Chord Substitution

Chord Substitution

"Crimson and clover over and over."

Chord substitution is quite literally the improvisation of chords.

There is no such thing as a lead guitarist strictly
there to add lead lines to rhtyhmic accompaniement.

Mr.G was always out to grasp chord substitution in
the 1960's.

He went on to work with Howard Wales in the early
1970's but Mr. Wales playing is so outside the lines
he didn't learn all that much and at times it sounded like 2 different musicians playing seperate

It was working with Merl Saunders that he learned
a great deal about chord substitution and real
significant changes were starting to take place in
his playing.

Let's go over some of the thinking behind chord
substitution and then dive in.

If your not bored to death.

"they call me Mello Yellow."

First ya gotta understand how chords are constructed.

You gotta have an ear to hear how a chord changes
when notes are altered.

How chords are categorized.

I'll make the assumption ya know most of what ya
need to know if not slap me on the head with a question big or small and I'll answer.

"Listen while I play my Green Tambourine."


Chord substitution is great cuz it can spice up
standard to non standard chord progressions.

It is essential in jazz and improvisational settings
and once the ideas are learned can be quickly

There are 2 different chord substitutions that
break into a myriad of different ideas.

1. Altering existing chords in the progression.

2. Adding chords to the progression.

When playing a progression it is possible to
alter or extend chords to produce different kinds
of harmony while still having the progression stay
in the same idealic form.

1. Altering existing chords

When playing a progression you can add chords to fill
in the space between the present chords in the progression.

2. Adding chords to the progression.

This is fun part of jazz where chords are changing
constantly in the progression to fill up space.

These chords stay in the progression but move
slightly harmonically.

Changing within and filling up space.

When improvising with single notes we are creating
melodic lines.

When improvising with chords we are creating

I'll move slowly to let things sink in.

It's a valuable tool with few rules.

It's especially fun in Jazz and is essential fun
for rhythm players as well as lead.

Vertical and horizontal

Vertical-the notes you add on top of the root.

Horizontal-when you play them.

I know I try to avoid giving musical terms to
weigh down or unsimplify an idea.

These two terms aren't essential but thier ideas are.

The root note is always the most powerful element
of a chord.

but then again you knew that didntya

We'll keep moving and you'll enjoy how to employ
improvistation to chords.

Matters matter not or do they?

Remarkably I flipped through some old mags and found
a 1978 guitar player interview where Mr.G nearly
states the exact words presented earlier to
describe his quest for chord substitution effectiveness.

"With Howard (Wales) we never had tunes. Howard would
just play through tremendously extended changes.
That developed my ear because I had nothing to go
on. I didn't even know what key we were in.
Here were all these extended chords coming out,
and I really had to be able to hear a correspondence
somewhere. Merl (Saunders) helped me improve my
analytical ability and to understand more about
how substitution chords work in standard musical
forms. Howard was a great in between there,
because his playing was so outside and totally

Let's move along gently.....

We have one chord let's say it is a A and it
moves to another chord let's say D.

The 2 root notes (A and D) dominate the sound.

The effect of a chord change is dependent on the
interval between these 2 root notes.

The Resolve section covers this to some extent.

How a chord sounds moving to another chord.

The interval difference.

Now the other notes in the chord play a slight
role as well.

The highest or upper notes are in most cases more

When the root is the same this really sticks out.

Play a G then a G7 and G minor sixth and then a
G minor 7th.

We'll get into simple ideas that you may already
use but let's look at our first rule.

Before we do I wanna say there are a few rules but
once you grasp the ideas. The only rule is what
sounds good to you.

rule 1- A dominant seventh can be formed on any
chord when the root note of the next chord is
a fourth higher or a fifth lower.

This our first starting point to filling up space
as well.

In a progression of

G//// C////

We see above the G chord for 4 beats followed by the
4th (of G) C for 4 beats.

G//G7// C////

The dominant 7th can be substituted because C is
a fourth above G and a fifth below.

D//// G////

We see above the D chord for four beats followed by
the root G for 4 beats.

D//D7// G////

We'll explain this further and give explanations
as to why this is possible.

This is the beginning stages but what we want to
do is to be able to come up with a different chord
for each beat!

Constantly moving and changing while still keeping
the tonal center intact.

This is all "inside"

"somewhere along the way, the idea of the value of
the negative space, the value of the silence, and
the value of the holes and the fascination with
dynamics, and what each note is doing became
more interesting." Mr. G

Meet me Felina at Rosa's Cantina.............

Last edited by Kenny on Fri Dec 02, 2005 8:57 pm; edited 1 time in total


Well were moving slowly inside in ideas in
chord substitution.

We saw some simple substitution of a dominant 7th
chord ideas.

If that's sticky I can further explain why it
is possible because there is of course a theoretical
and mathematical reason for everything.

We can also substitute minor 7th and dominant 11th

A 7th chord acting as the 5th in a progression
allows us to institute such substitution madness!

Rule 2- Any dominant 7th chord (V)(5th) can be
preceeded by a minor 7th chord built on a root note
a 5th higher.

"Well shucks Barn, even I knew that."

E//// A//// B7//// E////

1st 4th 5th-7 1st

Above we see an E major progression. As always this
would apply to all other keys as well.

Let's examine the idea

E//// A//// Fm7//B7// E////

Above we see the idea put in place.

This is a simple look at the idea and it can
be expanded in many different ways.

Let's look at dominant 11th substitution teacher
of the year fun.

This rule is even more easy and more applicable
than the previous two.

Rule 3- Any dominant 7th chord can be preceded
by a dominant 11th chord built on the same root.

Let's take a look.........

E//// A//// B7//// E////

Above we see the same E major progression.

Now let's apply the rule 3.

E//// A//// B11//B7// E////

Easy enough..........

Now let's take all 3 rules so far and apply it to
the progression.

E//// A//// B7//// E////

Above is the original progression.

E//E7// A//Fm7// B11//B7// E////

Above we have applied all 3 rules so far in a simple

Remember it can work in any key and be applied into
whatever fits the rule.

for now..................

Papa said'll never go far.

If ya keep dating Peggy-O!!

Great stuff man!

I'm glad your enjoying and or implementing the ideas.

It seems as though you grasped and implemented the
Caged system quite well.

Don't forget how the Caged system can emcompass the
entire neck and make progressions easier to play.

For example A-Cmaj 7

When playing in or near the second octave of the neck. It may seem like a bear but it can simply be
the same shape moved up 2 frets.



The possibilites abound simply by implementing
the Caged system.

Explore it.

Mr. Weir sure has.

Please stay tuned, we'll go much deeper and have alot

of fun soon to come!!!

"Get me an ice bag will ya?"

"For your head?"

"No Edith! I wanna build an igloo!"

Hey Kenny, this is good stuff.

I have a question about the chords Bob uses in Dark Star... using some pretty standard chords for A Mixolydian (A, G, Em, D, F#m) sounds pretty good, but still not quite as jazzy as Bob gets, esp. when listening to an early 70's Dark Star. I've tried adding 9ths and 11ths, keeping the notes of the chords compatible with A Mixolydian, but it didn' sound "right".

Do you have any specific exmaples? Should I be trying to find maj7, maj9, and/or maj11's rather than dominant chords?


Chord Substitution goes on a long long long way...


with Dark Star

The song is in the key of D major.

and for the intro and the first 2 lines of verse
one it's

Dark Star

A then D back and forth.

So to improvise over this Mr. Weir would play
these chords.





You wanna play over these chords. You get the idea.
If you want some voicings I'll put em down but I think you'll get it.

Rea---son tatters

The forces tear loose from the axis

Here's the outro part chords


Fool with em and have some fun!!


Though I thought the main progression is A -> G, no?

"Heyyyyyy! Mr. Cot-ter."

Mr. Weir indeed does use the chord D/A.

It works because he can manipulate single notes
along the transition and the voicings for this chord
are easily accessible with the different A chord

In a theoretical manor

The 5th A wants to resolve to the tonic D.

Try to transition smoothly improvising between those chords given in the previous post and you'll be right on the mark.

I'm sure with your chord capability and a little
bit of transition notes where necessary you'll
move along fantastic in this tune.

Small's your need in glove.

There is a multitude of different chord substitution
ideas and theories to go over.

In the brief time I have I would like to show an
example of listening to the chords and developing
substitution ideas for a simple one chord arrangement.

Jimi Hendrix for a great many of his songs is in B.

In songs like Johnny b. Goode and Red house to name
a couple he is mixing Major and minor pentatonic scales and adding the blue note for each scale.

This was something he did his best in and he did it
in many numbers.

In fact all the numbers he could get away doing it in.

While he is well known for his chordal embellishments
which have been copied by everyone from Stevie Ray
Vaughn to John Frusciante.

His chord substitution which is never mentioned is
a huge part of his playing and sound.

In the song Dolly Dagger Mr. Hendrix uses the same
B scale ideas for the intro, adds single note lines to a B7 chord for the chorus but it is the verse
that we'll look at.


Above we see the verse

He plays a B major chord 4 times then a B7 chord
4 times and then a B9 chord 4 times.

This creates an ascending chord line with one chord.

Which he caps off with a B min pent lick.

B9 is essentially a B7 chord add 2 (or 9 same thing)

"The doctor was played by Larry Badgely"


Hey what about when moving from 1st to 4th.


C//// F////

C9//C7+9 F7////

C9= X3233X

C7+9= X3234x


C//// F////

C9//C7-9 F7////

C7-9= X3232X


C//// F////

C7//C7+5 Fmaj7////

C7+5= 8x8998

Fmaj7= x8109108


C//// F////

C7//C7-5// F9////

C7-5= 8989xx

F9= x8788X


theatre with Lincoln

Under the Chord Substitution Header, Kenny stated that Bob plays Dark Star with an A chord and a D/A chord.

Now i (as well as others ) thought it was and an A and a G chord.

Can anyone explain this D/A chord. G seems to work. I use fragments of the cord descending to a F# note myself.

Please help me on this one. If it wasn't a typo it may solve a improv block on the song that i have.


Hi jamjax,

I not sure if the question was directed at me
personally. How might I help?

It appears your improvising utilizing G major in
some manor and then F#.

The F# if used in the right way screams D major as it
is the 3rd of D major and in most case it's most
important chord tone.

The 5th (A) naturally wants to resolve to the root

You can probably hear that in all keys.

Take a F major chord and go to a C major chord.

Now take a G major chord and go to a C major chord.

You'll hear the 2nd option is more natural.

It's also more true to what Mr. Weir is trying to

Mr. Weir of course constantly maneuvers and changes
the rhythm never playing the verse exactly the same.

Lets take a simple look at the transition of D/A to


Above is a D/A major chord followed by an A major chord.

The voicings are over emphasizing the sound and would
be likely to be less full when performed in the

Adding single note lines to build up A to A9 then the
A suspended chord is necessary but not overdone.

I can include examples but that's up to you and it
doesn't seem like you want to copy exactly.

I'm sure you've seen or heard this voicing


Whether including the open string or not I'm sure
you've noticed this voicing pop up a time or two in
the number.

Have a beautiful day jamjax!!

Joined: 04 Sep 2005
Posts: 7

Ok, I think i get it. The second voicing of D/A is what I use. I guess i just thought of it as a G fragment.

I'm still a little confused though. Now this would make the song in the Key of A right. Or would it be A mix.

Not sure if that question is important. But i want to try to understand how to build rhythm lines out of the fragments of the chords. I'm going to see if i can organise my thoughts a little more clearly so my questions are better. Thanks.


"the Doctor was played by Larry Bagely"

Now that is really weird. Didn't Robbert Plant say that on a Seattle 77 bootleg??

That is soooooo strange. We used to say that all the time. yet i never new it's relevance.
You freak me out Kenny!!!

"Adding single note lines to build up A to A9 then the
A suspended chord is necessary but not overdone."

Let me see if i understand this.

You mention that the voicings would be less full when played (in the song context)

I guess this means that you would only use from four to two strings to make the fragements and inversions.

so... maybe i could play chords like this....


... let's call it a A9 (as i'm including the B note on the thrid string)

and chords like....


and Asus4..... to lead off of the A chord.

and land on the D/A.

how bout using D9ths and Dsus4's off of the D/A chord? I guess that would work as well, eh?

Hey jamjax,

I'm just cleaning the trays in the Rukind cafeteria.
It was lima bean soup with bacon day. I threw my bowl
on Fat Eddie after he made fun of me cuz I'm in love
with Elizabeth Bradford from Eight is Enough.

Indeed the doctor is played by Larry Badgley and
!!!Jack Klugman!!!

Well the key signature would be the same for D Ionian
and A Mixolydian.

2 sharps

A Mixolydian A B C# D E F# G

D Ionian D E F# G A B C#

Yep, it's the same exact notes.

Now A-D doesn't indicate by itself A major.

the V (fifth) to the I (first) in D major would
be A-D.

What else was I talkin' bout??

Oh yeah! smoking is allowed inside the building in
all rooms with walls and ceilings and outside everywhere but....well everywhere.

back to the trays, damn Chachi did work hard at Arnold's........,.,.,.,.><><><>,.,.,><><.,.,.,.,.

Clap for the wolfman..uh forget it he sucks.

Hey jamjax,

Ya lost me just a bit on the last post. You would not
have the opportunity for so much chord fun with
the D/A chord because of the minimal amount of time
that chord is presented.

as it heads right into A after D/A.

As for specific chord voicings.......................

You really want to simplify while still following
along with the feel of the verse as best as possible.

"counterculture? is that what's growing in the fridge?"

Don't you hold the D/A for as long as the A? I bar of four beats???

brb, gotta listen to a version..

or is it A / / / / / D /

It almost sounds like Bob is breaking it up sometimes...?

Ok i got it now.

The chord rhythm is A A9 Asus D/A (just like you told me)

The A chord is basically


The A9 is made up of the B note and the G


the Asus is made up of the G and the D


and the D/A is made up of the D note, F# and the A


Cripes! That is what i always played. I just thought of them as G fragments. Boy this is good. I think it's going to open up alot more possibilities for me. Now if I can only figure out that outro.....


Hey jamjax,

I tabbed out the outro chords in an earlier post in
this same thread.

Have fun with em!

The Mr,G lead portion that proceeds the outro chords
is below.



"It's funny how most people love the dead. Once your
dead your made for life."

Mr. Hendrix

Kenny, thanks for all you writing here and everywhere else in our little haven!

I've approached rhythm with special regards to voicing(tone, progression & timbre) then transitions(relative minors, suspensions & walks).

[b]Tone [/b]would be where it occurs think E form vs. D form
[b]Progression [/b]knowing what forms make what sounds like a C form sounds 1 3 5 1 3 vs E form which sounds 1 5 1 3 5 1
[b]Timbre [/b]is subjective and based on the combo of the 2 above

So if I am playing a progression that looks like E F# C#m E which is melodic, I would play it all of the 4th fret. If it were a bit rocking, I'd play off the 7th, 2nd, 4th, 7th respectively.

When I think of changes like I IV - I usually add in a sus4 to the I or jump up to the II which is the relative minor of the IV.

This works very well for me, tonally I am happy with it, my band (which has another guitarist and keyboardist) are all happy with it so I don't want to get too far from this.

But what are some things you'd recommend me to try out to add on from here and bring in some new dynamics?


Hey strumminsix,

I was in the rukind cellar cleaning out 50 pound drums of silly putty, dusty pictures of orange haired
cookies on vacation in Kokomo, and Wendy the Good Witch comics. (who bought these things?)

I'm intrigued by the question as it contains many

Of course the accompaniment of your fine fellow
musicians and astronaut warlords of the planet
Kirkut is a factor.

The question of space and more importantly available
space and the players "place" in the piece and the
band itself weighs in.

Voicing is truly a very important aspect and one that's too often overlooked as a creative vessel.

Many times exploring the world of alternate tunings
can be a fantastic way to discover beautiful passages
but as a rhtyhm player in a band it's a tough to
impossible task.

Working with open strings, such as open string chords
moved to another position or adding open strings to
chords is always fun.

Single note lines, the use of your thumb, splitting
the fretboard up in almost keyboard fashion to play
rhthmic lines that compliment and answer themselves.

I've always studied lead players that incorporate
sliding shapes, chord fragments, chord substitution
and that untold area I like to refer to as
"dancing around the chord."

In some songs it's obvious where that statement
sounds correct.

"Shining in the light, Dance the Night Away, Ramble

In other cases it doesn't fit as well so I wouldn't
refer to it as the same name.

but me naming specific rhthym sequences in my very
own terms really wouldn't be a benefit to you.

All this is very much generalization so let's focus on the specifics in the post and the specific progression.

VIEWMASTER brainwashed my children!#!#!#!#!#!#!#

You mention a I-IV progression with the addition
of a sus4 on the way to the IV. This isn't normally
done in alot of cases but is a way of moving
the progression along in an ascending fashion.

The addition of the ii on the way to the IV(as you mentioned) would
also be moving in an ascending fashion.

Your keeping the progression "inside" and you
shouldn't find much problems with that.

It sounds like your using 2nd's and 7th's to move
the lead player into new directions.
(or maybe I misunderstood a statement)

The progression:

E F# C#m E

possibly you intended to put the F# as F#m to indicate a I-ii-vi-I progression.

or possibly it's just playing with the tonality slightly of the chord which is done quite often by
Mr. Weir.

A look into the ryhthm (and chord substitution) of
Looks like Rain would be a fun jaunt for you.

You'll see how he continually moves the progression.
The rest of the band can only jump along for the ride.

Mr.G was indeed the captain of the ship but many times Mr. Weir was the navigator weaving and controlling the direction of the music.

One could argue he pushed and prodded his way to often after all it was ultimately Mr.G's decision
but more often then not he followed Mr.Weir's cues.

"The hippie element was out in full force as you can
see. This reporter is scared for his life."

"Man, that's 2 guys playing frisbee and an old lady
in a sundress."

"Shut up!"

How to play Poison "cry tough"

Well let's get into some more chord substitution
stuff before I get dragged off to go door to door
collecting donations for the 4 foot 9 ex models
of Bulgaria.

Diminished 7th chords are fun completely easy
and can be stuffed in between any two chords!!!

They are very accessible all over the neck and thier
are only 3 of them!!

That's because it contains 4 notes that are each
3 notes apart emcompassing all of the 12 notes.

Let's take a look.........

C C# D D# E F F# G G# A A# B

Above we see all the notes in music (12)

If we take these notes starting on the first note
and move along skipping in 3's we would have...

C X X D# X X F# X X A

C diminished 7th - C D# F# A

Above we see the C diminshed 7th (or diminished) chord.

Now since these notes are all equal distances apart
and emcompass all the notes in music......

The C diminished 7th is also the

D# diminished 7th - D# F# A C

F# diminished 7th - F# A C D#

and the

A diminished 7th - A C D# F#

The chord is 1st(root) flat 3rd flat 5th and
flat flat 7th.

Since the chord can have 4 different names and there
is only 12 notes in music there are only 3 chords.

These chords can be found all over the neck and are
easily accessible.

We'll get into more diminished chords later and
use em...........

Now these diminished 7th chords we were looking at
can be stuffed in between any two chords and create
a weird mood and different uneasiness with each

Let's take a look....





C=<3555< Gdim=<<2323 G7=353433

This is just the beginning and any of the 3 dim chords can be stuffed here or between any two chords.

C=81010988 G#dim=<11121012< G7=<10121012<

Get some of these ideas under your fingers and
we'll keep goin' with some crazy combinations.

This is just the beginning and you'll see how these
simple chord substitution ideas can create some
great effect in your progressions and in Mr.G's.

Stay tuned.............................

Please pass exhibit A.,.,...,.,.,....,.,.,.,.,.,.,

Hey are we still thinkin'

"and then"

Maybe some more lessons

"and then"

Maybe some scale addition ideas

"and then"

Maybe a deeper look at GD songs and or other songs

"and then"

"No and then, I refuse to play your Chinese Food
mind games!"

"and then"