Major Scale Harmony And Chord Functions, Must read !
Pedja Simovic
Sep 5 2009, 11:54 AM
Posts: 8.109
Joined: 13-September 08
From: Nis, Serbia
This is another discussion we had at Andrew's theory board. Frederik wanted to know how chord substitution is done so I went and explained from very basics to more advanced concepts.
I am copying that post here! Complete discussion can be found HERE
Feel free to continue discussion and ask questions in this thread here!

QUOTE (Frederik @ Apr 20 2009, 11:17 AM) *
How does it work? i've heard the term, but i dont understand how other chords can sound like another chord in a cadense (and which chords, that u can substitute)
Can anybody explain to me how this works, and how i can use it? (pedja ?)smile.gif


Frederik I just saw this thread !

I will help you no worries man smile.gif

You know your major scale harmony ? In any major scale Major chords are on scale degrees I IV V, minors on II III VI and Diminished is on 7th scale degree. Then when you have 4 part harmony in major scale you end up with Major 7th chords on I and IV , Dominant 7th on V, Minor 7th on II III and VI and finally MINOR 7b5 on VII scale degree.

First step towards chord substitution is DIATONIC SUBSTITUTION. This means that you have to use chords that already exist withing the scale ! In order to do this properly, you need to know what function does each chord have in the scale !
Here comes the best part ! ! !

There is only 3 different functions within major harmony/scale.
- Subdominant
- Dominant

Tonic functioning chords are one that give the strongest sound of the key ! That means chords that contain 1 3 5 of the TONIC CHORD.
So if we have C major, C majors 1 3 5 is C E and G notes. By definition, Tonic type chord should have either all of these notes in it , or most of them !
When we go trough elimination process, we find out that Tonic chords in any major scale lie on degrees I III and VI !!!
Lets look at C major scale and find those chords.
I = C major chord = C E G = PERFECT !
III = E minor chord = E G B = Not so perfect , it has 3 and 5 but 1 is missing which is very important note (Landing note on the tonic chord!). So this is a bit weaker choice as tonic chord.
VI = A minor chord = A C E = VERY GOOD ! A is 6, but C and E are 1 and 3 of the key - very strong and important melodic resting notes to determine sound of the key !

What is the lesson here now ?

Lets say you are in C major, and you have C major chord or C major7 chord or 9 etc, what can you substitute that chord with ?
Answer is above ! Any sort of A minor or E minor chord including their tensions ( A min791113, E min71113 etc).
Hope that helps you with diatonic substitution already !

Lets talk about Sub dominant function now !

- Sub dominant functioning chords are the ones that contain 6th scale degree in them mostly but can contain also 4th scale degree ! In C major scale those are chords that have A and F notes in them.

The beauty of Sub dominant chords is to sound "little bit out" compared to Tonic type chords. They are very much needed to keep cadences happening because otherwise we end up with Tonic and Dominant chords !
Lets find out what chords in major scale are Sub dominant functioning chords.
II scale degree is D minor = D F A - uses 2 4 and 6. As I said 6 is needed but 4 helps as well. Great !
IV scale degree is F major = F A C = uses 4 6 and 1. Very strong chord once again as it uses 4 and 6 but also keeps the sound of the key recognizable with 1 in it. Perfect !

So every time from now on when you see II chord , you can substitute it with IV chord and vice versa ! Thats your diatonic substitution option for Sub dominant type chords !

Final area - Dominant type function.

Dominant function chords need to have 4 and 7 from major key in them in order to qualify. 7 is especially needed as it is LEADING NOTE, very unstable and has a tendency to resolve to 1. Think about B note wanting to resolve to C always when you are in C major. It also helps if chords have 2 in them as it also has tendency to move down to 1 or up to 3 (which are both TONIC TYPE FUNCTIONING NOTES AND CHORDS!).

What kind of chords have 2, 4 , 7 ?

V scale degree = G MAJOR = G B D = IT has 5 7 2 ! Perfect choice for Dominant function chord. Very unstable and wants to go to Tonic type chord mostly (C major, A minor, E minor as discussed above). It can also go to Sub dominant type chords as well (F major and D minor) but its main role is to resolve to TONIC FUNCTION chords.
VII scale degree = B diminished = B D F = It has 7 2 and 4 ! 7 is essential note as its leading into 1 which is C note in this case. I already discussed importance of 2 and 4 above. Thats another great chord right there.

So now conclusion is , whenever you have a V scale degree chord in major scale, you can substitute it with VII scale degree chord !
That goes for triads as well as for 4 note and more chords !

I hope you got that now smile.gif

Final recap and layout !

Tonic type functioning chords = I III and VI

Sub dominant type functioning chords = II and IV

Dominant type functioning chords = V and VII

I just typed you chapters of books in one single post. This information should be golds worth for you. Use it wisely and start exploring Diatonic Chord Substitution before we move onto other type of things wink.gif

Thanks Frederik !


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This post has been edited by Pedja Simovic: Dec 13 2009, 05:57 PM

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