This JazzPianoSkills Podcast Episode explores the Tritone Substitution. You will discover, learn, and play various ways professional jazz pianists use the Tritone Substitution to add variation to Circle of 5ths harmonic movement. A jazz piano lesson taught by professional jazz pianist and educator Dr. Bob Lawrence.
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Welcome to jazz piano skills. I'm Dr. Bob Lawrence. It's time to discover, learn and play jazz piano. You know, last week I was all pumped up because I was introducing and launching a new educational series called technique Tuesday. On each technique Tuesday, I introduce and explore effective and efficient ways to practice and develop various skills for improving either your melodic, harmonic or rhythmic technique. I was all fired up for two very specific reasons. Number one, it is absolutely imperative that you, me all of us have an active technique development plan. Did you catch what I just said, an active technique development plan. In other words, the plan must exist and must be executed on a daily and weekly basis, right. Bottom line, no technique, plan, no technique, progress. It's that simple. Like the old saying goes, people don't plan to fail. They just fail to plan. So true. The second reason I was fired up about introducing technique Tuesday, last Tuesday, was because I thought it nicely complemented it already existing jazz panel skills series called tune in Tuesday. Right. And, you know, if you're a regular listener to jazz piano skills, you know that on tune Tuesday, we put a jazz standard under the microscope to discover, learn and play it from knowing and appreciating its historical background to understanding it's form. Standard key, it's harmonic DNA. In other words, it's harmonic function like 251, etc. The chord scale relationships that exist within the tune the melody itself, and of course, anything else we need to know. That is unique and special about that tune. We do all of that on every tune Tuesday, technique Tuesday and tune Tuesday. Pretty cool combination. Well, this week, I really fired up, because I've decided to just simply spill the beans and announce everything all at one time. Right? Every jazz panel skills series that I have been busy developing, and that is currently on the production docket. So here we go. Check this out. Tune Tuesday, you already know what that is. Technique Tuesday, you already know what that is. Theory Tuesday. Well, you kind of know what that is. Right? We we've been doing that for some time now, actually, since last year, when the jazz piano skills podcast began. And on theory Tuesday, it's where we take a jazz concept like we're doing today tritone substitution and studying it from both an academic standpoint and from a street perspective. Right. I always like to look at theory from both sides of the street. They both say the same thing, but in very different ways and from very different perspectives, as we will see today when we dig into tritone substitution. And finally, I'm about ready to launch transcription Tuesday, which this is gonna be awesome, right? On transcription Tuesday, we will look at significant jazz solos and extract from them some enlightening improvisation ideas that can be used to help us unveil and develop our own improvisational thoughts, our own improvisational ideas. How cool is that? So there you have it. The official jazz piano skills, educational agenda, the official jazz piano skills, education lineup, theory, technique, transcriptions tunes. It happens every Tuesday, every week, throughout the entire year. Every episode, every lesson is easily accessible at jazz piano skills.com or through any of your favorite podcast directories, right I mentioned this last week Apple podcast, Google podcast I Heart Radio, Spotify, Stitcher, Pandora, and amazon music, and actually many others as well. It's awesome. So many ways to listen to jazz piano skills to help you discover, learn and play jazz piano to help you discover learn and play theory technique transcriptions tunes every Tuesday, every week. Today, I guess is technically a theory Tuesday. So today, we are going to unpack the tritone substitution. But before we get into the weeds, I want to take just a second to personally invite all new listeners to join jazz piano skills to become an active member. All you have to do go to jazz piano skills comm click on the join link, pick a plan and join easy. Once an official member you will have full access to all of the educational content and resources at jazz piano skills, all of the educational podcast guys, all of the interactive courses, access to the weekly masterclass the private community, plus personal and professional support that I am happy to provide to all jazz panel skills members. I will of course share more details about all of these amazing benefits throughout today's episodes. Episode so all I can say is this. If you are indeed serious about developing the jazz piano skills needed for you to become an accomplished jazz pianist. Right to become the accomplished jazz pianist that you want to become. Then you will want to become a part of the jazz piano skills community and begin taking advantage of all of the educational content materials and resources and of course the professional support that I provide. invaluable. Check it out, jazz piano skills.com join. Alright, on with the show, it is time to discover, learn and play. Try tone substitutions. Today, you are going to discover the tritone substitution, you're going to learn how to construct tritone substitutions from an academic and street perspective, you're going to play various tritone substitutions using the classic 36251 progression. So regardless of where you are in your jazz journey, whether you consider yourself a beginner and intermediate player and advanced play or even if you are an experienced professional, you will find this jazz piano skills podcast lesson exploring the tritone substitution to be very beneficial, I guarantee you to begin I want to briefly talk about harmonic movement in music. In other words, how chords move harmonic motion chord progressions, right. So chords move that they progress one chord to another in one of three ways. chords move using either one circle motion to diatonic motion, or three chromatic motion. That's it. Three ways. Three ways only period. Musical fact. We can take any piece of music from any genre of music and label all chord movement with in that composition as being one of the three types of motion circle, diatonic or chromatic. So let's take a closer look at each one of these types of harmonic movement. First, the most common type of harmonic movement in music is circle motion. I am sure many of you have heard about the circle of fifths. And I am also sure that many of you think of it as a nifty little way to diagram to organize and learn the keys of music. In other words, the diagram shows us that the key of C major has no sharps and no flats. The key of F major has one flat, B flat, the key of G has one sharp, F sharp and so on. So I guess it gets true, right, it does do that the circle of fifths does indeed neatly illustrate the 12 keys of music. But any I mean a big but to only think of the circle of fifths in this manner, is like thinking of NASA's Space Shuttle as simply being a fancy airplane. In other words, the circle of fifths packs a much and I mean, much bigger punch, and contains a whole lot more powerful and essential information than simply being a nifty chart of the keys of music. Likewise, many of you may be thinking of the circle of fifths, as a diagram that moves clockwise. And in doing so, and moving clockwise illuminates the interval of a fifth. Right, the interval of a fifth that exists between 12 notes of music c up to G is a fifth, g up to D is a fifth, and so on, right? Wrong. Unfortunately, this misses the mark to this perspective, misses the mark, big time. Why? Because the circle of fifths actually moves counter clockwise. And in doing so, illustrates the strongest and most common chord motion, movement and all of music. Five, to one, dominant to tonic make sense. Let me say it again, the circle of fifths illustrates how the five chord resolves a fifth down to the tonic to the one chord, again, five to one, the most common chord progression and the most important chord progression and all of music, C seven c dominant resolves to F major, f dominant, f seven resolves to B flat major, B flat dominant, B flat seven resolves to E flat major, and so on. See, I'm moving counter clockwise five to one, the dominant to tonic relationship. The dominant to tonic sound is so important that someone determine that there actually should be an illustration a diagram to help all of us get a handle on this all important motion and sound. So in illustration, the diagram was indeed created. And it was appropriately titled The circle of fifths. The bottom line, if you are not viewing and seeing the circle of fifths, first and foremost, as a diagram, illustrating the 12 dominant to tonic relationships, then you do not have the correct perspective of this circle of fifths. You are only seeing the tip of the iceberg. You have a limited perspective and limited understanding and a limited perspective and a limited understanding produces limited growth. The circle of fifths is so important that I am actually going to be devoting an entire Podcast Episode Two, the circle of fifths coming up here very soon. All right, so for now just simply know that the circle circle of fifths circle motion, as we call it, is the most common way in which chords move in which they progress within any piece of music from any genre. One quick side note, there are a ton and I mean a ton of circle of fifths diagrams out there on the internet. And most of them are horrible, packed with all kinds of misleading information. So please be very careful about what circle of fifths diagram, you use. A few quick tips. Number one, avoid all circle diagrams that have you thinking and moving clockwise, they have you going the wrong direction. Number two, avoid all circle diagrams that have lines criss crossing all over the place. I see that all the time out there right from one side of the circle to the next. craziness, right? avoid that. Number three, avoid all circled diagrams that depict 15 keys. We have 12. That's it. And avoid all circle diagrams that try to illustrate both major and minor keys simply not necessary. In fact, the less that the circle of fifths has on it, the better. You went the letters going counterclockwise C, F, B flat, E flat, a flat, D flat, G flat slash F sharp, B, E, A, D and G, that's a circle of fifths. It would also be nice if the circle had a little arrow pointing counterclockwise. to just remind you, that's the direction that we want to. We want to travel right. That's it. That's all you need. If you cannot find a circle of fifths like this, do not panic. It will soon be available in a jazz piano skills illustration guide coming so the second way in which chords move in which they progress through music in music is diatonic motion. This simply means that the chords are moving around with in the key. For example, the four quart gone to the three chord going to the two chord going to the one chord very common for three to one or something like this 12451245 How about this one? I'm sure you all know this one. That's just going 1234432112321 all diatonic motion Don't you wish you would have written that too? Wow. So, diatonic motion, the chords do not necessarily have to move in sequential order, like lean on me. Right? Do that they do not need to move in sequential order to be considered diatonic motion. In fact, if the chords move around, yet stay within the key then I referenced that movement as diatonic motion. The third and final way that chords move that chords progress and music is through chromatic motion, which is simply has that movement. For example, the three chord going to the flat three. Go on to the to gone to the flat to go on to the one. So you got three, flat Three, two, flat Two. One. Very pretty, very common to or you might have something like this sharp four to four Three, flat Three, two, flat Two, one. Right? Again, very common. Or you might have something like this flat seven, six, flat six, to five. Again, very common flat seven, six, flat six, to five to one, right. half step motion, chromatic motion. So that's it. Three ways in which chords move in which they progress within music. And any song in any genre, circle motion, diatonic motion, hymn chromatic motion. Now, I know you must be asking, what's the point? How does all of this relate to the lesson today? On tritone? substitution? Great questions. Here's the answer. Because the tritone substitution takes circle motion, right, the most common motion circle motion and converts it into chromatic motion, half step movement. In other words, chromatic motion is simply camouflaged circle motion, I'm going to say that again. chromatic motion is simply camouflage circle motion. This is important to know and understand. Because if it is true, that circle motion happens 90 plus percent of the time with a tune, which by the way it does, then we use tritone substitutions to create harmonic motion variation within the harmonic progression of the tune. And it's exactly this point that I'm going to illustrate today, using the classic progression 36251. All circle motion, right, we're going to use the tritone substitution to create seven variations to that progression. Seven variations to 36251. Amazing. We have already covered a ton of music theory. And I'm about to unleash a ton more. And I know, I know from experience, that when diving heavily into the theory behind any musical concept, the questions tend to surface and swirl around in your mind at lightning speed. And that is precisely why I am committed to providing all jazz piano skills members immediate and personal support. So just a quick reminder that if you are listening to this podcast through the jazz piano skills website, you can use the extremely convenient speakpipe widget which is nestled directly beneath the podcast player to send me a voice mail message. It's that easy. It's that simple. One click and the two of us are interacting with each other. Send me a voice message and I will send you one back with an answer. Right send me a question using voice message speak pipe and I will send you back an answer. It's a very cool technology. If you're listening to this podcast on iheart radio or Spotify, Apple Pandora or any of the other popular podcast directories, you can use the link speakpipe.com forward slash jazz piano skills to send me a quick voice message again that speakpipe.com forward slash jazz piano skills. 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Okay, let's talk about the tritone substitution. Here's how it works in a nutshell. Are you ready? Number one, there are 12 dominant chords in music. That's it, right, we have 12 notes. So therefore, we have 12 dominant chords. Number two, there are six pairs of dominant chords that are interchangeable with one another, right? Think I'm saying this correctly, there are six pairs of dominant chords. And each one of those chords within the pair are interchangeable with one another. And this interchange ability can be applied within any chord progression. Number three, the dominant chords that are interchangeable with one another share the same third and seventh, right? The two most important tones, because it's the third and seventh that determine quality, major dominant minor, right. So the dominant chords that are interchangeable with one another share the same third and seventh. And this is precisely why they are interchangeable. The dominant chords that are interchangeable with one another Are you ready? A try tone apart, or three whole steps. That's what tri tone means three tones, three whole steps. So the dominant chords that are interchangeable with one another are a try tone apart. Okay, three whole steps. That's it. That's the music theory behind the tritone substitution. So let's group the 12 dominant chords into try tone pairs. Okay, so let's start with C, and we're going to move what direction we're gonna move counterclockwise around the circle of fifths. So if I start with the note C, and I move three whole steps, so C to D is a whole step. D to E is a whole step, an E to F sharp as a whole step. So therefore, C dominant, and F sharp, dominant, are interchangeable, right? So if I'm in the key of F, and I'm going to play a 251 progression, I can play a G minor, go into my C dominant, go into my F Major 251. But we just discovered that we can substitute the F sharp dominant for the C dominant. So now I get G minor, my two going to F sharp or flat to G flat or F sharp dominant resolving to one F major. How pretty is that right to flat two to one. I'll tell you a funny story about that here shortly. So C to F sharp, C seven and F sharp, seven interchangeable. So now moving counterclockwise on the circle, let's go to the note F. Now if I go three tritons from F, F to G as a whole step, one, two, right, I mean one whole step, G to a, another whole step, a to b, my third whole step. So F the B is a tritone. So F dominant, and B dominant, are interchangeable. Okay, you see how this is going to work now? Pretty easy, pretty straightforward. Start on any note, go three whole steps, try tone. And that note tritone away is a dominant chord that can be substituted for the original dominant chord. So here are my dominant pairs, okay, we already established c dominant and F sharp, dominant, interchangeable, f dominant and be dominant, B flat dominant, e dominant, E flat dominant, and a dominant, a flat dominant, D dominant, D flat dominant, and G dominant. There are our six dominant pairs, each one of those pairs, those dominant chords share the same third and seventh, they are a tritone apart and can be interchanged for one another within any progression. A couple of additional little tidbits or pieces of trivia that you will also find interesting. A quick way to create your dominant pairs is to use a good circle of fifths diagram, we've already talked about that, and take the letters that are directly across from each other. So for example, notice how C is at the top of the circle of fifths, if you draw a line straight down from C, all the way down to F sharp at the bottom of the circle, G flat slash F sharp, those are the two dominant chords that are grouped together and that are interchangeable, take a look at F, draw a line straight across the circle from F and you will connect with B. So F dominant and be dominant are interchangeable. And so on. Another little tidbit, the third and the seventh, that each of the dominant chord pairs share with one another are also a tritone apart, right? So if you take C dominant, the third is E, and the B flat is the seventh. That is a tritone apart, right? If I take my F sharp dominant, and I look at the third, which is the the a sharp or the B flat, and the seventh, which is the E try tone apart, right? So there's a whole lot of tried tone relationships happening within the tritone substitution. Okay, quick story. You know, I mentioned earlier that tritone substitution, right creates half that movement. And that that chromatic motion or half that movement is camouflaged circle motion, right. So as we just discovered, if I take my G minor, C dominant, F major, my 251, I can camouflage that circle motion by applying the tritone sub, put that F sharp dominant or that G flat, you know, thinking flat to going down to one, so I get G minor going down the G flat, which is a sharp seven resolving to F major, right? Very pretty. So when when I had first learned the tritone substitution, and I was real proud of myself, right. And I had discovered all this, I was actually in college, believe it when I when I learned about the tritone sub and, and the theory and, and everything behind it. So I'm home one weekend, and I'm listening to some great jazz musicians and a great pianist, who was very influential on my development playing back in, in Illinois, in the Quad Cities. name was Warren Parrish, great jazz pianist. So I went to listen to him play that evening. And while on break, I mentioned to warn us and man, I really love how you use tritone substitutions. And he took his little cigar out of his mouth. He said What wouldn't? What I said I really like how you use tritone substitutions is what are you talking about what the heck is a tritone substitution? I said, Well, you know, like for instance, when you play G minor, the C seven to F major the 251 I said you'd like to put that F sharp seven or that G flat seven in there. You know G minor to G flat seven down to F major and he goes, You mean two flat two, one? I said yes. He just why didn't you just say that? He shook his head and he goes college boy. It's good to see you college boy. And from that day on, he always called me college boy. So you know there's a great example between the academic and the street perspective, right? They say the exact same thing. The tried tone substance sounds very smart, very academic, two flat two, one doesn't sound quite as impressive, but they both say the exact same thing, right. So anyway, just a funny story. And you're going to see today that we're going to take that circle motion 36251. And we're going to create, as I mentioned earlier, seven variations to that progression, right, creating half step motion. And so, here we go, let's, let's jump in. And let's do that. So to begin, I just want to play the 36251 progression. So the three chord is going to last for two beats the six chord for two beats and measure one and measure two, the two chord for two beats the five chord for two beats, and measure two, and then the one chord for all four beats and measure three and measure four. So creating a four measure exercise, we're going to be playing it at very comfy 110 and a traditional swing jazz swing, Phil. Okay, so let's just listen to 36251. So we get this progression, we get this sound, we get this movement in our ears. So let's bring the ensemble in. And let's check it out. Here we go. Very nice, right? You've heard it a million times that's, that's common, very, very common movement, right circle motion, right, the most common movement 36251. All over jazz literature. So now, we are going to apply the tritone sub substitution for the five chord. So now instead of 36251, now the progression is going to go 362 flat Two, one. Okay. So by the way, I am demonstrating this modeling all of this in the key of C. So our three chord, E minor, our five, r six chord, I'm playing a seven a dominant two chord, D minor, five chord, g dominant one chord, C major, right. So three, six, I'm creating like a little to five relationship, E minor, to a seven. And then I'm going to D minor to G seven, another little to five relationship resolving to 136251. But now I'm going to substitute that five with the flat two. So I'm going to get 362 flat Two, one, so it's going to go like this. 362 flat, two, one. Nice. So let's bring the ensemble in. And let's listen to 362 flat two, one tritone substitution on the five chord. Okay, so here we go. Check it out. What a sound really nice. By the way, I'm using two hand voicings that you can check out if you are a jazz piano skills member, you can access and download the educational guides for this jazz piano skills podcast episode that's devoted to the tritone substitution. So, the illustration guide is going to help you discover the tritone substitution concept. Conceptually, visually, right, the imagery, the images and the diagrams that are laid out for all 12 keys in the illustration guide are fantastic. Check them out the lead sheet guide, I have all the two hand voicings that I'm using today in all of these demonstrations mapped out in all 12 keys. So if you like seeing the voicings, using traditional music notation, check out the lead sheet guide. And then the play along guide the play along tracks. They're available for all 12 keys, every single one of the progressions that I am demonstrating today are play long tracks for all 12 keys, I think there's like what 9696 play long tracks. So if you're jazz piano skills members, be sure to check out the access and download those educational materials, those educational guides, they are there for you to use. And they will expedite and maximize your musical growth for sure. Okay, so now we are going to apply the tritone substitution to the two chord. Alright, so now we're going to get instead of 36251, we're going to get three six, flat 651. So it's going to sound something like this E minor going to a contract a flat going to G gone to one. What a great sound, three, six, flat 651. So let's bring the ensemble in. And let's check out three six, flat 651. Here we go. Check it out. Pretty cool, right? You see how I'm starting to utilize the tritone substitution to modify 36251 to create variations to that progression, and creating half step motion while doing so right getting kicking myself out of the circle motion and applying some house that motion for some variation. It's very nice. So now, what I want to do is I want to apply a tritone substitution to the six right. So instead of a tritone substitution for a is E flat so we're going to get our three chord, E minor. Now our tritone sub is going to take us down to E flat 251 very nice, right so I got three flat 3251 what a sound. Love it. So let's bring the ensemble in. And now let's listen to three, flat three to five, one. Check it out. Wow, hard to argue with that one right. Sounds fantastic. Wow. So okay, so let's let's keep marching on here right, so now we're going to apply tritone substitution on the three, right so instead of our E, we're gonna start with B flat tritone away. So I have my B flat, so check it out flat seven, going to six or a go to our to our D, or G or five to our one, C. So flat 76251 I love this one too. They're all great, right? What a great way just utilizing the tritone sub, what a great way to create some variation 236251 so let's bring the ensemble in and let's listen to flat 76251 Here we go check it out. Right if you're like me, you're saying Man, these are all great. And hopefully you're dying to run to the piano and start experimenting with this. It will open up your eyes, your mind your ears to a lot of wonderful variations that you can begin creating whenever you have circle motion to create some variety within the song within the chord progression. If you are a jazz piano skills member I also want to encourage you to tap into the jazz piano skills interactive courses they are fantastic. The courses make up a sequential curriculum that uses a self paced format so you can move at your own comfort level. To help you thoroughly study the essential jazz piano skills that you need to command in order to become an accomplished jazz pianist. Each course is packed with detailed instructions and illustrations, in depth educational talks, interactive learning media, traditional guides and worksheets that you can download and utilize high definition video demonstrations of me playing the skills in all 12 keys. There are play along tracks and lead sheets to utilize and of course professional and personal educational support is readily available as well. And of course mobile access to right whether you're studying using your desktop or laptop computer, your tablet, your phone, your TV, or even your watch right. The Jazz panel skills courses are there and waiting for you to utilize. So check them out at jazz piano skills.com. Okay, so let's look at our six demo illustration today. Okay, so now we're going to apply the tritone substitution on two chords, we're going to apply the tritone substitution to the six. So instead of a, we're going to play an E flat. And we're going to apply it the tritone substitution to the five chord. So instead of the G, we're going to play the D flat. So now we have created truly created half step movement, three, the three flat three, the two, flat 221. So we're going E to E flat, D, to D flat to one. Wow, love that sound. So let's bring the ensemble in. And let's listen to three, flat Three, two, flat Two, one. Here we go. Check it out. Wow, I don't even know what to say. Right I in fact, I don't need to say anything. It's fantastic. I love chromatic movement. And look that's that started as straight circle motion 36251 became three flat Three, two flat Two, one, we can also create half step movement on the top of that progression, right, so now we're going to, we're going to substitute, we're going to apply a tritone sub, instead of the E, we're going to play a B flat, and then we're going to go down to an A, and then instead of the two, we're going to play instead of the D, we're going to play the a flat. So we're going to get flat seven, six, flat 651. So it sounds like this flat seven. Going down my six going down in my flat six, going to my five resolving to one. So I have half step motion now up on the top, right, B flat, a, a flat, G to one. Wow. So let's bring the ensemble in. And let's listen to flat seven, six, flat 651. Here we go. Enjoy. Great sound, right? Two different ways to create half step movement. plie half step motion 236251 using the tritone substitution. Now you know what's interesting. The last demonstration I want to do today is I want to apply a tritone substitution on each each chord right so instead of 36251 straight circle motion, right Every one of those, right, we're going to apply a tritone sub. So now we're going to get B flat. Go into E flat, go into a flat, go into D flat. Go into one. All right, now we're back to circle motion, right? Did you notice that B flat to E flat to a flat to D flat, and then at the very end, resolving it to C. So keep in mind, we're still in the key of C, and I'm playing a B flat, E flat to a flat to D flat to C. Wow, that radically changes my 36251 and creates an entirely new sound. So let's bring the ensemble in and let's listen to this flat seven, flat Three, two, flat six, flat Two, one. Here we go. Check it out. Pretty darn cool. Wow. I love it. So what do we do today, right, we took a three, six, our original progression 36251, and we created seven variations to it. We created a 362, flat Two, one, a three, six, flat 651, a three, flat three to five, one, a flat 76251 a flat, I'm sorry, a three flat Three, two, flat two, one of flat seven, six, flat 651. And then finally, a flat seven, flat three, flat six, flat to one. Don't ask me to repeat that. Wow, that is just a lot of variations, utilizing the tritone substitution on classic circle motion 36251 to create a lot of variation. Some something to think about something to study something to put your hands on and take time to digest it will change your plane big time. Well, I hope you have found this jazz piano skills podcast lesson exploring the tritone substitution to be insightful and of course to be very beneficial. Don't forget if you are a jazz piano skills member I will see you online Thursday evening at the jazz panel skills masterclass 8pm Central time to discuss this podcast episode lesson exploring the tritone substitution in greater detail and to answer any questions that you may have about the tritone substitution or about the study of jazz in general. Also, as a jazz piano skills member, be sure to use the educational podcast guides for this podcast lesson and the jazz panel skills courses to maximize your musical growth. Likewise, make sure you are an active participant in the jazz piano skills forums and private Facebook group get involved and make some new jazz piano friends do not be shy. As always, you can reach me by phone 972-380-8050 extension 211 by email Dr. Lawrence Dr. Lawrence at jazz piano skills.com or by speakpipe found on the jazz piano skills website in the educational podcast guides and the jazz piano skills courses. So, that's it for now. And until next week, enjoy the journey. And most of all, have fun as you discover, learn and play jazz piano