Archive for the ‘Chords’ Category

Hymnplaying Master Class Critique

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

MVI_1458 (1)

The next post will be a video of me being critiqued in Hymn Playing Master Class at the recent Wild’s Music Conference.

Just don’t feel sorry for me 😉   We all need a work over at times!

I played my free piano arrangement of “The Old Rugged Cross” for this class. So…you may want to have a copy of it handy during the video for reference.

Before you click to download your free copy of  The Old Rugged Cross, you may want to wait until I provide the edited version based on the critique I received in this Hymn Playing Master Class. It’s all up to you.

Click here to print your free copy of “The Old Rugged Cross”. (original version)

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 Four

Saturday, September 7th, 2013

Answers to Lesson Three’s Assignment on Major and minor 3rds:

D flat to F  (Major 3rd)

C to E flat   (minor 3rd)

G# to B       (minor 3rd)

B to D#       (Major 3rd)

Now that you’ve learned Major and minor 3rds…you’re ready to apply this knowledge to the scale-based triads of any Major scale.

For ease of application, I’ll use the scale-based triads of the C Major scale listed below.


Notice that the triads either have an upper case or lower case roman numeral. Upper case indicates Major chord and lower case means minor chord. All Major scales have the same chord numbers.

For example, in G Major (which has one sharp)…the I chord would still be a Major chord and the ii chord would be minor, etc.

Now for applying your knowledge of major and minor 3rds…

1.  A Major chord consists of a Major 3rd plus a minor 3rd. For example: the 1st chord in the C scale (I) is a C chord (CEG).  From C to E is 4 half steps and from E to G is 3 half steps.

Remember: a minor 3rd consists of 3 half steps and a Major 3rd consists of 4 half steps.

So…from C to E is a Major 3rd and E to G is a minor 3rd.  A Major 3rd plus a minor 3rd = a Major chord!

2.  The minor chord ingredients are  just the opposite of a Major chord….a minor 3rd plus a Major 3rd = a minor chord!

  (See Lesson Three for more details)

With the knowledge learned in lessons one through four….you will be able to learn some VERY EASY chord substitutions! Can’t wait for the next lesson! The fun will begin 🙂  Review lessons one through four so you’ll be ready!  See links below for each lesson:

Lesson One

Lesson Two

Lesson Three


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 😉

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.

Free Piano Arrangement of “O How I Love Jesus”

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

Treble clef on red staff

Most church pianists find it a challenge to dress-up hymns such as “O How I Love Jesus”.  This particular hymn mainly consists of only two different chords the I and V chords)… with an occasional ii chord.

So…how to be creative with a hymn containing minimal chord changes?  I’m glad you asked!  🙂

(I’m currently working on a congregational piano arrangement book for church pianists that need more than the hymnal to play from.)

“O How I Love Jesus” is one of the ones I’m working on now.  The complete arrangement will have two verses.  Click below to download the first verse of “O How I Love Jesus” FREE!

Hopefully, the following free congregational arrangement will spark some creative ideas of your own.


*Special note: The congregational hymns in my book will be in lower keys than the regular hymnal…making the hymns more singer-friendly.

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)

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