Jazz Guitar Music For Real Men Part 3: Bebop For Beginners - Substitutions

In this third part of the series we'll be looking at a technique known as Substitution, or Superimposition, and how you can use this in your playing, as well as the most basic use of the Lydian Dominant scale in a II, V, I progression.

Ultimate Guitar
In part 2 of this series we looked at enclosures and targeting notes within the context of a 1 chord vamp, here, we'll go through a technique known as substitution, also known as superimposition. This technique can be used as an extension of targeting notes and enclosures, with a wealth of tonal possibilities that can be explored and developed. The premise of superimposition is to 'super-impose' the tonal qualities of one chord over another, as can be seen in this example: Dm7
As you can see the arpeggio in the example implies an Abm7 chord, with the notes Ab (root), Cb (minor 3rd), Eb (5th) and Gb (minor 7th). If you play the example under a looped Dm7 chord you'll notice a very dissonant quality, which leads us onto the concept of Tritone Substitution. Tri-Tone Substitution was a technique that was used extensively throughout the Bebop era, it's most prominent use was through the 2, 5, 1 (II, V, I) cadence. To find the Tritone of any note, simply play the root (preferably on the low E for simplicity), followed by the sharp 4th/diminished 5th of the root, for example:
You can hear the tension and dissonance between those two notes alone. A chordal example of Tritone Substitution can be seen in this example, set in the key of C, over a II, V, I progression:
Original Progression:      |    Dm7    |     G7    |    C    |

Tritone Substitution:      |    Abm7   |    Db7    |    C    |
Tension is the key word here, with many bebop (horn) players creating dissonance in their improvisational techniques to create a tension in their lines that leads back to the Tonic (or home) chord. A popular technique used in bebop was to use this technique of substitution over the V (or 5) chord, to create this feel of tension that would lead back to the I (or root) chord. Going back to the II, V, I example of Dm7, G7 and C, where the Tritone substitution of the V chord G7 would be Db7, looking closely at both the G7 and Db7 chords shows their relationship in that both contain the notes B and F (where it is enharmonically correct that the Cb of Db7 is in fact a B), the B and F notes act as the 3rd and 7th of both chords, just switched around.
G7  -  B (3rd), F (7th)
Db7 -  B (7th), F (3rd)
"This is all great, but what can I play over these chords?" Well, for the first time in these lessons we will look modally to answer this. Aside from the use of the C major scale for the entire structure, over the Db7 chord, you can use what is known as the Lydian Dominant scale, which is in practice a Mixolydian scale with a sharp 4th note. Lydian Dominant: 1, 2, 3, #4, 5, 6, b7 In the context of Db7 from our original structure: Db Lydian Dominant: Db, Eb, F, G, Ab, Bb, Cb Although the examples we have looked at are more steeped in the jazz idiom, the 12 bar blues also contains opportunities to embellish with the use of Tritone substitution. If we look at a standard 12 bar blues progression as C7, F7, G7 like this: | C7 | F7 | C7 | C7 | F7 | F7 | C7 | C7 | G7 | F7 | C7 | G7 | You can add Tritone substitution to this progression as a way of adding more tension to your lead lines, the way to do this would be: | C7 (F#7) | F7 (B7) | C7 | C7 (F#7) | F7 | F7 (B7) | C7 | C7 (F#7) | | G7 (Db7) | F7 (B7) | C7 (F#7) | G7 (Db7) | What you can try here is; first create a loop of this twelve bar sequence, then, learn these arpeggio shapes: F#7
Then try to use them in your own improvisational style, interweave them between pentatonic licks as they will give you new harmonic qualities to target and try to include some enclosure techniques to diversify your playing even more. Thanks for reading, UG Fans Jake Jeremy

14 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Jake Jeremy
    Thank you for your comment, if you read the article, you can see that I've included the use of Tritone substitution in the context of a 12 bar blues, in all of my lessons I've gone from the assumption that all of the players that read them are looking to expand their playing from playing blues, rock or metal, so I'm looking at writing lessons for beginners to jazz, not guitar in the broadest context, as I'm not aware of any beginner players aiming straight for jazz techniques. It's a short lesson to give a flavour of substitutions/superimposition in a bebop context.
    Most definitely. I was just saying the word "beginner" mislead me and will others. Otherwise its a legit lesson
    LOL....got that right, I'm still learning chords and such just out there looking to expand in other areas just to see this vast area of guitar. I was going to reply some where after reading this but here is better to be understood. There's so sooo much to learn and I read twice or three times stuff here to make sure I understand whats being taught. Heck...I'm still on intervals....lol. Good comment tho.....
    To be honest I didn't read your article intensely, only the title. Which as a jazz musician myself left me face palming. Substitutions are one of the last techniques a player should learn. I'm sure it's a great article but in no way one for beginners. Totally a cool technique just that readers should know that to really use it many other fundamentals should be mastered first.
    Jake Jeremy
    Thanks for your comment, I'm not claiming to teach the entire vocabulary of bebop within the lesson, it's designed for people who want to learn a couple of bebop techniques to use in their playing, ie, substitutions, that's why I have included the blues example. I also used the Lydian Dominant example as I know a lot of guitarists like to think in scales, as I realised in the comments of my previous lesson. Again, thanks for commenting.....I've got a better bridge in London
    hahaha fun times learning about substitution.. I was jamming with my teacher a few weeks ago over some ii-V-Is in C (most of my lessons now are jams) and he suggested I try using a Db scale over the G7. So I looked at him and was like 'are you high?' XD This is a great lesson, really clear with nice examples. Thanks! Although, interesting that you suggest a minor 7th arpeggios played over the dominant 7th substitutions... but I suppose 'tension is the key word'
    That confuses me too... Why minor arpeggio if the chord you are trying to outline is a dominant. Doesnt seem to make much sense to me. Typo?
    Jake Jeremy
    It is a typo, apologises for the confusion, I'm looking st getting the lesson edited now
    Not to nitpick, but a simpler explanation of what to do on the 5 chord would be to take the 5 chord, raise the note by a 1/2-step, and use that note's major scale. It works perfectly for creating tension from 5 back to 1. Like in your example, if G7 is the 5, you can use Ab Ionian to create tension back to C Major.
    why the hell do you think you can learn to play bebop with one chord licks, when the entire vocabulary of the music is about embellishing the guide tone lines present in ii-V/standard is jazz progressions? also, i have a bridge in brooklyn for you if you can find me 5 actual bebop recordings that use Lydian Dominant, and not the #4 as a blue note or passing tone.
    Ellis! Did you hear that Edith and Nolan are going out! Omg so presh! Oh and btw, the guy you bought the Jaguar from just got busted for selling fake guitars, just so you know... LOL! OK, like I'll TTYL!!!!
    Good lesson. Guitarists like to think in scales a bit too much I feel..when I started learning about jazz improvisation I had a huge vocabulary of modes and scales with no idea of application. My teacher had to drill two words into me every week: chord tones, chord tones, chord tones. For any kind of music, knowing the chord tones of the piece you wish to improvise on is paramount. All the rest will follow. That's not advice for your lesson or anything. I just saw that you gave 'arpeggio shapes' and would reinforce that players really need to know the ins and outs of what they're playing as opposed to just relying on shapes etc..but I guess that goes without saying? Good, valuable lesson for people wanting to expand from a basic harmonic vocabulary!