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Chord Melody Concepts: Diatonic and Minor Third Substitutions

November 18, 2009

From Solo Jazz Guitar
Diatonic substitutions occur when chords in a harmonized scale are used to substitute for each other. The types of diatonic substitutions are: 
• II subs for IV, and vice versa 
• V subs for VII, and vice versa 
• I, III, and VI chords are all interchangeable

Substituting II for IV and IV for II
Using Fmaj7 in place of Dm7 creates a Dm9 sound. Conversely, using Dm7 in place of Fmaj7 will create an F6 sound. In Fig. 1, we have a I–VI–II–V progression. Measure 3 uses Fmaj7 and Fmaj13 (the IV chord) to substitute for Dm7 (the II chord).

Fig. 1 - Listen

Substituting V for VII and VII for V
Using G7 in place of Bm7b5 creates a Bm7b5#5 sound. Conversely, using Bm7b5 in place of G7 will create a G9 sound. In Fig. 2, we again have a I–VI–II–V progression. The first half note in measure 3 uses Fmaj7 (the IV chord) to substitute for Dm7 (the II chord). In measure 4, the first half note is Bm7b5 (the VII chord), substituting for G7 (the V chord), creating a G9 sound.

Fig.2 - Listen


Substituting I, III, and VI interchangeably
Using Cmaj7 in place of Em7 creates a Em7#5 sound. Conversely, using Em7 in place of Cmaj7 creates a first inversion of Cmaj7—or Cmaj7/E. Using Am7 in place of Cmaj7 creates a C6 sound. Conversely, using Cmaj7 in place of Am7 creates an Am9 sound. In Fig. 3, I’ve reharmonized the I–VI–II–V using Am7 and Em7 to sub for Cmaj7 (the I chord). In measure 2, I’ve substituted Cmaj7 and Em11 for Am7 (the VI chord). In measure 3, the first half note uses Fmaj7 (the IV chord) to substitute for Dm7 (the II chord). In measure 4, the first half note uses Bm7#5 (the VII chord) to substitute for G7 (the V chord), creating a G9 sound.

Fig. 3 - Listen 


Minor Third Substitution
A minor 3rd substitution takes either the II chord, the V chord, or both the II and V up or down a minor 3rd before resolving to I. Fig. 4 has a II–V–I progression in G major. I substituted the II chord (Am7) up a minor 3rd to Cm7, then to D7 (the V chord), and finally to Gmaj7 (the I chord).

Fig. 4 - Listen

Fig. 5 has the same II–V–I progression in G major, only I’ve substituted F7 for D7 (the V chord), resolving to Gmaj7 (the I chord).

Fig. 5 - Listen

In Fig. 6, I’ve substituted the Am7 and D7 (the II–V) up a minor 3rd using Cm7 and F7, before resolving to Gmaj7 (the I chord).

Fig. 6 - Listen

Play through these examples and let your ears be the judge. This is a very hip way to create some different sounds for a II–V–I progression. Remember: this concept is endless. By moving in minor 3rds, it creates somewhat of a diminished sound. You can experiment with soloing using the same concept. For example, play a II–V line over Cm7 and F7 and resolve it to Gmaj7.