Tritone Substitutions Explained

Your arranging skills will be highly dependent on your ability to reharmonize and recognize alternate chord choices in any situation.

The tritone substitution is one of the more useful harmonic progressions in jazz. It often functions as a substitute for the V7 chord in a ii-V7-I progression. The tritone substition adds alot of harmonic interest and it sounds very smooth because the roots of the chords are moving by only a half step.

In this video lesson, I explain the basics of the tritone sub, and a simple example of how it could be used. As always, leave any comments or questions below the video player, and I’ll answer them as best I can.


8 Replies to “Tritone Substitutions Explained”

  1. warren ewings

    I think I understand the tritone subs a lot better now. thanks. my questions: what made you add the 13 to the Ab if the D chord was just a 7th? Is that just personal preference or am I missing something? Also, what makes the tritone sub any different from any other chromatic progression? Again, thanks for the video.

  2. Jim Martin

    Warren, I’m not exactly sure what you mean by the “D chord was just a 7th”, but I added the 13th to that chord because it sounds good. No reason why it shouldn’t be added.

    All chromatic progressions are not tritone subs. You could have an ascending chromatic progression (i.e. CMaj9-C#o7-Dmi7)and that would not be considered a tritone substitution. Generally the tritone sub will be an altered chord that is a tritone away from the original chord in a tune. (The dominant or V chord)

    Tritone subs have been used to “alter” the original chord changes of standard tunes. If you look at any of the modern chord substitution books sold today, they are chocked full of tritone subs. They are so prevalent today by jazz players that we tend to take them for granted.

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