Posts Tagged ‘chord’

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.


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

Lesson One: The II 7 Chord Substitution

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

A reader writes…

I’ve printed your “Have Thine Own Way, Lord”.  How did you know to put a F7 on the 2nd “own” in the first  full measure….
Is there a process of knowing what chords are to be uses as substitution and when to use them?

Fortunately…yes!  🙂  There’s an endless supply of chord substitutions that can be used…depending on the initial chord scenario.

To begin with, I’ll apply this II 7 chord substitution to  the key of C Major for easier application. (Otherwise, it’s like teaching a beginner to play Moonlight Sonata at his first lesson)

So…what’s a II chord?!  In simple terms…it’s an altered chord.  Normally, the second chord in any major key is a minor chord…thus marked in lowercase roman numerals…ii.  For example, in the key of C Major…the ii chord is D-F-A.  (D is the second note in the key of C Major which gives the chord its number).   But…we can alter the chord (making it a major chord) by raising the middle note of the chord (the note F to an F sharp). * See example below

Now…to create the II 7 chord…just add the 7th note above the bottom note of the chord.      *See Example below

C Major ( how to create the II 7 chord)

Chord Scenario for the II 7 Chord Substitution:

1. When a I chord lasts for at least two or more beats leading into a V or V 7 chord lasting two or more beats. (to allow time for chords to develop) I’ve used the II 7 chord with less beats but in general…it’s best to allow enough beats for chords to sound like they belong and not just randomly thrown in.

In the examples below, I’ve included the vocal and piano score to reflect the changes made in the piano accompaniment.  *Reminder: chord substitutions clash with congregational singing due to the note changes.

I use chord substitutions when playing solo offertories, background music for invitation, prelude/postlude, communion and accompanying a vocal or instrumental soloist.

Examples in C Major (II 7 substitution)

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

 In Lesson Two, I’ll share more examples of this II7 chord substitution… including “Have Thine Own Way”.

*Please feel free to ask questions.



Upcoming Article: Substituting the I Chord with the II7 Chord

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

Have _Thine _Own_ WayA reader recently asked me how I knew to use a certain chord substitution in one of my free arrangements “Have Thine Own Way”.

My first answer would be…I just thought it sounded nice.  But…unfortunately that’s NOT the best answer.  I hope to explain it in such a way that the average church pianist can take and apply this chord  substitution on their own.

Looking forward to posting this article soon!

The Church Pianist: Silent Night (chord substitutions)

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

I just finished sharing chord substitutions for “Silent Night” with one of my piano students.

I was surprised at how fast she caught on to me just calling out the chord names and she just played that chord frame in the left hand while playing single note melody an octave higher with the right hand.

Special note:  This student does play by ear but can also read music.

Click on the following link for “Silent Night’ lyrics with left hand  chord substitutions:

Silent Night chord substitutions  Key of C Major

The Church Pianist: Part Two (Augmented chord Substitution)

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

The augmented chord does have a special symbol.

A plus (+) sign proceeds the chord name.

For example:  The C augmented chord would be labeled

this way:  C+

The augmented chord adds a nice upward movement effect

when used in the following scenario:

When a I chord lasts for at least one measure leading into a IV chord.

Substitute the I chord with an augmented chord usually at least

halfway through the measure.

Here are a few improvised examples.



Try this augmented chord subsitution on the following hymns:

Trusting Jesus ( “Simply trusting ev’ry day) on the word “day”

The Haven of Rest (“My soul in sad exile was….)  on the word “ex-ile”

Wonderful Peace (“Far away in the depths…”)  on the word “depths”

*(Also in the chorus of Wonderful Peace)…

Can you guess where? (at least two places).

What is an augmented chord?


The Church Pianist: Improvising Idea (Contrary Octaves)

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009

*Click the following sentence to access the music examples:

Improvising_Idea_Contrary_Octaves *pdf example

Here’s a simple improvising idea to dress up

hymns with few chord changes.

Use contrary octaves between both hands to produce

a more interesting sound.

In today’s examples, the contrary octaves will occur

when the V chord leads to a I chord.  The contary octaves can

occur in other chord progressions but  I’ll address those at

another time.

After playing these examples, try the contrary octave idea

in the following hymns:

“Showers of Blessing” ( 1st sentence on words: “…showers of….” )

“Redeemed” ( 1st sentence on words: “…love to pro-…” )

Editor notes on today’s examples:

Description of left hand octave pattern:

1st octave is same note as right hand

2nd octave steps down

3rd octave skips down


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