Posts Tagged ‘scales’

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 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.

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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.

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