• Jazz Musicians: An Introductory Lesson On Idea Substitution

    in Experienced players,Jazz music,Piano,Theory

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

    Attention: This lesson is written with jazz musicians in mind. If you’re NOT a jazz musician, you can still benefit from the concept or at least know what it’s all about.

    We’ll be learning how a musical idea can be applied in multiple ways using the concept of idea substitution. But before we do so, let’s take a look at the concept of idea substitution.

    A Short Note On The Concept Of Idea Substitution

    It’s good to know a million ideas and have one particular way of applying it. But it’s better to know an idea and have a million ways of applying it.

    Although we are exposed to a lot of information at the speed of data in this internet age, we need to go beyond the place of knowledge (where we are) into the place of the application of knowledge.

    In jazz theory, there are so two know ways to improvise over chords: specific improvisation and generalized improvisation. In specific improvisation, every chord has its compatible scale (or set of scales) where ideas are drawn from.

    The major seventh chord has its specific scale, which differs from that of other chord types: minor seventh, dominant seventh, etc.

    The concept of idea substitution is concerned with the replacement of a musical idea with another and in this lesson we’ll be concerned with major seventh chord ideas and how they can be used to replace other ideas and vice-versa.

    So, instead of being restricted by specific ideas for specific chords, we can take what works for a particular chord and substitute it elsewhere.

    Substitution For Major Seventh Chord Ideas

    The major seventh chord is the chord of the first and fourth tone of the scale. So, in the key of C major:

    …the major seventh chord is the 1-chord (C major seventh):

    …and the 4-chord (F major seventh):

    Let’s go ahead and explore how major seventh chord ideas can be applied to other seventh chords.

    Major Seventh Vs Minor Seventh

    Major seventh chord ideas can be played over a minor seventh chord that is a minor third (or 3 half-steps) below its root.

    Ideas played over the C major seventh chord:

    …can applied over the A minor seventh chord:

    Following the same relationship, ideas played over the G major seventh chord:

    …can be played over the E minor seventh chord:

    Attention: To learn more about this and more, check out our Jazz Intensive Training Center.

    You can also use minor seventh chord ideas over the major seventh chord. Any given minor seventh chord idea can be played over a major seventh chord that is a minor third above its root.

    Ideas that are played over the F minor seventh chord:

    …can be played over the Ab major seventh chord:

    Major Seventh Vs Half Diminished Seventh

    Major seventh chord ideas can be played over a half-diminished seventh chord that is a diminished fifth (or 6 half-steps) below its root.

    Ideas played over the C major seventh chord:

    …can applied over the F# half-diminished seventh chord:

    …and this is because F#:

    …is 6 half-steps below C:

    Following the same relationship, ideas played over the Bb major seventh chord:

    …can be played over the E half-diminished seventh chord:

    Attention: To learn more about this and more, check out our Jazz Intensive Training Center.

    You can also use half-diminished seventh chord ideas over the major seventh chord. Any given half-diminished seventh chord idea can be played over a major seventh chord that is a diminished fifth (or 6 half-steps) above its root.

    Ideas that are played over the B half-diminished seventh chord:

    …can be played over the F  major seventh chord:

    Major Seventh Vs Dominant Seventh

    Major seventh chord ideas can be played over a dominant seventh chord that is a major second (or 2 half-steps) above its root.

    Ideas played over the C major seventh chord:

    …can applied over the D dominant seventh chord:

    Following the same relationship, ideas played over the Gb major seventh chord:

    …can be played over the Ab dominant seventh chord:

    Attention: To learn more about this and more, check out our Jazz Intensive Training Center.

    You can also use dominant seventh chord ideas over the major seventh chord. Any given dominant seventh chord idea can be played over a major seventh chord that is a major second below its root.

    Ideas that are played over the E dominant seventh chord:

    …can be played over the D major seventh chord:

    Major Seventh Vs Altered Dominant Seventh

    Major seventh chord ideas can be played over an altered dominant seventh chord that is a major third (or 4 half-steps) above its root.

    Ideas played over the C major seventh chord:

    …can applied over the E altered dominant seventh chord:

    Following the same relationship, ideas played over the G major seventh chord:

    …can be played over the B altered dominant seventh chord:

    Attention: To learn more about this and more, check out our Jazz Intensive Training Center.

    You can also use altered dominant seventh chord ideas over the major seventh chord. Any given altered dominant seventh chord idea can be played over a major seventh chord that is a major third below its root.

    Ideas that are played over the A altered dominant seventh chord:

    …can be played over the F major seventh chord:

    Final Words

    That’s the much we can take in this introductory lesson on the concept of idea substitution.

    Now, you can see how you can use a major seventh idea over a variety of other seventh chord types: minor seventh, half-diminished seventh, dominant seventh, and altered dominant seventh chords.

    In a subsequent lesson, we’ll explore other aspects of idea substitution.

    All the best.

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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.




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