Tritone Substitution – Step 7

Chord Progression Guitar Lesson - S7
In this step, you'll discover how instead of playing complicated altered chords, you can instead tritone substitute!


How To Tritone Substitute


Let’s talk about the king of substitutions – The tritone substitution.

Here’s how it works:

The purpose of a tritone substitution is to create an augmented and diminished pull towards a chord a 4th up, stronger than you would by just moving to it.

Most of the time this happens from chord I to chord IV or chord V to I, but you can find it in other places as well.


Step 1 – dom7

As you might know, in a Blues we often turn the I chord into a dom7. This breaks away from the major scale’s I chord which has a natural extension of maj7.

In the key of A, that means:

Amaj7: A – C# – E – G#
A7: A – C# – E – G

The D chord (chord IV) has the notes of D – F# – A.

The G pulls more towards the F# than the G# does as it is now only a semitone away.



Step 2 – The #5

To make the pull even stronger we can turn the A7 into an A7#5, we now get this:

A7#5: A – C# – E# – G.

The E# (that’s an F) wants to move towards the F# stronger than the original E, again, because it’s now only a semitone away.


Step 3 – The b9

To go even further we can add a b9 to the A chord, you now have this:

A7b9: A – C# – E – G – Bb.

The Bb wants to go to the A as it’s only a semitone away.

You could also try #9 and b5, all these are augmented and diminished notes and create a similar, altered, sound.



Step 4 – Tritone substitution

Instead of building chords like A7#5, A7b9, A7b5, A7#9, or even A7b5b9 etc, you can tritone substitute.

A tritone is a #4 or a b5 (same thing). From an A this is the note D#.

If we take the note D# and play a dom7 chord, ie D#7 we have tritone substituted.

The notes of a D#7 chord are:

D#7: D# – G – A# – C#

In relation to A, these notes are D# (b5) G (b7) A# (b9) C# (3).

We get the same pulling effect using this method as we would extend our A chord to A7#5, A7b9 or any of the other slightly bonkers sounding combinations.



Tritone substitute when soloing

When soloing, if you want this “outside sound” the augmented/diminished notes have, you could instead of learning those arpeggios just tritone substitute.

Try it by playing a lick over A, using Mixolydian, Major Pentatonic, Minor Pentatonic, The Minor Blues Scale or Conspirian. Just before you move to the D chord, add the arpeggio of D#7.

Here’s some super simple TAB indicating how this could be done.


Here’s the same idea, now without the leading tritone substituted chords, meaning you can do this to create tension in your solo lines, even if the chords aren’t tritone substituting. You’ll get an even more outside sound this way!



Sir Duke’s bridge

Another great example of tritone substitution is Sir Duke by Stevie Wonder. A song that will feature in the upcoming advanced electric course.

From a music theory standpoint, this song is famous for its Major Pentatonic instrumental section and tritone substituted bridge.

Here are the bridge chords.

This progression indicates a cycle of 4th movement of (dominant chords) using EADG, but instead of A, we tritone substitute with an Eb, instead of G, we tritone substitute with a Db.

In jazz-influenced music, you find plenty of this kind of language.

In the next and final step, we look at modal interchange. Following this, you really should go and play some songs, taking note of what those songs do theoretically, not the other way around!



Chord Progressions | Related Pages


Chord progression | Step-by-step guitar course

Chord Progression Course

In these guitar lessons, I talk about how to best describe chords when they are put after each other and form chord progressions.

The main thing to discover here is how popular music is a combination of the harmonized major scale and the Blues.


The Blues | Chord Progressions

Chord Progression Guitar Lesson S3, The Blues.

When we look at the Blues, all rules are broken and theory teachers go for lunch. This is where music school fails and also when the music gets good.

If you can grasp the contradictions of the blues and how it blends with the standard language of Roman Numerals, you can understand popular music.



Conspirian | Minor Scales

Minor Scales Guitar Lesson S4, Conspirian,

My own scale! The Conspirian scale is the one everybody plays but doesn’t have a name for. It’s the perfect shortcut for blues and jazz blanket scale soloing.

Expanding on the minor blues scale, we just add one more note and a whole world opens up. If you can see the intervals around each shape, you can do this!


Minor Blues Scale | Minor Scales

Minor Scales Guitar Lesson S3, Blues Scale

The Minor Blues scale (often referred to as just the blues scale), is simply a Minor Pentatonic with an added b5.

Since you know your Minor Pentatonic so well by now, this is easy and also the first step to understanding that you can soon build any minor scale.



Minor Pentatonic | Minor Scales

Minor Scales Guitar Lesson S1, Minor Pentatonic.

This is where it all starts. You must learn all five positions of the Minor Pentatonic. Without this, the guitar will never make sense,

Using the video lessons demonstrating this in Am, you can move on once you have practised in all other keys as well.


Mixolydian | Major Scales

Major Scales Guitar Lesson S7, Mixolydian.

Just like with Ionian and Lydian, we can master Mixolydian by adding two missing notes to the Major Pentatonic.

The videos show you this in A, to complete this step, you must continue through all remaining 11 starting points. In this step, we also connect the shapes.



Sir Duke | Chords + Lyrics

Sir Duke chords

You can learn how to play Sir Duke by Stevie Wonder using chords, lyrics, chord analysis, TAB, and the original recording.

B | G#m | G | F#7 |
Music is a world within itself, with a language we all understand…


Chordacus

Chordacus

Spytunes chords, scale, and arpeggio software, Chordacus is a refined version of the so-called CAGED system.

Now available as both a chromatic (original version) and “within a key”, developed with the help of a Spytunes student.



About me

Dan Lundholm wrote this guitar lesson on chord progressions.

This guitar lesson on chord progressions was written by Dan Lundholm. Discover more about him and how learning guitar with Spytunes has evolved.

Most importantly, find out why you should learn guitar through playing tunes, not practising scales, and studying theory in isolation.


Follow Spytunes

GET IN TOUCH