• The Power Of Using Superimposed Chords

    in Chords & Progressions

    At first look, the word “superimposition” may sound like a complex concept… but I assure you, it is easier than it looks!

    For a chord to be superimposed on top of another chord means just that! Usually, you’d play one particular chord on your left hand while playing another chord on your right (both at the same time).

    Major, Minor, and Dominant Chords

    You’d be surprised how many superimposed chords you already know how to play.

    In fact, any 7th, 9th, 11th, or 13th chord can be considered two chords superimposed on top of one another. You’ve probably heard the term “polychords” to describe these chords as well. Basically, polychords consist of two or more chords that are stacked to create one larger chord.

    Think about it…

    What does a Cmaj7 chord consist of? (I don’t know my maj7 chords)

    Cmaj7 = C + E + G + B

    Well, obviously a Cmaj triad: C + E + G

    But you could also play an Emin triad: E + G + B

    Combine them together, and you have one C, two E’s, two G’s, and one B.

    Cmaj: C + E + G /// Emin: E + G + B

    … Now get rid of any duplicate notes and you have: (C E G B)

    So playing an Emin over a Cmaj creates a Cmaj7 chord.

    …Moving on…

    What about major ninth chords? What two chords do they consist of?

    (I don’t know my maj9 chords)

    Let’s look at Cmaj9.

    Cmaj9 = C + E + G + B + D

    If you look closely, you’ll see one major chord superimposed on top of another.

    If you see Cmaj on the bottom and Gmaj on the top, then you’re absolutely correct!

    Cmaj + Gmaj = Cmaj9

    What about major eleventh chords? (I don’t know my maj11 chords)

    Cmaj11: C + E + G + B + D + F

    There are several smaller chords in this huge polychord. It just depends on how you look at the chord.

    How many different chords do you see?

    Cmaj, Cmaj7, Emin, Emin7, Emin9, Gmaj, G7, Bdim

    How many different superimposed relationships?

    Cmaj + G7

    Cmaj + Bdim

    What about major thirteenth chords? (I don’t know my maj13 chords)

    Cmaj13: C + E + G + B + D + F + A

    Cmaj7 + Dmin

    Cmaj + B half diminished

    Cmaj + G9

    Here is a “cheat” chart for all the major, minor, and dominant chords covered above:

    Type 9 11 13
    Major 1maj + 5maj 1maj + 7dim 1maj7 + 2min
    Minor 1min + 5min 1min + b7maj 1min7 + 2min
    Dominant 1maj + 5min 1maj + b7maj 1dom7 + 2min

    In order to read the chart above, you will have to know your major scales. I will demonstrate how to use this chart in the key of C major, but feel free to check out my 300-pg course to learn all twelve major scales along with tons of major, minor, dominant, and diminished chords like the ones above!

    C major scale

    C — D — E — F — G — A — B — C

    1 — 2 — 3 — 4 — 5 — 6 — 7 — 8

    If you wanted to play a Cmaj9 chord, you would use the row titled “Major” and the column titled “9.”

    Notice the formula for a maj9 chord is 1maj + 5maj.

    If you know your major scales, then this will be very simple.

    The number in front of “maj” corresponds to the major scale. The “1” of C major is obviously C. So you’d play Cmaj on your left hand. The right hand chord, according to the formula, needs to be the 5maj chord of the scale.

    Count up the C major scale…

    C is 1 … D is 2… E is 3… F is 4… G is 5. Ding Ding Ding!

    So on your right hand, you’d play Gmaj.

    Cmaj9 = Cmaj + Gmaj

    *Follow these same steps for all the other types of chords.

    Altered Chords

    In my GospelKeys 202 video course: “Mastering Worship Chords”, I cover a number of chord progressions that are used in worship music.

    If you already have the course, you will know that one of my favorite progressions is the “7-3-6”.

    This is a bit more advanced but certainly relevant for this section.

    Instead of playing a major or minor chord on the left hand as I’ve demonstrated above, we will play a tritone on our left hand and a major chord on our right hand.

    We’ve covered tritones in other newsletters but here is a brief summary:

    1) Tritones are made up of diminished 5th intervals.

    • From C to Gb would be a tritone interval.

    2) Tritones are 3 whole steps apart.

    • C to D (1 W) … D to E (2 W) … E to Gb (3 W)

    3) Tritones split the piano in half.

    • From C to Gb is the same distance as Gb to C. Gb is exactly the middle of C and the octave C.

    4) Tritones also create the shell of dominant chords (3 + b7).

    • C + Gb is the shell of an Ab7 chord (Ab + C + Eb + Gb). C is the 3rd of Ab and Gb is the b7.

    There are twelve tritones but really only six unique ones because they start to repeat. Let me explain…

    C to Gb

    Db to G

    D to Ab

    Eb to A

    E to Bb

    F to B

    — repeating starts —

    Gb to C

    G to Db

    Ab to D

    A to Eb

    Bb to E

    B to F

    * Notice that the bottom sets of tritones are the same as the top but backwards.

    Now… back to the 7-3-6 progression:

    Normally, in the key of Db, I’d play a 7-3-6 like this:

    Cmin11 —> F7 (#9#5) —> Bbmin9

    Cmin11 = C on bass /// Eb G Bb D F on right hand

    F7 (#9#5) = F on bass /// A Db Eb Ab on right hand

    Bbmin9 = Bb on bass /// Ab C Db F on right hand

    For the F7 (#9#5) altered chord, you can actually substitute the shell of F7. Remember, we are calling a “shell” the 3rd and b7th notes of any 7th chord. So the shell of F7 would be A and Eb. This is also called an upper structure voicing.

    You should also know from above that A + Eb is a tritone!

    So… on your left hand, play the A + Eb tritone.

    On your right hand, simply play a Dbmaj chord (or the major chord of the key that you’re in). Wasn’t that simple?

    Moving on…

    Since the A + Eb can be played either way (with A on top or bottom), let’s switch our left hand to Eb + A instead. I like this sound better.

    Left hand = Eb + A.

    Now, here’s the trick with any 7-3 progression. We’ve covered the superimposed substitution for the F7 (#9#5) above. But what about the Cmin11 chord right before it? Can that be substituted?

    It sure can!

    Just take the: Eb + A /// Dbmaj and move it up one-half step.

    E + Bb on left /// Dmaj on your right hand. This will take the place of your Cmin11 chord.

    … So just to recap:

    What used to be:

    Cmin11 = C on bass /// Eb G Bb D F on right hand

    F7 (#9#5) = F on bass /// A Db Eb Ab on right hand

    Bbmin9 = Bb on bass /// Ab C Db F on right hand

    Is now:

    D major superimposed on top of (E+Bb) tritone

    Db major superimposed on top of (Eb + A) tritone

    * For the Bbmin9 chord, I would change the right hand to create:

    Ab maj over Bb bass.

    Here’s an audio example of how this progression should sound:



    We didn’t even scratch the surface when it comes to superimposing chords on top of one another.


    Yes, I covered major, minor, and dominant chords but there are series of other combinations that we couldn’t get to because of limits on space in this e-mail.


    If you are truly serious about learning how to play the piano by ear, I recommend that you check out my newest gospel series: GospelKeys 202 video course: “Mastering Worship Chords”

    Also, considering that the holidays are quickly approaching, GospelKeys 202 is a wonderful gift for any aspiring Gospel musician. In fact, since chords and progressions are used across different genres of music, there are tons of chords and voicings in GospelKeys 202 for R&B, jazz, and blues musicians!

    Explore these chord types along with the GospelKeys 202 video course:

    Well, I hope you enjoyed my November newsletter and I’ll be back in December! Take care!

    This concludes your November Online Classroom Lesson

    If you were intrigued by the online classroom lesson above,

    then you would definitely benefit from my course!

    *** “The Secrets to Playing Piano By Ear” 300-pg Course ***

    With 20 chapters and over 300 pages, the home piano course provides several resources, techniques, tips, principles, and theories to playing the piano by ear. Along with hundreds of chords and scales, you’ll also learn how to turn them into gospel, jazz and blues chord progressions and better yet, how to use them to play ABSOLUTELY any song you want … IN VIRTUALLY MINUTES! Again, don’t miss this opportunity. I’ve even added an additional bonus if you purchase the course this week — You can read more about the course at:


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    Yours Truly,

    Jermaine Griggs



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    Further References

    “The Secrets to Playing Piano By Ear” 300-pg Course

    [5] Chords & Progressions: pgs 65-78, 105-130, 147-165, 182-227.

    Do you know what a2-5-1” or “3-6-2-5-1 progression is? Or perhaps the famous 12-bar blues chord progression? In this piano course, you will not only learn how to play gospel, blues, and jazz progressions, but how to recognize them in songs. In addition, you will learn the simple techniques to playing these progressions, hymns, and songs in all 12 major keys! Enjoy learning:

    The famous “2-5-1” Chord Progression: pgs 114-120, 153-156, 208, 235-236.

    I – IV – I – V – I Chord Progressions: pgs 66-70.

    I – IV – V – IV – I Chord Progressions: pgs 77-78.

    Techniques behind the famous “5–>1″ progression: pgs 68-72.

    I –> IV, I –> V Chord Progressions: pgs 74-75.

    “Circle of Fifths” Chord Exercises: pg 78.

    Major and Minor Chord Progressions: pgs 105-130.

    “6 – 2 – 5 – 1” Chord Progressions: pgs 121-122, 157-159.

    “3 – 6 – 2 – 5 – 1” Chord Progressions: pgs 122-123, 160-162.

    “7 – 3 – 6 – 2 – 5 – 1” Chord Progressions: pgs 124-125, 190-191.

    Gospel Chord Progressions … ranging from “up-tempo praise” chord Progressions to “worship-oriented” chord progressions: pgs 65-78, 105-130, 147-165, 182-227.

    Various Blues Progressions … 12-bar, seventh chords, diminished chords … and others: pgs 163-165, 192.

    Jazz Chord Progressions … using dominant ninth, eleventh and thirteenth chords: pgs 193-240

    Study the different types of Root Progressions — closing, opening, circular and other types of progressions: pgs 121-122.

    Study how chord tones and scale degrees relate to each other [which chord progressions are most likely to be compatible]: pgs 122-130.

    Learn various “turn-around” progressions [used in gospel music]: pg 213-214.

    If you don’t have the 300-pg Course, click here to read more about it.


    The Secrets to Playing Piano By Ear 300pg Course – Learn the secrets to playing literally any song on the piano with a few simple, “easy-to-understand” techniques and principles! Join Jermaine Griggs in learning tons of music theory, concepts, and tricks that will help you to learn piano by ear! Thousands of musicians have already taken advantage of this excellent program … why not you? “The Secrets to Playing Piano By Ear” is full of easy-to-understand tricks, tips, techniques and secrets to playing piano by ear! For this month only, I’ve also been able to throw in a few bonus items (3 additional piano software programs). Click here to learn the secrets to playing absolutely any song on the piano in virtually minutes! You won’t regret it!

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    Hi, I'm Jermaine Griggs, founder of this site. We teach people how to express themselves through the language of music. Just as you talk and listen freely, music can be enjoyed and played in the same way... if you know the rules of the "language!" I started this site at 17 years old in August 2000 and more than a decade later, we've helped literally millions of musicians along the way. Enjoy!

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