• Introduction To Chord Quality Substitution

    in Chords & Progressions,Experienced players,Piano,Theory

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    You arrived at this page because you’re interested in learning about chord quality substitution.

    One of the things that set intermediate players apart from beginners is their ability to substitute regular chords with spicier chords that would turn heads.

    So, if you’re an intermediate piano player and you’re interested in taking regular chord progressions and spice them up to sound a lot better, then this lesson is for you. In the next 10 minutes or so, I’ll be taking you by the hand and showing you step-by-step, how to make chord quality substitution work for you.

    But before we go into all that, let’s refresh our minds on the concept of chord quality.

    A Quick Review On The Concept Of Chord Quality

    Chords are basically classified according to their qualities and terms like major, minor, diminished, augmented, dominant, etc., are associated with chord quality.

    “Let’s Look At Triad Qualities?”

    There are basically four triad qualities: major, minor, augmented, and diminished. Each of the triad qualities is structurally and functionally different.

    The C major triad:

    …derives its major quality from the interval between C and E:

    …which is a major interval.

    The C minor triad:

    …derives its minor quality from the interval between C and Eb:

    …which is a minor interval.

    The C augmented triad:

    …derives its augmented quality from the interval between C and G#:

    …which is an augmented interval.

    The C diminished triad:

    …derives its diminished quality from the interval between C and Gb:

    …which is a diminished interval.

    “What Is Chord Quality Substitution?”

    Just like triads, seventh chords and extended chords have their qualities respectively and every degree of the scale has its chord quality.

    In the key of C major:

    …the chord quality of the 1-chord is major, while the quality of the 3-chord is minor.

    Chord quality substitution is concerned with the replacement of a given chord by  another chord of a different quality. For example in the key of C major, the 4-chord (which is the F major triad):

    …can be substituted with the F minor triad:

    So, instead of using the F major triad which is the regular 4-chord in a chord progression, the concept of chord quality substitution lets you substitute the F major triad with an F minor triad.

    “Think About It…”

    The F major ninth:

    …which is the 4-chord in the key of C major:

    …can be substituted with the F minor ninth chord:

    The Goal Of Chord Quality Substitution

    Chord quality substitution is used to add chromatic harmony to chords and chord progressions. So, if you’re tired of the regular way chords and progressions are played and you’re interested in spicing things up a bit, then chord quality substitution is your best bet.

    Still in the key of C major:

    …playing the A minor ninth chord:

    …as the 6-chord might be sophisticated, but would sound regular.

    If you want to take the 6-chord to another level, you can easily substitute the minor ninth chord with a major ninth chord. So, playing an A major ninth chord:

    …as the 6-chord, sounds chromatic, spicier, and would turn heads most likely.

    Final Words

    Now that we’ve covered the introduction to chord quality substitution, we’ll be learning how chord quality substitution can be applied in the next lesson.

    However, before we get into that, practice switching from major to minor chords and vice-versa in all 12 keys on the keyboard.

    See you in the next lesson.

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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 the head of education, music consultant, and chief content creator with HearandPlay Music Group sharing my wealth of knowledge with hundreds of thousands of musicians across the world.

    Attention: To learn more about this, I recommend our 500+ page course: The "Official Guide To Piano Playing." Click here for more information.



    { 2 comments… read them below or add one }




    2 Kyara

    Thank you for the informative article! It’s complicated, but I guess we just need to learn.


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