Using Extended Chords
Many guitarists play the same set of chords every time they pick up a guitar. While it can be difficult to break out of old habits, one way you can vary your chord progressions is to take a page from the jazz catsâ€™ book and employ simple chord substitutions. A chord substitution is exactly what it sounds like: within a chord progression, you substitute a chord for another chord.
One of the easiest ways to do this is to substitute extended chords for simpler chords with the same letter name. Letâ€™s start with the Câ€“Amâ€“Dmâ€“G (Iâ€“viâ€“iiâ€“V) progression that has been used in countless songs (Example 1). You can give this progression a different feel by substituting four-note versions of the same chord type (major or minor) and letter name for each chord (Example 2). Since dominant-seventh and major-seventh chords both have a major thirdâ€”as a standard major chord doesâ€”either of these can work as a substitute for a major chord, although which one of them is the better choice depends on the situation. For instance, a major- or dominant-seventh chord substitution sounds fine over the C chord, though I like Cmaj7 better moving into the Am7. However, a G7 sounds much better moving back to C at the end of measure 2. Thereâ€™s a long list of reasons why, but the short version is this: it just sounds better! When substituting seventh chords for regular major and minor chords, a good rule of thumb is to simply trust your earsâ€”if it sounds good to you, itâ€™ll probably sound good to your listeners.
Example 2 used only seventh chords, but to create a more jazzy or contemporary folk sound you can use almost any extended chordâ€”9 chords, 11s, and 13s.
In Example 3, Iâ€™ve substituted a Dm9 chord for the Dm and a G13 for the G chord. Not every extended chord works in every context, so experiment with these types of substitutions until you find something that sounds good to you.
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