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Songwriter September

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Watch the Week 4: Substitution Chord Forms for Altered Dom. 7th online guitar lesson by Bob Wolfman from Essential Guide To Jazz Blues Comping

Altered Dominant 7th Chord Substitutions -

I think that these are the most fun and interesting chords of all. Remember that the Dominant 7th type chord takes on all tensions possibly available, and thus the Altered Dominant 7th chord, which means you can also raise and/or lower the 5th and the 9th tones, and in different combinations too. It will make things much simpler for you to consider these Altered Dominant 7th chords as brothers and sisters of the Dominant 7th family. They all function as Dominant 7th chords, but they each have a different color or flavor. Just think of the color spectrum, R O Y G B I V - RED, ORANGE, BLUE, YELLOW, GREEN, BLUE, INDIGO, VIOLET. As mentioned earlier, in time you will develop sonic recognition for most and eventually all of these chords. Some are very distinctive and really stand out just like our taste buds become accustomed to and recognize certain foods, smells, and spices we automatically associate with those foods. Most of the fingerings cover only two or three frets and for the most part they are pretty easy to play. There are a few exceptions, but even these four fret forms will come pretty quickly with practice and patience. The best way to memorize these forms is through application, meaning you actually use them in different progressions. Again, experimentation is the key. I always tell my students to take chances, and go out on a limb. I say, "Go ahead, you won't fall and get hurt, your head won't explode, the room won't burst into flames if you make a mistake, or if you play something that doesn't, great! You're not playing in concert at Carnegie Hall...yet!" They'll either laugh, and say, "You're right Bob!", or they'll give me a look like they want to tell me where to go, and how to get there. Nevertheless, they all thank me for gently pushing them and getting them out of their own way. In other words, most students I've encountered over the years absolutely hate making mistakes , and/or hearing those mistakes. You can't NOT make mistakes and expect to improve...AT ALL!

Some of the altered Dominant 7th chords are pretty smooth and soft sounding while others have a sharp, edgy quality and really create tension. So, try to learn and play these forms by category/type and focus in on their different characteristic sounds and color. The fingerings will eventually be so second nature that you can really focus on their color and texture, and you'll just naturally "feel" where and when to use them in the best sounding ways. These chords can and should be used plentifully in jazz, and just because you weren't familiar with them before does not actually mean that they're so unusual, rather they're just new friends you hadn't made yet. So it goes with any activity, science, sport or art form...listen to the masters as much and often as possible to develop your vocabulary. There are so many amazing jazz and jazz/blues artists to learn from. It is possible that you might join the ranks yourself someday, but at the very least your "comping" will reach a much higher level of expression and color, and thus a much deeper level of personal satisfaction and emotional impact for you and your audience.

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