Extending Chord Selection in Major / Minor Keys

Chord Substitution, Composition, Jazz, Music Theory, Musicianship


This chart (click to download) demonstrates the full range of chords available in a given major or minor key using the technique of tonicisation (temporarily establishing an alternative tone centre within the key – a “mini-modulation” for a short duration). This technique is used extensively in Jazz and Classical music to expand the range of the major/minor system to it’s utmost. The chart below can be used to facilitate composition and reharmonisation, both in the considered and ad-hoc sense s(e.g. scoring a composition/arrangement vs spontaneous chord substitution in Jazz Improvisation). This harmonic technique can be expanded to any genre!


The following classes (functions) of additional chords are used:


  1. Secondary Dominants and their tritone substitutes (“V” & “bII” function)


e.g. D7 (Secondary Dominant) and Ab7 (Tritone Substitute), resolving to G in key of C major


  1. Secondary Supertonics (“iim7 & iim7b5function)


e.g. F#m7 to resolve to B7 to Em in key of C


  1. Secondary Subdominants (“IV & iv” function) –

    also known as borrowed chords – “borrowed” from the key’s parallel major/ minor scale counterpart

e.g. Fm in key of C or F in key of C minor




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