Archive for the ‘Chord Substitutions’ Category

How to Add Chord Substitutions: Lesson Two

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013

Chord substitutions add SO much color to gospel songs! Gospel songs contain infrequent chord changes.  Songs like:  Revive Us Again (mentioned in lesson one), Wonderful Words of Life, Work for the Night is Coming, to name a few.

In lesson one, you learned the numbering system for the scale and its scale-based triads (3-note chords).

Now…forget scales for a moment: you’re ready to learn another easy concept also dealing with numbers…the term: INTERVAL

The word: INTERVAL means the distance between two notes. To count the distance between two notes…you start counting from the first note to the second note you land on.  For example, F to the very next G.   F counts one, G counts two. So…from F to G is a 2nd interval.  How about from F to the very next A….F counts one, G two…and A three…a 3rd interval.

So, pack this lesson away in your mind for future application!  Why? It will be necessary when we place chords in consecutive 3rds to determine what root chord we’re dealing with so we’ll know what chord substitution will work. Make sense?  If not, that’s why it’s important to save these preparatory lessons in order to know how to add chord substitutions to gospel songs.

In the meantime, try to answer the following by guessing the correct interval for:

D to F

C to G

B to G

G to C

*Answers will be provided in the next lesson 🙂

Also, here’s a free online interval worksheet to do for extra reinforcement:  INTERVAL WORKSHEET (Opus Music Worksheets)

*Tip: On this free worksheet…Unison (U) is mentioned in the directions.  Unison just refers to two identical notes (just as we refer to a choir singing unison…all on the same note)

Please feel free to ask questions! Extra interval visual below!



I found this neat picture at: Visual Dictionary

How to Add Chord Substitutions to Hymns: Lesson One

Sunday, July 14th, 2013

I absolutely love adding chord substitutions to hymns! Chord substitutions add extra color and variety to gospel songs which normally contain infrequent chord changes.

Would you like to learn how to revitalize hymns like “Revive Us Again”?  This particular hymn uses the same chord for at least four measures in a row!

Listen to the following audio of “Revive Us Again” with chord substitutions.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

So…what does the pianist need to know in order to add chord substitutions?

Let’s take one step at a time!

What Every Pianist Should Know BEFORE Adding Chord Substitutions:

1.  A major scale is made up of 8 notes.  For example, the C Major scale is made up of the following eight notes:  CDEFGABC

2.  So,  each note of the scale is numbered one through eight.  For example, C is one, D is two, etc.  Now…create a three note chord (triad) on each note of the scale.  Play CEG together.  We call this the one chord because it’s built on the first note of the C scale. Now play DFA together.  Yes, you’re playing the two chord in the key of C.  Finish playing the rest of the C scale based triads until you reach the following C.

Here is a picture of what you should have played so far:  C scale and then the C scale chords (triads).  *Notice, the chords are numbered with the Roman numeral system.  The upper case roman numeral indicates major chord, the lower case roman numeral indicates minor chord.  For you theory buffs, I left out the diminished symbol for the vii chord….will explain that later.


You have learned the first foundational tool needed for adding chord substitutions.  Application: Play the above scale and chords in the keys of G and F Major for ample reinforcement.  * I chose easier scales for a reason….let’s keep life simple for now 😉

Hope this lesson has been clear thus far.  Please feel free to ask any questions!

Just be patient with yourself and learn this basic step towards colorful playing!  I’ll explain more in the next post.

Introducing an Excellent Theory Book!

Saturday, June 23rd, 2012

Now don’t get offended with the title of this music theory book…I use it as a reference book for my piano teaching and composing. The title…“The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Music Theory”.


The description on the front cover of this book gives an excellent overview:

“Essential information on reading and writing—including basic notes, rhythms and scales”

“Helpful hints on creating your own melodies, chords and harmonies”

“Audio exercises (CD included) to develop your ear training skills”

My favorite chapter in the Complete Idiot’s Guide to Music Theory deals with chords…(chapter 9). This chapter gives the reader an overview of the basic types of chords used in today’s music.

For example…the basic types of chords mentioned in this chapter include the following: Major, minor, diminished and augmented.  The chapter then goes into “chord extensions”…my favorite section! Oh, and the “power” chords are interesting too 🙂

There is a complete chord appendix in the back of the book that covers every kind of chord–in every key!  The writer of this book says to use this appendix when you want to write a chord but don’t know how.

List of the Appendixes

A. The Complete Idiot’s Music Glossary

B. The Complete Idiot’s Chord Reference

C. Answers to Chapter Exercises

D. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Music Theory, Second Edition, Ear Training Course CD

Click on following link to view a sample chapter of this book:

Complete Idiot’s Guide to Music Theory

You may purchase the book at the above link or try to find on Ebay or Amazon for a more reasonable price. (make sure the CD is included)

Chord Substitution: Adding minor 7th to a I Chord Before a IV Chord

Sunday, January 8th, 2012

Chord substitutions add color to hymnplaying! Here’s an easy chord substitution for church pianists to use.

Scenario: When a I chord is leading into a IV chord…add a minor 7th to the I chord. The minor 7th note is located a 7th above the root (bottom) note of the chord.  See the following explanation of the chords before viewing the free pdf sheet of this chord substitution.

Editor’s notes for free pdf sheet on this chord substitution:

Key of F:  I chord = F,A,C       IV chord =  Bflat,D,F    I chord with added minor 7th = F,A,C,E flat

Key of G: I chord =  G,B,D       IV chord =  C,E,G        I chord with added minor 7th = G,B,D,F natural

*Special note: The substituted chord ( I 7) does not have to contain all 4 notes as you’ll discover in the examples.

Click here to download free sheet for Chord-Substitution-adding-minor-7th-to-I-chord

Challenge yourself to look for the I (minor 7th)  chord already in use throughout the church hymnal.  Try applying the above chord substitution in other hymns during I – IV chord progressions. Tip: Use hymns with easy keys at first until you gain confidence with the concept.



Lesson Two: The II 7 Chord Substitution with Have Thine Own Way

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

Chord Scenario for this II 7  Chord Substitution:

When a I chord lasts for at least two beats and leads into a V or V 7  chord that lasts 3 or more  beats…the II 7 can replace a I chord.

On to our example in Have Thine Own Way in E flat major.  Since E flat is the first note in the key of E flat…it is number one. So F is the second note in the key of E flat major.  The ii chord would be: F-A flat-C.

Now let’s alter this minor ii chord by making it major.  Raise the middle note to A natural.  Are you beginning to catch on?  You now have the II  chord:  F-A natural-C   See illustration below:

Key-of-E-flat-Major-ii-7-and-II7-chord-visual*I added an E flat (not shown)… on the top of the II chord…making it a II 7 (the E flat is 7 notes from the bottom note (F).  Added 7ths make a chord sound SO much richer!

*You’ll notice the note members of the II 7 chord in the following excerpt are scrambled between both hands. The note “C” is missing (which is ok)… but the rest are present.

The-II-7-Chord-Substitution~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~

Now…a couple more examples of the II 7 chord substitution in the key of A flat & G Major.

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

Lesson Two (more II7 chord substitution examples)

   Special Note!

Are you wondering how to use the ii 7 chord in each example?  Whenever a V or V7 chord is lasting three or more beats…use the ii 7 chord first and then resolve to the written V or V 7 chord. I’ll share examples of this chord substitution in another article.  So much to share!

Church Pianist Tip:  Remember…chord substitutions can not be used during congregational singing unless they are singing unison. Why? Because the substitution chords will conflict with the voice parts.

Click here for: Lesson One: The  II 7 Chord Substitution

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