How to Use Tritone Substitions in Jazz

Every jazz master will ramble on about loads of jazz jargon if you are, unfortunately, stuck in a room with one! This includes tritone substitutions, which are much less complicated then they sound.


  1. 1
    Take a normal 2,5,1- eg Dmin7, G7, Cmaj7. There are many standard ways to voice these in jazz- however, we will now use F,A,C,E; F,E,B,E and then E,G,A,D with the roots in the bass.
  2. 2
    Now, find the tritone- i.e. the note that is three tones away from the dominant, G. This is Db in this case.
  3. 3
    Now, play the dominant of the tritone over the root over the root- in this case, we will play F,Bb,B,Eb over the root of G. This is the altered chord.
  4. 4
    Now, play the first sequence, but substitute the normal G7 for the G7 alt. Sounds good, doesn't it?
  5. 5
    Try doing this in every key, using different inversions of the voicings to make it sound good.
  6. 6
    You could, for example, do this in the cycle of fourths as such- instead of Amin, D7, Gmin, C7, Fmin etc, you could change the dominants to the tritone substitutions- i.e. Amin, Ab7, Gmin7, F#7, Fmin etc, which in essence are the same chords, but the chord sequence is changed instead to a chromatically descending form, which sounds very effective, and what Wayne Shorter uses in his song Speak No Evil.


  • This can take a lot of practise to master- however, don't be discouraged! It will be worth it!
  • Bear in mind that this won't sound good in every context, and it requires experience to consistently use it effectively.

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Categories: Music Techniques