're talking about - page 288, "Reharmonizing VI Chords as V Chords".

    He says:

    See, if you read on a bit, he says he's talking about replacing G-7 with G7, not F7. When he says reharmonizing the VI chord as a V chord - he means just that, a V chord, not the V chord of the key you're in. When he says "a V chord" he means a dominant 7th chord - but that doesn't mean chord V of the key we're in.
     
  13. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    UK
    Am I correct in thinking the purpose of this substitution serves to increase the resolve to the II chord in the progression, giving the prgression a stronger movement..?

    There was an article in bass player mag a few months back covering II-V-I progressions and some basic substitutions. It was a good srticle, but fella bit short of explaining the theory in depth I felt.
    It exaplined why you would change and min7 VI chord into a dom7, but it didnt explain why it worked.. if you know what I mean?!

    Others explained in the article were bII, bVI and bIII subs which - as moley explained earlier - serve to give a downward root motion toward the tonic, increasing the final resolution.
    Worth readiong I'd say... check it out :)

    H
     
  14. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    Well, I've often seen this done, and while I can't give you the why of it, I can tell you that the G7 becomes V of V (in this case V of ii), and that works almost as far as you want to back it up. You could also make the C-7 a C7 in this example for the same reason....
     
  15. marc40a

    marc40a

    Mar 20, 2002
    Boston MA
    The 5 of 5 is correct...you're essentially turning a 6,2,5,1 turnaround into a cycle of 4ths progression.

    The reason it works is because the 5 to 1 change is the very cornerstone of Euro/American harmony. The cycle of 4ths is a very strong cycle w/ extremely clear resolutions.

    Likewise with the the Tritone sub... the pull of a chromatic line has a very clear resolution as well.
     
  16. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    This is true, not because of the chromatic line, but because the tritone in the two dominant chords are the same. (example: the tritone in a C7 chord is E and Bb, and in a F#7 the tritone is E and A#(Bb) - the resolutions are the same.
     
  17. marc40a

    marc40a

    Mar 20, 2002
    Boston MA
    Without a doubt, a tritone sub is a strong resolution because it shares the same the 3rd and 7th as the Dominant chord.

    But I wouldn't underestimate the sheer gravity created by chromatic tones in an improvisational context... even without 3rds and 7ths involved.... that's essentially what we're doing on one level when we're walking a line, soloing or playing unaccompanied.
     
  18. Pacman

    Pacman Layin' Down Time Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Endorsing Artist: Roscoe Guitars, DR Strings, Aguilar Amplification
    I'd agree that chromaticism has immense strength, but when we do that I think we're implying the entire chord.

    I'm not arguing, by the way - you're right on. I think we're just showing two angles to look at the same thing.
     
  19. Thanks, Moley. That is clearer. I've heard about that one, changing G- to G7. It creates a more modern sound is the way it's been presented to me.

    So I am still concerned abuot how to do radical chord substitutions. Like Paul Chambers will prominently play octave A, open A as the first two beats of a Do chord. What the hell is that?
    The explanation in the book (Thinking in Jazz) is that he is creating some harmonic tension, which gets resolved a few bars later. A lot of the things I saw and was confused by were fairly fleeting. Guys setting up little tensions for the rest of the band to resolve. (Since I guess they had just SO mastered all the great songs and were bored with them as written.)
     
  20. moley

    moley

    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    Heh, well ultimately I think perhaps it comes down to knowing what things sound like. Chambers knew what the effect would be of playing an A on the first 2 beats of that chord, because he'd done it before, and that sound was in his head. It was a part of his "palette", and he knew it would work.

    Play, and experiment ;)