We can often liven up a chord arrangement, both for oureselves and the listener, by substituting the chords we are playing with other chords. Granted to do this well you have to either have a fair knowledge of harmony or a very good ear. If you’d like to develop either or both of these for yourself then you should come and join my FREE Beyond Tabs guitar course where I look at both of these areas in detail. The best way to demonstrate what I mean by chord substitution is to show you an example. When we are changing the chord that lies under a melody then we have to ensure that the chord fits both in terms of enhancing the melody note and taking us forward in the progression to somewhere where we’d like to be. Take a look at the example below from the Vernon Duke song “April in Paris”.
While the melody in measures 1&2 is identical to that in measures 3&4, Vernon Duke has used to two different sets of chords to harmonise the same melody. As well as forcing us to hear the melody in a different light, the G7 chord substitution also has the purpose of taking us to the first chord in measure 5, Cmaj7. When we see concepts like this in action, often my advice to students is go and learn some songs and try to think a bit about what is happening as this will inform our own creative out pourings. There is a wealth of ideas out there, so go and borrow some !