• The 4-Way Idea Substitution Model

    in Chords & Progressions,Experienced players,General Music,Improvisation,Piano,Theory

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    If you’re interested in learning the concept of idea substitution, this lesson is for you.

    The difference between a beginner and an advanced player is that the former has a limited understanding of the application of a concept, while the latter has an unlimited understanding of the application of any concept.

    At the end of this lesson on the 4-way idea substitution model, you’ll discover four creative ways of making the most of an idea. Consequently, you’ll have an unlimited understanding of the application of any concept.

    A Short Note On Key Relationship

    There are twenty-four musical keys:

    • 12 major keys
    • 12 major keys

    …and there’s a relationship between major and minor keys – every major key has a relative minor key. For example, the key of C major:

    …and A minor:

    …are related because they have exactly the same notes.

    The key of G major:

    …is related to the key of E minor:

    The key of B major:

    …is related to the key of G# minor:

    Using the musical clock:

    …(which is a geometrical representation of the 24 keys), the relationship between major and minor keys can be visualized and memorized.

    “Conversely…”

    The relative minor key of a given major key is on the sixth degree of the major scale of that given major key. For example, in the key of E major:

    …the relative minor key is on the sixth degree of the E major scale (which is C#):

    Therefore, the key of E major:

    …has the key of C# minor as its relative minor key.

    The Concept Of Idea Substitution

    The concept idea substitution has to do with the act of replacing an idea with another idea. Talking about idea, this could mean a note, scale, interval, chord, chord progression, etc.

    The idea of substitution gives a musician an opportunity to use a given idea in more than one way. For example, due to the relationship between the key of C major:

    …and the key of A minor:

    …an idea that is played in the key of C major can also be applied in the key of A minor. For example, the C lydian scale:
    >
    …that can be played over the C major seventh chord:

    …can also be played over the A minor seventh chord:

    …instead of the regularĀ  A natural minor scale:

    So, the C lydian scale:

    …can substitute the A natural minor scale:

    …because of the relationship between the key of C major and A minor. In the concept of idea substitution, an idea in the major key is used to substitute an idea in the minor key and vice-versa.

    Although there’s a relationship between major and minor ideas, there are other idea substitution models and we’ll be exploring them in the next segment.

    The 4-Way Idea Substitution Model

    In this segment, we’ll be learning about the 4-way idea substitution for major seventh, minor seventh, half-diminished seventh, and dominant seventh chords.

    Model #1 – For Major Seventh Chords

    We’ll be using the C major seventh chord:

    …as a reference in this substitution model. The following ideas can work over the C major seventh chord:

    C major seventh ideas

    A minor seventh ideas

    F# half-diminished seventh ideas

    D dominant seventh ideas

    So, while improvising over a C major seventh chord, it’s possible to use any of the ideas given above.

    For example, the A dorian scale:

    …which is the compatible scale of the A minor seventh chord:

    …can be used to improvise over a C major seventh chord:

    …and that’s what idea substitution is all about.

    Model #2 – For Minor Seventh Chords

    Using the C minor seventh chord:

    …as a reference in this substitution model. The following ideas can work over the C minor seventh chord:

    C minor seventh ideas

    A half-diminished seventh ideas

    F dominant seventh ideas

    Eb major seventh ideas

    While improvising over a C minor seventh chord, it’s possible to use any of the ideas given above. For example, the F mixolydian scale:

    ……which is the compatible scale of the F dominant seventh chord:

    …can be used to improvise over a C minor seventh chord:

    …and that’s the idea.

    Model #3 – For Half-diminished Seventh Chords

    We’ll be using the C half-diminished seventh chord:

    …as a reference in this substitution model. The following ideas can work over the C half-diminished seventh chord:

    Gb major seventh ideas

    Eb minor seventh ideas

    C half-diminished seventh ideas

    Ab dominant seventh ideas

    So, while improvising over a C half-diminished seventh chord, it’s possible to use any of the ideas given above. For example, the Ab mixolydian scale:

    …which is the compatible scale of the Ab dominant seventh chord:

    …can be used to improvise over a C half-diminished seventh chord:

    Model #4 – For Dominant Seventh Chords

    Using the C dominant seventh chord:

    …as a reference in this substitution model. The following ideas can work over the C dominant seventh chord:

    Bb major seventh ideas

    G minor seventh ideas

    E half-diminished seventh ideas

    C dominant seventh ideas

    While improvising over a C dominant seventh chord, it’s possible to use any of the ideas given above. For example, the E locrian scale:

    ……which is the compatible scale of the E half-diminished seventh chord:

    …can be used to improvise over a C dominant seventh chord:

    Final Words

    The concept of the 4-way idea substitution can help any serious musician who wants to take his improvisation to another level.

    We’ll continue our discussion on the application of the 4-way idea substitution in another post.

    See you then!

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    Hello, I'm Chuku Onyemachi (aka - "Dr. Pokey") - a musicologist, pianist, author, clinician and Nigerian. Inspired by my role model Jermaine Griggs, I started teaching musicians in my neighborhood in April 2005. Today, I'm privileged to work as a music consultant and content creator with HearandPlay Music Group sharing my wealth of knowledge with thousands of musicians across the world.

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    { 2 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 Dimeji Alli

    Thanks for this great insight.Kindly permit me to ask that for every ideas that can be played over all 7th chords discussed, you have come up with four different ideas that is possible. Can you please discuss again how you come up with the ideas. For example, on the C Major 7th chord, you explained that C Major 7th, A minor 7th, F# half diminished 7th and D dominant seventh ideas can be played. Is there any formula for coming up with this?
    Thanks

    Reply

    2 Tolu

    great question bro. exactly what was on my mind after reading this post.

    Reply

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