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Thread: Recordings With Tritone Subs

  1. #1
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    Default Recordings With Tritone Subs

    My improv teacher last week started teaching me about tritone subs; meaning instead of playing: [ D-7 / G7 / Cmaj ], playing [ D-7 G7 / Ab-7 Db7 / Cmaj ].

    My question is: can anyone suggest specific recordings of sax players applying this on standards or blues?

    I'd like to listen and try to get this sound in my ears, and maybe transcribe some ways actual players apply this concept.

    Thanks!

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    Default Re: Recordings With Tritone Subs

    This is how I would suggest you think about it:

    | D-7 | G7 | C | <--- study the voice leading til you're blue in the face
    | D-7 G7 | D-7 G7 | C | <--- if you've done your homework above, you can do it twice as fast, but twice as long
    | G7sus | G7b9 | C | <--- now start listening for possible alterations.
    | G7sus | G7b9 Bb7b9 | C | < --- now start listening for substitutions
    | F | F-7 Bb7 | C | <--- by now you're knowledge of voice leading should be able to make music out of this
    | F | G7b9/Db | C | <-- same thing essentially as where you want to be.

    ...my point is -- take it in steps. You won't get there or have it all together unless you understand the evolution and basic voice leading.
    "The key to improvising is being able to play and listen at the same time."

  3. #3

    Default Re: Recordings With Tritone Subs

    Quote Originally Posted by doodle View Post
    My improv teacher last week started teaching me about tritone subs; meaning instead of playing: [ D-7 / G7 / Cmaj ], playing [ D-7 G7 / Ab-7 Db7 / Cmaj ].

    My question is: can anyone suggest specific recordings of sax players applying this on standards or blues?

    I'd like to listen and try to get this sound in my ears, and maybe transcribe some ways actual players apply this concept.

    Thanks!
    Listen to Bebop music!

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    Forum Contributor 2014 Pete Thomas's Avatar
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    Default Re: Recordings With Tritone Subs

    It seems like your teacher is getting you into a slightly advanced method first.

    I would recommend you study a tritone sub first by (for now) ignoring the IIm7, just concentrate on the V7 to ! and the voice leading.

    In the cadence G7 to C, the B of G leads up nicely to the C of C (ie the "voice" leads nicely from B to resolve on C. There was tension in the B which is now released, this is the important thing about a dominant 7 chord)

    The F of G7 moves nicely down to the E of C.

    These notes, B and F have the interval of a tritone between them (= 3 whole tones, or b five - and interval with quite a lot of tension)

    Play the B and F on a keyboard and resolve them as above (voice leading) B to C and F to E. Listen to that tension and release.

    Now think of a G7 chord, and flatten the 5, so it's G7 with a Db. ( G B Db F)

    Drop that Db down and make it the root of the chord, you now have a Db7 b5. (Db F G B)

    Note the same tritone is there B and F, just the other way round:

    the B which was the 3rd of G is now the flat 7 of Db (OK, it's a Cb !)

    and the F which was the 7th of G is now the 3rd of Db7.

    This is the essence of a tritone substitute, and that is more or less its classical derivation.

    In jazz we don't have to flatten the 5th, instead we can just have a unaltered chord , but substituted with the chord whose root is a tritone away.
    This is often used by arrangers and rhythm sections to substitute the chords.

    HOWEVER

    As the chords are so similar, when improvising a solo there is little to actually differentiate between a player throwing in a Db on a G7 chord and "using" a tritone substitute.

    I would get just this simpler concept in your head before substituting the whole IIm7 V7, (ie subbing Dm7 G7 with Abm7 Db7)

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    Forum Contributor 2008/Distinguished SOTW Member Swampcabbage's Avatar
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    Default Re: Recordings With Tritone Subs

    The initial "trione substitution" as I was instucted was simply the following.

    Standard ii-V-I in C:

    Dm7 - G7 - C

    Progression with tritone sub:

    Dm7 - Db7 - C

    G7 and Db7 share the same tritone. Get it?

    B and F (Cb and F). This is how it gets the name tritone substitution. You are substituting the V7 chord with another Dominant 7 chord that shares the same tritone.

    Basic theaory teaches us that any chord that shares two notes is related and can be used in some way to substitute for the other.

    Now here are some fun facts about the tritone sub.

    Look at the root movement: D - Db - C

    It's classic voiceading in decendig half steps.

    And the most important and basic understanding of this is; just study the 3rd and the 7th (yes - inserting the major 7th into the C triad).

    Standard progression: F,C - F,B - E,B

    Tritone sub: F,C - F,Cb(B) - E,B

    Ah - now ain't that something?

    If you are able to play a solo through a song just using the 3rd and 7th of the chords - you pretty much have the entire thing down - everything else is just reharmonization or substitutions.

    This is not to replace the standard theory or original knowleds. But studying this stuff is actually much simpler than it is often made out to be. It's the physical application that often provides the biggest stumbling blocks. But, knowing what you want to do before you do it helps immensely. 90% of music is half mental, oh wait - that's baseball

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    Default Re: Recordings With Tritone Subs

    I think your teacher's advice is great for getting a sense of what these subs sound like. However, I think Pete's advice, focusing on the V7 to I voice leading and resolution, is perfect for understanding and internalizing the underlying concept.

    I've got a transcription and sound clip of Trane using these subs (amongst lots of other stuff) here:

    John Coltrane • Take The Coltrane transcription
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  7. #7

    Default Re: Recordings With Tritone Subs

    I'm trying to figure out voice leading, and am hoping this is not too dumb a question.

    Pete, e.g., talks about resolving G7 to C and going from notes B to C and F to E. I get that those are both half steps, and I can hear that they sound nice and consonant when I do that.

    But how important is it to (always) try to resolve in these ways? What does an improvisation gain or lose if, instead, I go from B to Bb, or D to C or to E, or resolve by even wider intervals?

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    Default Re: Recordings With Tritone Subs

    Quote Originally Posted by Pete Thomas View Post
    As the chords are so similar, when improvising a solo there is little to actually differentiate between a player throwing in a Db on a G7 chord and "using" a tritone substitute.

    I would get just this simpler concept in your head before substituting the whole IIm7 V7, (ie subbing Dm7 G7 with Abm7 Db7)
    This is a really good point.

    But one place where where you'll often run into a tritone sub is a iii-VI7-ii-V7-I turnaround, especially in the last 2 bars of a blues or swing tune. It is very common to change that to: iii-bIII7-ii-bII7-I (Em7 Eb7 Dm7 Db7 C in the key of C), because it's a much smoother line (moving downward chromatically, instead of jumping up and down). The bIII7 is a tritone sub for the VI7 and the bII7 substitutes for the V7.

    If you play those two chord progressions on the piano, you'll see why the tritone subs are used there. Also you can hear the difference playing the chord roots on your horn.

  9. #9
    Forum Contributor 2014 Pete Thomas's Avatar
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    Default Re: Recordings With Tritone Subs

    Quote Originally Posted by widetrack View Post
    I'm trying to figure out voice leading, and am hoping this is not too dumb a question.

    Pete, e.g., talks about resolving G7 to C and going from notes B to C and F to E. I get that those are both half steps, and I can hear that they sound nice and consonant when I do that.

    But how important is it to (always) try to resolve in these ways? What does an improvisation gain or lose if, instead, I go from B to Bb, or D to C or to E, or resolve by even wider intervals?
    No, you don't have to always resolve with those voice leadings, that would restrict your creative melodic impro and make everything too formulaic. It's probably best to get a balance. But the last thing you need to do is be too conscious of the "correct" balance, it's something that will come naturally as you start to think more melodically.

    It's not a bad exercise to learn those leadings and use them wherever possible, so that you are aware of what they are and how they sound, but it's also important to know all the other ways of moving via chord tones from one chord to the next, as you say B to Bb when going G7 to C7.

    I think it's a question of knowing those crucial tritone ones first, then all the others. Then learn about passing notes between chord tones and and different chords so you go beyond just using chord tones.

    For example on G7|C7, you might play (in quavers) F F# G A | Bb so the G7 chord tones F and G are on beats 3 and 4 but the last passing tone A leads nicely up to the Bb of the C7

    Or you can think of neighbour or approach tones: D E F F#| G

  10. #10

    Default Re: Recordings With Tritone Subs

    Thank you, Pete. This will give me things to work on.

    But please: is there a book or course or any source that will give me the Big Voice Leading Picture? Where can I learn the theory and practice of this whole subject? I've found a few things on the Web, but I'd like to get a definitive discussion. You and a few other of the Wise Heads here have stressed the importance of this.

    And BTW, do these rules apply to any change from any one chord to any other?

    Thanks again for the help.

  11. #11
    Forum Contributor 2014 Pete Thomas's Avatar
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    Default Re: Recordings With Tritone Subs

    Quote Originally Posted by widetrack View Post
    And BTW, do these rules apply to any change from any one chord to any other?
    Think of them as guidelines rather than rules. Or else rules that you learn first, break them later.

    With all chords it's really a matter of melodic tendencies. The tendency is very strong and is deeply rooted in western music tradition in the case of V7 - I (and the tritone subs). This is a very strong chord change and is what's called a (perfect) cadence, which traditionally marks the end of a phrase.

    Other chord changes are not so strong, e.g. C to am or C to Em and in those cases we don't really think of voice "leading". It is so strong with the V7 - I especially B to C because not only is there a tritone (F) "pulling" on the B but the B is melodically the last note in the scale. Just sing a major C scale upwards but end on the B. You might how it really wants to go to C even with no harmony to affect it.

    That doesn't mean it has to, you can go C D E G A B....A. It's a different tune that's all.

    Music uses tension and release, the expected and the surprise. But you need to get the balance right.

    Too much expected stuff and the listener is bored. (That can be OK if you are playing relaxation music)
    Too much surprise and the listener is uncomfortable (useful in some cases)

    However if there is really a lot of surprise, it becomes expected. There's food for thought.

  12. #12

    Default Re: Recordings With Tritone Subs

    Pete:

    Thanks again for the information.

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