You are working on a song and strumming away. Lets say C goes to F goes to A min goes to G. While it all sounds good, at the same time it sounds a bit familiar. It feels like you are playing a thousand other songs, yet you are trying to create something new. How can you shake it up a bit? How can you find that chord progression -and eventually song – that sounds like it is your own? One way forward is to use chord extensions and chord substitutions. Extending a few chords or substituting them for something else may just be your way forward to lift up your chord progression or come up with new melodic ideas. Particularly with so called diatonic extensions or substitutions you can subtly change the mood or sound of those same old chord progressions while leaving in tact the basic movement of the song. In this lesson we’ll try some simple chord extensions and substitutions.
Chord Substitutions: Minor Major Parallel Chords
Sometimes the atmosphere of a piece can be changed dramatically through the use of minor and major parallels. What I mean here is that a major chord could potentially be replaced by its minor parallel (three frets down) and any minor chord by its major parallel (three frets up). Amazing new colors can be made by just this one simple idea.
As an example: here is the first part of the melody of a song called “Ten Penny Bit”.
The chords to go with this melody are in its simplest form
||: Amin | Emin | Amin | D | Amin | Emin | Amin Emin | Emin Amin :||
Now we could change this using the minor an major parallel chords for each chord.
- Amin –> C
- Emin –> G
- D –> Bmin
This would leave us with the following chord progression
||: C | G | C | Bmin | C | G | C G | G C :||
Try it out and you will hear that the melody get a different character.
Now we could combine the two options and you would get something like this:
||: Amin C | G Emin | Amin C | Bmin D | C Amin | G Emin | Amin Emin | G Amin :||
I have found this simple tool very helpful in songwriting and arranging (especially solo acoustic/ electric) so go and have some fun with this.