6 tritone substitution guitar licks

How to Use a Tritone Substitution - 6 Guitar Licks

6 tritone substitution guitar licksWhat's a Tritone Substitution?

The tritone substitution is one of the most common substitution found in jazz. The basic application of a tritone chord substitution is to take any 7th chord and play another 7th chord that has its root a tritone away from the original. This guitar lesson demonstrates how you can play scales and arpeggios starting from the b5 (a tritone away) of the V7 chord in a II V I chord progression. This way you will highlight altered tones as the b9 and the #11. 

How To Use a Tritone Substitution Over a II V I Progression?

Let's take a C major II V I chord progression  Dm7 | G7 | CM7 | % | After applying a tritone substitution to the V7 chord of a II V I chord progression, we get the following sequence Dm7 | Db7 | CM7 | % | The idea behind is to play Db over G7. Here are some examples :

6 Tritone Substitution Jazz Guitar Licks With Tabs - II V I progression

How to Solo Over Tritone Substitution?

Four options are addressed in this lesson :

The first is to play a dominant 7 arpeggio (1 - 3 - 5 - b7) starting on the b5 of the V7 chord. Here is what happens when you play Db7 over G7 :

  • The root of Db7 highlights the #11/b5 of G7.
  • The third (F) of Db7 is the b7 of G7.
  • The fifth (Ab) of Db7 highlights the b9 of G7.
  • The minor seventh (B) of Db7 is the third of G7.


Dominant 7 arpeggio shapes

The second option is to play a dominant 9 arpeggio (1 - 3 - 5 - b7 - 9)  which means that you have to add the ninth to the previous dom7 arpeggio. 

  • The ninth (or second) of Db7 (Eb) highlights the b13 of G.


Dominant 9 arpeggio shapes

The third option consists in playing a major pentatonic scale (1 - 2 - 3 - 5 - 6).

  • The root of Db7 highlights the #11/b5 of G7.
  • The second of Db7 (Eb) highlights the b13 of G.
  • The third (F) of Db7 is the same note as the b7 of G7.
  • The fifth (Ab) of Db7 is the b9 of G7.
  • The sixth (Bb) of Db7 should be used as an approach note in order to target a chord tone
Major pentatonic shapes

The fourth option to solo with a tritone sub is to use the Mixolydian mode (1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - b7). It has the same note as the major pentatonic scale with a fourth (4/11) and a seventh (7).

  • The fourth of Db7 (Gb) must be treated as an approach note.
  • The seventh of Db7 (B) is the third of G7.

You will find below 6 easy jazz guitar lines using the four previous scales to approach tritone substitution. You can hear these 6 licks in the YouTube video at the top of this page. You can also download the free PDF by clicking on the picture at the top too.

Mixolydian mode shapes 1

Tritone Substitution Lick  # 1 

  • Bar 1 : Dm7 arpeggio (D - F - A - C)
  • Bar 2 : Descending Db7 arpeggio (Db - F - A - Cb)
  • Bar 3 : CM7 arpeggio (C - E - G - B)
Tritone substitution lick

Tritone Substitution Lick  # 2  

  • Bar 1 : D minor pentatonic scale. (D - F -G - A - C ) C  is not played.
  • Bar 2 : Db major pentatonic scale (Db - Eb - F - Ab - Bb). Bb is not played.

Playing Db pentatonic over G7 chord provides some interesting colors:

  1. Db is the #11 of  the  G7 chord.
  2. Eb is the b13 of G7.
  3. F is the minor 7th of G7.
  4. Ab is the b9 of G7 .
  • Bar 3 : C major pentatonic scale (C - D - E - G - A). A is not played.
Tritone substitution guitar lick

Tritone Substitution Lick  # 3  

  • Measure 1 : D minor 9 arpeggio (D - F - A - C - E)                                                  
  • Measure 2 : Db9 descending arpeggio (E- Cb - A- F - Db)

Playing Db9 arpeggio on G7 highlights the following tones :

  1. Db is the #11 of  the  G7 chord.
  2. F is the minor 7th of G7.
  3. Ab is the b9 of G7 .
  4. Cb is the major third of G7.
  5. Eb is the b13 of G7.
  • Measure 3 : C Major arpeggio (C - E - G) ending with a fourth intervals (A - D) and a major third (G and B)
Tritone substitution lick ii v i progression

Tritone Substitution Lick  # 4  

  • Measure 1 : Dorian mode  (D - E - F - G - A - B) B is not played.
  • Measure 2 (second half of the beat 2) : Db7b9 arpeggio (D- F - A- Cb - D)
  • Measure 3 : Ending on the root of CM7. 
Tritone substitution guitar line

Tritone Substitution Lick  # 5

  • Measure 1 : Dm9 arpeggio (D - F - A - C - E)
  • Measure 2 : Db9 arpeggio (E- Cb - Ab - F - Db) and chromaticism to approach the root of CM7.
  • Measure 3 : Ending with two chords CM7 and C6/9.
Tritone sub guitar ii v i

Tritone Substitution Lick  # 6


How to use a tritone substitution guitar lick
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