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Easy Methods to Make Your Melodies Sound Pro 5

Your melodies and harmonies are great!

Throughout this series, we have discovered new options and techniques to write and harmonize melodic lines. Today we will cover our last topic in this series.


Up to this point, we have covered the attributes of a good melody, and various harmonization techniques. This includes our last two topics which were inversions and modal borrowing.

Today we will cover substitutions. There are all sorts of different substitutions and techniques to discover them, but we will only look at two common substitutions today.

Minor 3 Substitution

The first substitution we will cover is based on the I or one chord. Let’s look at the construction of this chord.

This chord is Cmaj9 acting as the I chord in the key of C with extensions. Notice the colored-coded notes and watch how we use the same notes in the next chord.

The Blue, Red, Green, and Yellow notes are still there but the chord lost its bottom note, C making the root or bottom of the chord E. This transforms this chord from Cmaj9 to Emin7.

We call this transformation a iii or minor 3 substitution. This is because the E is the third of the original chord Cmaj9. Look at this scale chart below to see the diatonic interval construction of C major and how E is the third.

How Does a iii Substitution Sound?

Next, let’s move on to the sound of this chord. Listen and follow along to the example below to hear our original progression.

Notice the chord in red, pay attention to that spot and compare it to the example below.

We substituted that red Cmaj9 chord for an Emin7 notated in blue. This unique sound helps drive the motion forward because instead of playing the I chord which creates a sound of resolution, the iii or minor 3 chord keeps the motion of the progression moving.

Now, let’s explore one more example. check out the progression below and the highlighted chord in red.

Here is the altered example.

This time we are in the key of F and the Fmaj9 was substituted for its minor 3 or ii chord, Amin7. Notice again the unresolved sound this offers and how our progression want to keep moving

Tritone Substitution

Next, we will cover a substitution based around the V or 5 chord. Look at the chord below and notice the red and blue notes.

This chord is G7 acting as the V chord in C major. Look how we transform this chord below.

We used the same blue and red notes and made a Db7. Above, we see it in opened and closed voicings. This works because these chord share guiding tones, meaning the third and seventh. To find this chord simply play a dominant chord a tritone away. So from G, Db is a tritone away.

How Does a Tritone Substitution Sound?

Now that we have looked at the contruction of a tritone sub, let’s examine its sound. Listen to the example below and focus on the hird chord noted in red.

That was the V chord of C meaning we can use a tritone sub on this chord. Look at the diagram below and focus on the third chord which is our tritone sub and focus on its sound.

This unique sound adds a cool harmonic texture that can give interesting sounds from various genres including emd, lo-fi, jazz, hip hop, and more.

Wrapping Up

Try to incorporate these news sounds in your work to take your harmonies and melodies to a whole new level. If you have any questions please email me at cjrhenmusic@gmail.com and even ask about private lessons in songwriting!


Hi, I’m Cj Rhen, and I am a composer, arranger, multi-instrumentalist, and producer. You can find some of my work at cjrhenmusic.com or on sounds.com, where I write and record high-end sax and horn loops for your music. Also, you can check out my live streams at twitch.tv/cjrhenmusic to see me writing music like this post live and ask questions and chat.

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At Audio Issues you’ll learn simple and practical audio production tips you can use right away to improve your music from your home recording studio.  Björgvin is the best-selling author of Step By Step Mixing and the founder of Audio Issues. He helps musicians and producers turn amateur demos into professionally produced records they can be proud to release.

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