Tom Serb

Tom Serb is a Chicago area guitarist who has been making music professionally since 1978. Over the course of the past twenty-five years he has managed to amuse himself by teaching, writing, performing, producing and composing. He is the author of Music Theory for Guitarists (NoteBoat, Inc., 2003), and a frequent contributor to the Guitar Noise forums.

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  1. Sal Pedi
    May 25th, 2012 @ 11:14 am

    chord subsitution is what I’m all about!… I play the baritone ukulele. I also have small fingers for an adult man, so I’m constantly looking for ways to “REACH” the chord which brings me to seeking out ‘SUBSTITUTE CHORDS” that sound sensational at the very least!.. its no small chore, believe me!…

    I’ve been using “GUITAR CHORD BOOKS” to seek out these CHORD SUBSTITUES. You just might say that I’m a baritone uke player looking to sound like the great JOE PASS!.. I suspect that never gonna ever happen, but I do keep trying, regardless!…

    What I’m also finding very irritating is that when I do find a song that I like, its usually the chords that are written that are not too good sounding for my ear!.. so, I don’t really know what gives with the way some of these songs are shown, cause, some songs sound just “Lousy”””…..

    So, I continue my quest for “chord perfection” each day,seeking out these “subsitute chords” on the internet.. and, YES, I do agree that Dmi7b5 does sound great!…..

    • David Hodge
      May 26th, 2012 @ 1:07 pm

      Hi Sal

      And thanks for writing. Using a baritone ukulele for jazz chords is inspired! Most jazz guitarists, when playing chords, often play chords that use four strings (or less) at a time, so your instrument of choice can certainly be helpful to you.

      The biggest challenge, as I’m sure you’re aware, is that many times jazz players use the four “center” strings, if you will – that is, the A, D, G and B. Many times, too, they’ll play maybe the D, G and B strings together but use the low E string for a bass note. Or, likewise, they’ll use the three high strings (high E, B and G) for part of the chord while using the A or low E for a bass note.

      A lot of times, your choices may not have to necessarily be a chord substitution, but rather a change of chord voicing, meaning that you’ve got the necessary note but you’re playing them in a different place on the neck. As you move up the neck of the baritone ukulele you should find yourself (even with small hands) able to make bigger stretches so you may be able to come up with different voicings of the same chord in a number of ways.

      It’s also important to note that because you only have the four strings, and because they are tuned to specific intervals, some chords will need a different voicing simply to sound a bit more pleasant. Or interesting. Or ominous, depending on your arrangement.

      Sounds like you’re enjoying your baritone ukulele a lot and I wish you much success in your ongoing search for more and more jazz chords – both in terms of chord substitutions and in different chord voicings.


  2. tom nelson
    December 3rd, 2012 @ 5:49 am

    I too have a bari uke. My 3 lower strings are tuned D, G, B. So I just play them as a guitar. I’ve lowered the high string to a hidg D, so my uke is tuned Open G. I has a low very mellow sound.

    Good lesson

    Thank you

  3. Tony
    March 9th, 2015 @ 8:02 am

    Cool man – a great (and well-explained and easily understood) article. I will begin practising these immediately (one at a time, of course!). It’s amazing how music theory can be simplified (with examples) so that the ordinary player (that’s me) can explore new musical avenues, without having to spend hours decoding!

    Thanks again.

  4. Patrice Kodja
    April 27th, 2015 @ 1:48 am

    Thanks for this important chords dataware-house. Long ttime ago I was looking a complete chords substitution theory in other to analyze songs chord progression. Because as soon as one understand the how, he could transform it and a similar result interesting in listening and substitution gives that opportunuty. So once again thank you very much for sharing this mine of knowledge in that field. Regards

  5. bob
    September 27th, 2015 @ 7:34 am

    very helpful lesson just a beginner now I can sub chords just for the fingering ease ex C to Am


  6. Salvador Mina
    January 24th, 2016 @ 7:20 pm

    Brilliant lesson! A very clear info for a beginner on jazz music chords as a rock guitarist.I’m no music reader,maybe you could include tabs on lessons.Thanks very much & more power!

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