Question about chord substitutions

Discussion in 'Ask Michael Dimin' started by LiquidMidnight, Feb 5, 2003.

  1. LiquidMidnight


    Dec 25, 2000
    Hey Mike, I've been studying up a lot on chord subs, though I'm a little confused on a few things.

    First, is how it was explained to me that a mediant sub was a 3rd above the tonic. Pretty easy stuff. But the example it gave me is a C maj 7th that is subbed with a E min 7th. I studied the chords, realizing that they have a lot in common so a light bulb went off above my head. The problem is though, I've always thought that chord subs were based on reharmonizations that weren't diatonically related to the chord it was being substituted for. That's why the tritone sub seemed to make a lot of sense. An E min 7th is obviously diatonically releated to a C maj 7th. So was my way of thinking completely wrong? Can a chord sub be totally releated to the tonic chord from a diatonic stand point?

    Another question I was wondering, is if it's possible to "stack" chord substitutions. For example, if I did the mediant sub with the c and played the e min. Could I then treat the E as the tonic and then do another sub off of the E.

    My last question is voice leading seems to be very important with subs. Do you have any tips on creating smoother transistions?

    Thanks for taking the time Mike? :)
  2. Mike Dimin

    Mike Dimin

    Dec 11, 1999
    Clinician: EA, Zon, Boomerang, TI. Author "The Art of Solo Bass"
    Absolutely. Substituting a VI minor for the I major goes back to classical times. In a Rhythm Changes, here is a common sub that I do.

    Original: Bb Gm7|Cm7 F7|
    sub: Dm7 C#7|Cm7 B7|

    There are a couple of things going on here. Using the subs, I've created a chromatic descending bass line (very cool). The Dm7 is the same substitution that you talk about above. The C#7 is a 2 part substitution. First I subbed a G7 for the Gm7 (as G7 is the V of the C7 and you can precede any chord by it's dominant). Then I did the old trtone sub on the G7. The B7 is a tritone sub for the F7. This is really explained, in-depth, in my book, "The Chordal Approach" as well as in Mark Levine's "Jazz Theory Book"

    Sure, for example you might see in the brisge of the same Rhythm Changes the following chords: D7|D7|G7|G7| C7|C7|F7|F7|. What you have here is as you say "stacked" reharmonizations the F7 is the V of Bb. The C7 is the V of the F7. The G7 is the V of C. The D7is the V of the G7. Most importantly as you get away from the original progression is the sound - does it work, musically??

    Your absolutely right voice leading is very cool. Often times when you investigate the "guide tones" of a chord progression (the guide tones are the 3rd and 7th of each chord). You'll see beautifull vocie leading going back to the times of JS Bach. You'll notice the inner voices of the chords moving by step or half-step. You can really see this in my book (not to push it or anything, but it is just so relevant to what your asking).

    Here is a great tip on creating a smoother transition. 1) Look at the individual chord scales of the chords in a progression. 2) Learn the all the chord scales in a single position on the neck. 3) Find the notes that are the same and those that are different. Now your bass line can focus on those notes that offer change. A great example of this in action is the bass line to "Footprints".

    Hope this helps
  3. LiquidMidnight


    Dec 25, 2000
    Thanks Mike,

    You just sprayed a firehose on a muddy window.