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Summary: Bite-sized articles cover a number of points about music theory.

The II-V-I sequence and basic chord substitution

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NB. If this article sounds confusing spend a bit of time researching modes and II-V-I chord relationships. There are loads of sites that have great information on this. You can access some from our guitar teacher links pages.

Continuing with the idea of simplifying chord substitution principals lets look at the exercise from last month and how we might use it to develop our basic chord substitution skills.

Here's the basic exercise again (root note fret numbers in brackets):

4||:Am7(12) | D7(10) | GMaj7(10) | GMaj7(10)|

Gm7(10) | C7(8) | FMaj7(8) | FMaj7(8) |

Fm7(8) | Bb7(6) | EbMaj7(6) | EbMaj7(6) |

Ebm7(6) | Ab7(4) | DbMaj7(4) | DbMaj7(4) |

Dbm7(4) | F#7(2) | BMaj7(2) | BMaj7(2) |

Bm7(2) | E7(12) | AMaj7(12) | AMaj7(12) :||

Notice that each line is in a different key. The key chord is the one in the last two bars of each line. Each line represents the chord relationship II-V-I.

As a broad general rule, in a major key the II chord can be substituted by any chord of the MINOR family (m6, m7, minMaj7, m9, m11, m7b9, m7#5 etc. etc..).

Likewise the V chord can be substituted by any chord in the DOMINANT family (6/7, 7/9, 7, 9, 11, 13, 7#9b13, etc..)

The I chord can be substituted by any MAJOR type chord (6, Maj7, Maj9, Maj13, Maj7#9#11 etc).

It must be said that some combinations have a better natural flow to them than others. This is where experimentation comes in. Try various ideas out using the above exercise as a testbed.

For example you might start out with:

4||:Am9(12) | D13(10) | GMaj7(10) | GMaj9(10) |

Gm9(10) | C13(8) | FMaj7(8) | FMaj9(8) |


If you are a budding Jazz guitarist it is well worth investing hours and hours into these exercises because what you are doing is getting your fingers, ears and musical instincts used to the chord relationships that exist at the heart of almost all Jazz standards. You are also working with raw application of music theory in an intelligent way which should provide you with a very clear understanding of chord and scale relationships.

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