Chord substitution guitar lesson: easy steps for interesting chords!

Mar 23, 2024

Chord substitution is using chords that take the place of ordinary and predictable chords. You’ll sound far more interesting, and far more advanced- captivating the listener. You’ll be adding more colorful, cool chords as well as changing key! Grab your guitar and let’s get started, with easy examples in order of skill. You’ll get it and be able to apply it to YOUR playing fast!

Above, let’s use a typical progression you’d hear in pop/rock. It’s a I-IV-Vi-V (C-F-Am-G). In C (with no sharps, no flats) it’s an easy reference point to build substitute chords on. Let’s get to work on embellishing it and take it from run of the mill to become FAR OUT! Ready?

Now it’s time to substitute some chords: make it more interesting as well as add more harmonic movement! In step 1, C went to F. That’s basic, so let’s add something that leads to the F: a C7 (the V chord of the key of F). Here’s where it gets cool: the C7 leads you into the key of F! So, it sounds like a key change, thus a change of direction to the ear. (What else is cool is that C to C7: you only have to add your finger to a C chord to produce a C7). Now you’re in the key of F since the tense C7 took our ears to resolve to an F.

In step 1 example, the F went to Am like a typical song. In the key of F, the minor ii chord is G minor. So, if we drop in a G minor it will lead up to Am (same fingering in the fretting hand). Interestingly, A minor is found in the key of C too (so it sounds cohesive). This is actually referred to as a “pivot chord” (a chord existing in both keys). C is another “pivot” chord that exists in F (the IV major chord). You can steer C to F, and it sounds more concluding since the C7 brought us into the F and there we remained.

Learn to embellish, substitute chords & change keys like a PRO… TODAY! πŸ‘‰ Guitar chord progressions: change key on guitar! – Guitar Woodshed (

In step 3, let’s embellish chords by keeping the framework the same but substitute some additional chords that sound more colorful: a major 7th chord and a slash chord, along with some lesser heard chord voicings. The major 7th chords here add a note to the existing triad chords (i.e. C contains C-E-G, and by adding a B note, we get C major 7th). The F major can get the same treatment and also keeps the soulful vibe reinforced. Now instead of staying in the key of F major after the C7 brings you to F: a G7 (the V chord of C) is placed in front of C to bring you back into the key of C.

If you want to change keys, put the dominant 7 (V chord) in front of the root (i.e. G7 to C). The G7/D is a hip voicing you can use and the D note on the A strings keeps the chord in the same pitch range.

(For a demonstration & breakdown, scroll down to the video BELOW!).

Get the FREE guide to get you started on better chord progressions! Secondary dominants, chord scale families, substitutes, modulation. If any of that is new to you, here you go! πŸ‘‰

In step 4, 9th chords are added for an uptown, sophisticated sound. So, you’re adding the 9th (the 2nd scale degree) into the chords, creating a far-out sound. The C add9 has a lot in common with your standard C, only the appearance of the D note and no B note makes it captivating and dreamy. You can apply the same treatment to the F, G minor and the A minor. The G9 is a soulful extension on the G7 chord- in this example, the chords are voicings can be used in pop, rock, soul- you name it.

Next, you want to make sure you have examples 2 through 4 MEMORIZED. After that, start mixing and matching the various examples and create your own combination. Then apply them in keys you use most often. Next, mix and match: for example, Cadd9 to F- or Cmaj7 to Fadd9. That’s when the fun really takes off when you start to make it your own and implement it into your playing. Use drum tracks to create your own rhythm and picking/strum patterns.

Also refer to the video walkthrough below, covering ALL the chord substitution examples above in depth!

From here, you’re ready to advance! Here’s the next step to have you on your way! Guitar chord progressions: change key on guitar! – Guitar Woodshed (

Get ALL of the examples and steps covered FREE in PDF format, so you have them to reference and apply! πŸ‘‰ chord substitution (

Just for reading the article, take advantage of the chance to jump start your guitar skills going deep into Shoegaze/Dream pop, and using ideas like you saw in this article. If you like indie/ambient guitar: this is for YOU! Get 30% off the Premium course: β€œShoegaze/Dream pop: The Serious Guitar Player’s Course!” Enter the COUPON CODE: Guitarblogoffer by clicking HERE πŸ‘‰Shoegaze/Dreampop Guitar: The Serious Player’s Guide – Platinum Package – Guitar Woodshed ( More info on the course that will catapult your guitar skills immediately! πŸ‘‰ Shoegaze Dream Pop guitar chords & progressions guitar course – Guitar Woodshed (

Start playing more PRO chords and make your chord progressions STAND OUT! Learn ALL the ways to use chord subs, embellish progressions and make YOUR playing stand out. 🎸🎢 START TODAY! πŸ‘‰Guitar chord progressions: change key on guitar! – Guitar Woodshed (

Join the Guitar Woodshed Community Facebook group for inside guitar tips, lessons, strategies and more! click:

Guitar Woodshed LLC: