The first time I came to understand what chord substitutions were and how to use them, I was truly amazed. It's one of those things that, when you get it, doors start to open for you - and the more
fun you have with it. This is a chord technique that you start to see from many
different angles (you know what I mean... those "aha!" moments)...
As an example:
Let's say you're playing Misty...
What are the two dominant 7th chords here?
As you can see, they are Eb7
and Db7? Now, rather than playing the Eb7,
you have the option of playing an A7. Also, rather than playing the Db7,
you can play a G7. Please try this and listen. As you do so, please keep in mind that playing those two
chords as you are used to playing them might not sound up to any high
expectations. However, there are ways to make them work, and that is where an exploration of piano
chord voicings is will be helpful to you, of course.
The chord substitution that I just described above is just one type. Specifically, this technique is known as tri-tone substitution, since the root of the chord you are using as the substitute is a tri-tone away from the root of the chord being replaced. You see, a tri-tone consists of six half steps, such as we have as we proceed from Eb to A. Just knowing this much opens you up to lots of opportunities to enhance your playing.
May I encourage you to apply the tri-tone substitution technique above to something you play regularly? If you apply tri-tone chord substitution to something familiar - a favorite song you've been playing the same way for a long time - you're sure to open your eyes and and ears to wanting to investigate this popular technique of the pros more and more!
Look for a dominant 7th chord in
your song... then substitute the dominant 7th chord whose root is a
tri-tone away. Listen to the different results you get when you
compare the original 7th chord to the new one you are using. At certain times, the
substitution will sound more tasteful. This is all part of using your discretion and opening those ears up! Remember, too, as I mentioned earlier, that learning more and more about piano chord voicings will be a significant factor when it comes to getting these substitutions to work well for you (ProProach will help with this).
If you would like to take advantage of a video session in which this "pro" concept is explained in an easy-to-understand fashion, please visit here.
Please explore the possibilities with those tri-tone chord substitutions... and as you do so, remember...
PLAY WITH PASSION!