We will study here one more option of chords substitution. This will be useful to increase our range of possibilities in the item reharmonization, besides offering the knowledge about some “harmonic clichés” that appear in many music styles.
SubV7 is an abbreviation to “Substitute of V7“. Popularly, you read “sub-7”.
As the name says, this is a chord that serves as option to substitute the fifth degree.
We know that V7 is a dominant chord; therefore its substitute needs to be a dominant chord. Till now, our study was restricted to make substitutions only taking chords from a specific harmonic field, using the functional harmony concept. We will work now with new concepts. Prepare yourself to think “outside the box”.
Consider the cadence II, V, I below:
| Dm7 | G7 | C7M |
The chord SubV7 in this progression will be the chord that will substitute G7, in other words, it will be in its place (this is why the name: “substitute of fifth degree”). In this example above, SubV7 is the chord C#7 (we will explain this soon), creating the following cadence:
| Dm7 | C#7 | C7M |
Where did we take this C#7 from? As a rule, the chord subV7 is a major chord with seventh which is located one semitone from the tonic that it will solve. As the tonic here is the chord C7M, the major chord with seventh which is located one semitone above it is the C#7.
Great, we introduced a rule here, but maybe you are thinking that this is strange, because the chord C#7 in the example above doesn’t belong to the harmonic field of C! That’s true. But, as we will see, not all in life goes around the tonal context. We will help you to lose this prejudice. The effect of the chord SubV7 is in the chromatic approximation. Notice that the chord C#7 has 3 notes that are located one semitone immediately above the notes that create the chord C7M. Compare it:
- Notes of C7M: C, E, G, B
- Notes of C#7: C#, F, G#, B
This chromatic approximation effect allows that the chord C#7 (even if it doesn’t belong to the harmonic field of C7M) to be used to create a cadence. Besides that, by the fact that this is a major chord with seventh, the subV7 has a tritone, characterizing it as a dominant chord, allowing its substitution by V7 in the point of view of harmonic function.
To help to convince you that it is possible to perform this substitution of the V7 by subV7, notice that the notes of the tritone of G7, in the previous example, are the same notes of the tritone of C#7:
- Tritone of G7: G, B, D, F
- Tritone of C#7: C, F, G, B
Reasons why you can use subV7 in place of V7
Let’s summarize then the reasons why this substitution is possible:
- Most of the notes of subV7 are located one semitone above the chord that it will solve, providing a feeling of chromatic approximation.
- The tritone notes of V7 are the same of the tritone notes of sub V7.
- SubV7 is also a dominant chord, making that its substitution by V7 doesn’t interfere in the harmonic function of the respective part of the song.
Use of the SubV7 chord
In theory, subV7 always can substitute V7. In practice, though, it’s not like that, because this substitution will not fit well with the melody. It is always necessary to verify and try the “flavor” that subV7 will give to the song while played with the melody. If it does not sound good, it must be avoided.
Some music styles, like Jazz, Bossa Nova and MPB normally use a lot this subV7. Other “squared” styles (less harmonically developed) use to not accept well the subV7.
In all the times when possible to use subV7 in some song, all the approaches that we studied about the dominant V7 will be also useful to subV7 in the harmonic point of view, as well as the concepts of secondary dominant, deceptive resolution, extended dominant, etc.
Example of secondary subV7
| C | Gb7 | F |
We already know that a secondary dominant chord is that one which prepares to another diatonique degree (which is not the 1st one). In this case, subV7 prepared the way to F (4th degree of C tonality).
Example of subV7 with deceptive resolution
| Dm7 | Db7 | F |
The expected resolution here was C major, because Db7 was acting like subV7 of G7 (the natural sequence would be Dm7 – G7 – C). The F chord is an unexpected resolution in this context.
Examples of extended subV7
| E7 | Eb7 | D7 | Db7 | C |
In this example, we had four subV7 chords together in sequence.
We can also have the extended sequences II – V:
| Dbm7 | C7 | Bm7 | Bb7 | Am7 | Ab7 | G7 | C7M |
Notice that these subV7 in this example are solving minor chords (e.g. C7 – Bm7) and these minor chords are already serving as second degree to a new progression II – V. The series finished with Ab7 – G7 to then G7 acts like V7 dominant of C.
Very well, now you can have fun experiencing the “taste” of this chord. Some extensions really used to subV7 are the flatted 9th and 5th. We will still see other applications to subV7 along our learning here in the website. If you are enjoying our studies and thinking that Simplifying Theory useful, help to spread it so that we can be even better!
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