In a chord context, a substitution, refer to a chord that replace another. There are mainly two situations for chord substitutions: an extended chord replaces a triad or an altered chord replace a chord of the same type.
The principle of substitutions is that they use the same root note as the chord that is replaced. D7 could be substituted for D13, but not for A9. (This principle can, however, be stretched. In these cases, the function of the chords is replaced as well, for example replacing the I chord with a iii chord. This will not be treated in this article though).
Typical chord types that are used as substitutions
Extended 9th, 11th and 13th chords are often used as substitutions for regular triads, seventh chords as well as other extended chords.
This means that a C major triad can be substituted by a C7, a C7 can be substituted by a C9 and a C9 can be substituted by a C13 et cetera.
As long as the root note remains the same, there are no specific rules in which ways substitutions can be made. C7 can be substituted for C7#9, C9 or C11. This kind of chord swapping is a standard approach in jazz.
Lists with chord types and potential chord substitutions
To outline some applications in this area, here are some lists with chords and possible substitutions that can be used for each.
|C7||C9, C11, C13||C7-5, C7+5, C7-9, C7+9, C7+11|
|D7||D9, D11, D13||D7-5, D7+5, D7-9, D7+9, D7+11|
|E7||E9, E11, E13||E7-5, E7+5, E7-9, E7+9, E7+11|
|F7||F9, F11, F13||F7-5, F7+5, F7-9, F7+9, F7+11|
|G7||G9, G11, G13||G7-5, G7+5, G7-9, G7+9, G7+11|
|A7||A9, A11, A13||A7-5, A7+5, A7-9, A7+9, A7+11|
|B7||B9, B11, B13||B7-5, B7+5, B7-9, B7+9, B7+11|
|Cmaj7||C6, Cmaj9, Cmaj13||C6/9, Cmaj7#9|
|Dmaj7||D6, Dmaj9, Dmaj13||D6/9, Dmaj7#9|
|Emaj7||E6, Emaj9, Emaj13||E6/9, Emaj7#9|
|Fmaj7||F6, Fmaj9, Fmaj13||F6/9, Fmaj7#9|
|Gmaj7||G6, Gmaj9, Gmaj13||G6/9, Gmaj7#9|
|Amaj7||A6, Amaj9, Amaj13||A6/9, Amaj7#9|
|Bmaj7||B6, Bmaj9, Bmaj13||B6/9, Bmaj7#9|
|Extended chords||Other options|
|Cm7||Cm9, Cm11, Cm13||Cm7b5, Cm6/9, Cm+5, CmMaj7, CmMaj9|
|Dm7||Dm9, Dm11, Dm13||Dm7b5, Dm6/9, Dm+5, DmMaj7, DmMaj9|
|Em7||Em9, Em11, Em13||Em7b5, Em6/9, Em+5, EmMaj7, EmMaj9|
|Fm7||Fm9, Fm11, Fm13||Fm7b5, Fm6/9, Fm+5, FmMaj7, FmMaj9|
|Gm7||Gm9, Gm11, Gm13||Gm7b5, Gm6/9, Gm+5, GmMaj7, GmMaj9|
|Am7||Am9, Am11, Am13||Am7b5, Am6/9, Am+5, AmMaj7, AmMaj9|
|Bm7||Bm9, Bm11, Bm13||Bm7b5, Bm6/9, Bm+5, BmMaj7, BmMaj9|
Notice that there are more possibilities and that some of the substitutions might be atonal (meaning that the substituting chord may have notes that don’t match the relevant key).
Applications in progressions
Finally, examples will be given how progressions containing
substitutions can look like.
ii - V - I with substitutions:
Dm7 - G13 - Cmaj7
Em7 - A7 - Dmaj9
Gm9 - C7#5 - Fmaj9
Am11 - D7 - Gmaj7
Bbm7 - Eb7#9 - Abmaj7
Cm7 - F9 - Bbmaj13
I - vi - ii - V with substitutions:
Cmaj7 - Am7 - Dm7 - G13
Ebmaj7 - Cm7 - Fm9 - Bb11
Dmaj9 - Bm11 - Em7 - A7
I - VI - ii - V with substitutions:
Cmaj7 - A7 - Dm7 - G13
Dbmaj9 - Bb11 - Ebm7 - Ab7
Ebmaj7 - C7 - Fm9 - Bb11
See also Voicings ›