Archive for the ‘Chord Substitutions’ Category

Going Live on Facebook!

Wednesday, November 9th, 2016

I’ve provided the recent “broadcast” from facebook.  *See written article below for essential information that goes with the video.

On a lighter note….”Don’t you just LOVE my piano?!  It’s one of a kind…..treble is at the bottom…bass at the top!  (Just kidding)  *The dilemma was a front facing camera.

Jenifer Cook is going live on Facebook this Thursday at 8 pm EST. (November 10, 2016)

Ever notice how a lot of Christmas hymns have frequent
accidentals…the makings for awkward hand movements…

Hear Jenifer’s suggestions in dealing with accidental passages. She’ll be showing her note changes on the handouts listed below…feel free to either print them or have them on a screen for viewing purposes for tonight’s session. So much to share in a short time span!!

Copy and paste this link in the URL field at the top of your browser page:

Print the following FREE music example pages for tonight’s “going live on facebook” session with Jenifer

O Little Town of Bethlehem (verse only)

O Little Town of Bethlehem (verse only w/ application)

It Came Upon a Midnight Clear

There’s a Song in the Air

Have a pencil handy too!  writing_pen

Augmented Examples for I to IV Chord Progression

Friday, August 8th, 2014

*Click here to read introduction of diminished and augmented chords to understand the following free handout on augmented examples in hymns.


Explanation of the following visual:

When progressing from a I to IV chord…raise the 5th note of the I chord (G) to (G#) making it an augmented I chord which strongly leads into a IV chord.


Click here to download a free pdf of the Augmented  Chord Substitution Sheet



The Augmented & Diminished Chord: Introduction

Saturday, August 2nd, 2014

  “Diminish” (verb) to make smaller vs. “Augment” (verb) to make larger

A diminished chord is a minor chord with a lowered 5th

Example:  C Eb Gb   Or expressed as: C°

Suggested role of the diminished chord: creates suspense

An augmented chord is a major chord with a raised 5th

Example:  C E G#    Or expressed as:  C+

Suggested role of the augmented chord: generates amazement; surprise; anticipation

The diminished or augmented chord is not found within the scale. The pianist must alter the notes of a chord to create either one of these chords.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Visual examples of the d diminished in the key of C Major

d diminished = D F A flat

*diminished 7ths are more common; create fuller sound

d diminished 7th = D F A flat C

The symbol ° after the chord letter name… represents diminished chord

The / separates the diminished chord from the bass note (the slash is used when the bass note is NOT the root note of the diminished chord.)

Click here to download visual example for application of the d diminished 7th chord.


Special note:  Yes, I should have included a “slash” indicating the “C” as the bass note for the last example on the word “leads”.  Hope you caught it!  🙂

 I will share augmented examples in the next article asap!

These diminished chord examples are just a tip of the iceberg! 

This lesson does not contain a thorough list of diminished chord possibilities  within a key/scale.


What I’m Working On…

Thursday, July 24th, 2014


What are diminished and augmented chords?  Where can I use them? The first article on diminished and augmented chords will answer these questions.

The other post I’m creating deals with tips for choosing vocal solos for the male voice.  I enjoy the challenge of looking for solos that fit a certain person’s vocal range/ability.  Singing a song that fits the singer’s range allows for a more positive experience for the soloist as well as the listeners 😉

It’s our responsibility as Christians to be as effective as we can to carry God’s message through whatever means possible and that includes singing.

Looking forward to sharing more soon!

Diatonic Chord Substitution Examples: FREE DOWNLOAD

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

As promised,  here are a couple more examples of a diatonic chord substitution.  (Link to FREE download at bottom of this article.)



Click here to download your FREE copy of the diatonic chord substitution examples.


Chord Substitutions

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

wavy staff with colored notes

Church pianists enjoying bringing hymns to life by adding different chords!  A recent question from one of my readers has created the perfect opportunity for me to share tips on chord substitutions….a topic I’ve been wanting to deal with for quite some time.  Chord substitutions can add such color to a song!  It’s a very B-R-O-A-D topic; meaning….there’s an endless supply of chord possibilities in any given key!

Reader’s Question:

“I have been using various resources trying to learn more about theory, but I haven’t found any that go beyond a basic level.

For example, I know what augmented and diminished chords are, but I don’t know how to use them or how they fit into functional harmony. In analyzing your arrangements, I have noticed you use a lot of different kinds of chords, such as chords with altered bass notes or a I-ii half diminished-I-etc. progression for introductions.

How did you learn how to use all these? Do you have any recommendations for resources that would teach me more? Any advice would be appreciated!”



Hi Ashley,

How did I learn to use different chords from the written music?  You won’t like my answer 😉    I play them by ear…basically whatever sounds right. I do know chord theory but don’t think about theory application when playing….I just….play 😉  (Music writer’s confession: I don’t claim to be an expert theorist.)

For everyone’s benefit…the “different” chords we’re discussing are called chord substitutions. A chord substitution occurs when replacing a chord with a different chord.

Easiest Chord Substitution for Starters…

To replace a major chord within a key…use the chord a 3rd above or below the root note of a major chord.  (The major chords within any key is the I, IV and V).

The I chord in the key of C Major is the C chord (CEG).  Now, what note is a 3rd above CE…so the e minor chord (EGB) within the C scale can be used as a substitution as long as it “sounds” good within the occurring chord path (progression) of the song.  Count a 3rd below C and you find A.  The A minor chord (ACE)  is the second choice for a C major chord substitution.

Two observations about these two chord substitution choices:

1. They’re both minor

2.  They each have two notes in common with the chord being replaced

There are other types of chord substitutions but wanted to start with the easiest kind.

Extra Information:

1.The chord substitution just described above  (3rd above or 3rd below) is called the Diatonic Substitution. A diatonic chord substitution occurs when using different notes within a scale. It’s the most natural form of chord substitution because no note alterations take place; just using what ingredients are already available within that key 😉

2. The key signature and melody of any song dictates what chord(s) can be used.

 ~~Next article will show examples of the Diatonic chord substitution~~

Special Note!

Special Note!

Great theory reference book:  “The Complete Idiot’s Guide toMusic Theory”



Related article on Chord Substitutions




Chord Substitution: Replacing the V7 with a ii7

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

♫ Chord Substitution ♫

Replacing the V7 with a ii7

Chord substitutions work best when enough time is allowed. For example, when a V7 chord lasts for two or more beats…there’s time to replace it with a different chord. The ii7 can replace the V7 and still resolve back to the original (V7) chord.

For example, in the key of C Major…the V7 is GBDF and the ii7 is DFAC

In the following examples, the hymnal version is displayed along with the improvised version showing the substituted chord.

I did not label the V7 chord in the hymnal version of each example that lines up with the substituted chord in each improvised version.  I will tell where they occur:

It is Well…on the syllables “tend-eth my” and for Just As I Am…”-out one”  (before “plea”)

*Keep in mind…I’m using the same sheet as I did in the previous lesson on chord substitutions for the I chord.

The ii chord substitution is  hand-written in red under the measures with a red square around them. I also labeled the V7 chord under the red square examples so you could see where the ii7 resolved back to the V7.


Chord Substitution Application for the I (Major) Chord

Friday, December 27th, 2013


Answers from previous quiz questions for Chord Substitutions:

Minor chords for IV are  ii and vi

Minor chords for V are  iii and vii

Key of C Major:  F chord is the IV chord….so…d minor is the ii chord and a minor is the vi chord.  The V chord is G….so….e minor is the iii chord and b minor is the vii chord.

Review from last lesson:  A Major chord lasting two or more beats can be substituted with a minor chord. Go up or down two chords from the Major chord to find its minor chord substitutions.

For example:  The  C Major chord can be substituted with an e minor or a minor chord.  (The melody note dictates which substitution will sound right).

This is only the beginning…there are SO many chord substitutions!  I’m just covering the basic choices.

New Lesson

Warning label to the church pianist:  Chord substitutions cannot be used for congregational singing IF the congregation is singing parts from hymnal.

Chord substitutions can be used for solo instrumentals or when accompanying vocalists or instrumentalists singing or playing the melody.

Reason for selective use:  chord substitutions do not support the written voice parts in a hymnal.

Our church has a small congregation that mainly sings melody with occasional tenor….giving me more freedom in congregational accompaniment.  Adding chord substitutions just brings what would be a plain hymn…to life!

If you’re a church pianist wanting a warmer sound to your playing…chord substitutions are the answer!  I use a lot of chord substitutions during invitation..creating a more reflective mood.  Our pastor likes background music during the entire invitation…allowing me more freedom to alter the melody and chords.

The following chord substitutions would be better understood if the church pianist had a basic understanding of being able to analyze chords within a hymn…hence….another lesson in the works 🙂

Until then…enjoy learning a couple chord substitutions for the following hymns.  

Layout explanation:  Three different hymn examples; each hymn is represented by an original line from the hymnal followed by an improvised version of that line. The I (CEG) chords are labeled as well as the substituted chord numbers. Each example is in C Major.  *Measures marked with a red square require future post to explain.




*Click on the following pages to download:

Page one: Chord Substitution Application

Page two: Chord Substitution Application



How to Add Chord Substitutions: Final Lesson

Monday, October 14th, 2013

Time to apply what was taught in lessons one through four on “How to Add Chord Substitutions”.

The following visual aid of the C Major scale and its chords will be helpful for this lesson!


Notice once again:  The Major chords above are indicated by an upper case Roman numeral.  The lower case Roman numeral indicates a minor chord.

Now for the fun part!…You’re about to learn how to find chord substitutions!

The bottom line:  The three major chords listed above in the key of C: I, IV and V can be substituted with a minor chord. How do do this?

Look for a minor chord that has at least two notes in common with a major chord.  For example:  A iii chord (EGB)  has two notes in common with the I chord (CEG).  That means….a iii chord can replace a I chord in the right setting.

Ok….can you find the other minor chord that has two notes in common with the C (I) chord?  Yes!  the vi (ACE)

Your Quiz:

1. Find the two minor chords that have two notes in common with the IV chord.

2. How about the two minor chords that are compatible with the V chord?


So…when to use the chord substitutions?  When a major chord lasts for two or more beats…there is time to use a minor chord substitution!  The melody note also dictates which substituted chord will sound right. (Hint: The left hand plays the chord substitution and the right hand may have to alter the alto note to match the substituted chord. (When playing from the hymnal)

*Special note:  (Observation from one of my readers)…Just go up or down two chords from a Major chord to find its minor chord substitutions.  (Thanks Victoria!)

I will provide visual examples in the next article!


How to Add Chord Substitutions: Lesson Three

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

Reviewing Lesson Two

Here are the essential tools I’ve covered so far as prerequisites to adding chord substitutions:

Understanding the major scale (C scale was our example for ease of application) There are 8 notes in a scale.

The scale-based triads (3 note chord)

Term: Interval (distance between two notes)

Answers to  lesson two’s intervals:

*D to F  (3rd)

*C to G  (5th)

*B to G (6th)

*G to C  (4th)

Lesson Three: Half and Whole Steps

What if I play a D to the next F#…is that still a 3rd interval?  Yes it is!  So…what’s the difference between a D to F and a D to F#?  Well, a D to F is a minor 3rd and a D to F# sharp is a Major 3rd.  How do I know that? I learned about half and whole steps; used to create minor and major 3rds.

(The following lesson must be understood before you can identify minor and major 3rds.)

A half step is from one note to the very next (closest) note. For example: a C to C# is one half step.  Or….E to F is a half step…no key between the moves.


A whole step is from one note to the next neighbor note…such as C to D or F# to G#.  (A whole step has one key between its two notes)

C to D has a black key between them. F# to G# has a white key between them and B flat to C has a white key between them.


Very important lesson to remember!

Several Reasons why:

Because scales are made up of half and whole step patterns

What if someone says….”transpose up a half step”…must understand!

Major and minor chords are determined by number of 1/2 steps! (next lesson)

Understanding of sharp and flat notes (they move by 1/2 steps)

Black notes with movement lines

Now for the application of half and whole steps…

A minor 3rd = 3 half steps

A Major 3rd = 4 half steps


Identify the 3rds below the example as either minor or Major

Example: F to A = Major 3rd

(the numbers indicate the half step moves)


Hint: 1st half step counts after first note

D flat to F

C to E flat

G# to B

B to D#

Special Note!

Special Note!

Learning these theory lessons WILL help you know how to add chord substitutions.  Just hang in there and take good notes 😉

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