Chord Primer

Substituting Chords


Sometimes it’s easier to play a slightly different chord than written. Here’s the basic principle for chord substitution:

It’s ok to add notes and take away notes, but you can’t change notes.


If the chord is A (1-3-5), you can’t play Am (1-b3-5). But you can take away the 3rd and play a 2 instead: A2 (1-2-5).
Here’s a chart with a list of possible substitutions. I used G as the root, but obviously this holds true for any chord roots.

Written Chord Possible Substitutions
G G2, G5
Gm G2, G5
G2, Gsus2 G5, G or Gm (depending on the context)
G5 G2, G or Gm (depending on the context)
Gsus, Gsus4 G5, sometimes Gadd4
G7 G, G2, G5, Gsus7
Gm7 Gm, Bb (major chord built on the b3)
Gmaj7 G2, G5, G, Bm (minor chord built on the 3)


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