How to Add Chord Substitutions: Lesson Three

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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