Chord Substitutions I – Advanced Jazz Improvisation
As you develop as a jazz improviser, you gradually become familiar with new scale forms, different arpeggio types, learn some idiomatic vocabulary and study a multitude of other ways to enhance your soloing skills. I’m now going to add chord substitutions to this list, but hopefully in a new and musically productive way for you.
In this new series of free jazz guitar lessons, I’m going to examine more advanced jazz improvisation techniques with a particular emphasis on chord substitutions. For musicians who play a harmonic instrument (e.g. guitar, vibes, piano etc.) chord substitution is sometimes thought of more in the context of accompaniment or ‘comping’ than single-line soloing, but as we’ll see it is an equally powerful tool for creating new melodic lines in your solos.
Minor 7th Chords
In this first advanced jazz improvisation lesson we are going to employ a pre-composed melodic line that was originally written for use over a C minor 7th chord. Please note that the line itself isn’t just a straight diatonic scale run either, as it includes several bebop style embellishments within it. These embellishments can include chromatic and scale-derived approach notes.
I prefer to write melodic lines like this as they are more representative of real-world jazz vocabulary and in my view help the substitutions sound more idiomatically appropriate. (n.b. I originally wrote this line for an article in Guitar Player magazine a few years ago and it seemed a good choice to return to it for this post)
Here is the original melodic line for Cmin7 (the chords are merely for accompaniment):
This Cmin7 line will be our ‘melodic template’ (it’s the first one on the audio recording below) as we then explore some of the various substitution possibilities that can be achieved with it. You could equally invent a line of your own too if you’d prefer.
Now have a listen to this line template being employed (and also transposed) over other chords in the audio examples below. These examples are all fully explained in the PDF too:
If you would like to download the above audio file you can do so here:
If you are intrigued by the sounds above (I’ve played all examples on MIDI piano for maximum clarity) then you will find all the necessary musical information about the application of these particular minor 7th chord substitutions is within the downloadable PDF below.
There is also a table of Min7 substitution possibilities lower down on this page.
Please read the PDF carefully and do refer to the table as required.
Here is the PDF file:
Finally here is the aformentioned table covering just some of the substitution possibilities using minor 7th lines. There are many more…
|Cmin7||Play a Min7 line on: Cm7, Gm7, Dm7|
|C7||Play a Min7 line on: Cm7, Am7, Gbm7, Ebm7|
|Cdim7||Play a Min7 line on: Bm7, Abm7, Fm7, Dm7|
|Cmaj7||Play a Min7 line on: Bm7, Am7, Em7|
|C7b9sus4||Play a Min7 line on: Bbm7,Fm7|
|C7sus||Play a Min7 line on: Am7,Gm7,Dm7|
OK that’s it for this first advanced jazz improvisation lesson..take it all slowly too and read everything carefully.