Min7b5 Substitutions – Advanced Jazz Improvisation
The following substitutions give you the opportunity to superimpose Minor7b5 based jazz lines over the original harmony of a composition whilst you are improvising. Although the substitutions are over different chord qualities, the original Minor7b5 line is used (although usually transposed) in each case.
As with previous lessons, I have highlighted (in red) the chord tones of Cm7b5 in the first example for you as a visual reference. You will then be able to see what these (coloured) tones become (intervallically) against the new chords. I suggest trying one substitution at a time at first and please do refer to the discussed table of substitutions for further explanation. Min7b5 lines have a lot of superimposition applications and are very adaptable as we’ll see.
To begin, let’s take a double-time (16th note) bop style line for Cm7b5. This is going to be our ‘template’ line.
The above line is clearly not just using a pure Cm7b5 scale or arpeggio of course, and instead features some typical bop style embellishments to augment the basic scale sound and create more colour and melodic flow. As mentioned above, the notes marked in red within the line are the Cm7b5 chord tones (R, b3, b5, b7)
Min7b5 Lines transposed over other chords
If we now make this line our ‘melodic template’, watch what happens when the very same line is now transposed up by a major 3rd to Em7b5 and then played over a C9 chord. The red notes now become: 3, 5, b7, 9.
From the above example, we can now hear that the template line has been transposed succesfully to fit over a dominant 7th chord and still works musically over the new harmony.
Now let’s try our template line transposed once more and against a different chord type. If you look at the example below, I’ve now transposed our original Cm7b5 template line down by a min 3rd to Am7b5 and the underlying chord has now become Cmin6. The original line now highlights R, b3, 5, 13. Check the red notes for the new set of intervals against the Cmin6 chord.
In the next example, the original Cm7b5 line has been transposed once more and this time is being played down a tone from the original to Bbm7b5. The highlighted (red) pitches are also now transformed to become: 3, b7, b9, b13. This is a great substitution for altered dominant chords. Note that I have no root in the bass of the C7 chord here.
In the final example, our template line has been transposed once more. We now play the original line transposed up a tritone (b5) interval to F#m7b5 and the underlying chord now becomes a Cmaj7#11 chord. Note also that the red coloured notes become: R, 3, b5, 13. against this new chord. This is a good sound for a Lydian tonality.
As with previous lessons on improvisational substitutions, I deliberately chose a single template melodic line for these examples, so that you could see and hear how each of the substitutions work, however it isn’t necessary to just use the same line every time.
The more important aspect here is how you ‘think’ on each chord and that you are aware of what is produced against the original chord by using these particular substitutions or if you prefer, superimpositions.
Here’s the audio file demonstrating all the above lines for you:
Here’s a PDF of the lesson so that you can print it out and put on your music stand to practice with:
To supplement these examples, I have added a table below of Minor7b5 substitutions where you will be able to clearly see what substitutions can be used and where. The table lists a variety of Minor7b5 based improvisational substitutions that you can experiment with and as I’ve mentioned before, it’s probably best to try one at a time rather than several all at once.
|Original Chord||Min7b5 Substitution||Effect Against Original Chord|
|Cm7b5||Dm7b5||9, 11, b13, R|
|Cmin/maj7||Am7b5||13, R, b3, 5|
|Cm6||Am7b5||13, R, b3, 5|
|C7b9sus4||Gm7b5||5, b7, b9, 11|
|Cmaj7#5||F#m7b5||b5, 13, R, 3|
|Cmaj7b5||F#m7b5||b5, 13, R, 3|
|3, 5, b7, 9|
13, R, #9, 5
#9, b5, 13, b9
R, #9, b5, b7
b5, 13, R, 3
I have found that these substitutions work equally well in functional harmonic situations (i.e. II-V-I progressions) as they do in more open or modal settings. How you apply them is up to you.
It is also worth noting again that the template line I used was filled with bop type embellishments and to my ears this really helps when you use these substitutions. Others may of course disagree and do feel free to experiment with less embellishments or even none if that sounds better to you.
The tab fingerings are also only a suggestion and may not be suitable for every player.
The harmonic approaches and improvisational concepts discussed above are present in the playing of many modern jazz musicians, but I should stress it forms only a part of their playing styles. I do hope you find the above helps you in your search for your own musical identity.