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Hi,
Probably this topic has been issued, but anyway, why would I do a tritone substitute?
It sounds cool!

Besides that though, it gives you new harmonic color and pathways to create more interesting and different melodic content over the "standard" changes. You can create some really great sounds using tritone subs in different places.
 

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Because you can.
 

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It's another tool to use for expression; if you have a hip idea that you're playing through, the tritone sub might help you expand on that idea more so than the standard change.

I don't ever feel like you should play it just for the hell of it...but if it fits melodically into what you're doing, then it can be a great tool.

- Saxaholic
 

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I like to play both the regular chord and the tritone in a measure. So I'll switch between a C triad and F#triad in a measure and to me its a cool sound. OR the C7 arpeggio and the F# arpeggio . Also this is a beginning to introducing you to some of the tensions of the alt scale . K
 

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For all the reasons mentioned so far, but also sometimes it can result in smoother chord movement. For example on a common turnaround at the end of a chorus:

iii-VI7-ii-V7. If you use a tritone sub for both those dominant chords you get:

iii-bIII7-ii-bII7. A nice descending line.

Example with those tritone subs in the key of C:

Emin7 / Eb7 / Dmin7 / Db7 /

The Eb7 is a tritone sub for A7 and Db7 is the sub for G7
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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All good suff, but as an improvising saxophone player, I would rarely consciously think of "using" a tritone substitute. Or rather I wouldn't think of it like that.

To me chord substitutions are something done by the rhythm section or an arranger. So if there is a C7, the pianist or arranger might make the substitution of F#7.

However if I am playing of a C7, I would never consciously think "this is F#7". I may well pay a C# (Db), or A#( Bb), but I would just try to use them as melodic chromatic notes and still be thinking C7 (or rather, C7 with Gb and Db).

So even if I happened to just play a straight arpeggio of F# A# C# and E, I wouldn't call it a tritone sub or F# or Gb7 - they would just be the notes I chose to play on C7.

Now if I somehow had the telepathic ability to know half a second in advance that the pianist and/or bass player was going to play a tritone sub, then I would as well. Or if my ears were fast enough and good enough to know that is what they were doping then yes - I'd hopefully be quick enough to latch on.

But often all you need is the bass play to drop the root a b5 - the pianist can just carry on playing the C7. In fact that is the classical derivation of what we call the tritone sub (flatten the 5th and drop it to the root)
 

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I don't think of this kind of sound as a tritone sub anymore, in spite of being taught that way. I think of it more along the lines of a substitute chord that leads to resolution by half-step. In the case of a C7 chord resolving to F, I'd be likely to play C7 for 2 beats, F#13+4 for 2 beats, resolving to F. If piano and bass follow me, or if I do it because that's what I heard them do, more the merrier, but not absolutely required.
 

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All good suff, but as an improvising saxophone player, I would rarely consciously think of "using" a tritone substitute. Or rather I wouldn't think of it like that.

...if I am playing of a C7, I would never consciously think "this is F#7". I may well pay a C# (Db), or A#( Bb), but I would just try to use them as melodic chromatic notes and still be thinking C7 (or rather, C7 with Gb and Db).

So even if I happened to just play a straight arpeggio of F# A# C# and E, I wouldn't call it a tritone sub or F# or Gb7 - they would just be the notes I chose to play on C7.
I would agree with you on all of that, Pete. At least from my own perspective. Especially from the standpoint of playing the sax, on which we obviously can only play one note at a time. The one exception (sort of) would be something like the turnaround example I gave, where I might simply play the descending chromatic line on the chord roots (2 of which are tritone subs) and even then, I'm not really thinking of the chords, just the chromatic line.

But in most cases, as you say, I'm thinking (if I'm thinking at all!) in terms of the (original) dominant chord with some altered tones or altered extensions.

So for C7, the tones F# A# C# E are, respectively, the b5(#11), b7, b9, and maj3rd of the C7 chord. IOW, the definitive 3rd & 7th chord tones along with a b5 and b9. All very commonly used tones on a dominant chord.
 

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A so-called tri-tone substitution is very easily understood if you sit at the piano and play a II V I. Dm to G7 To C for instance. If you then play the "tri-tone substitution" you will very quickly realise that all you are doing is going from Dm to Db7 to C. So you are taking the shortest/easiest route from D to C. That's all it is. As to why you would play it, that's the same answer as to why you would play anything, you like the sound.
 

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A so-called tri-tone substitution is very easily understood if you sit at the piano and play a II V I. Dm to G7 To C for instance. If you then play the "tri-tone substitution" you will very quickly realise that all you are doing is going from Dm to Db7 to C. So you are taking the shortest/easiest route from D to C. That's all it is. As to why you would play it, that's the same answer as to why you would play anything, you like the sound.
Good point. And that's basically what I was saying regarding iii-bIII7-ii-bII7-I. But in these cases it's the root movement that takes the "shortest/easiest route" from one chord to the next. Actually if you sit at the piano and play Dm to G7 to C, without using a tritone sub, but using good voice leading, the route is just as short and easy as with the tritone. Only two notes move by step or half step from one chord to the next.

You're right about the sound being the main thing; the tritone gives a slightly different 'flavor' and that might be the sound you're after.
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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So can someone who "uses" tritone substitutes when improvising on a saxophone (as opposed to rhythm section accompanists or arranges who use them to substitute chords in the backing) please explain to me the point?

I'm not trying to be funny, I understand exactly what tritone substitutes are*, it's just that I don't see the relevance to improvising against an existing sequence.

ie, if the band is playing G7, how does it help to be thinking Db7, when you could just be thinking "use a b5 and a b9 with that G7?"

It seems to me that changing the chord in your brain is an unnecessary step on the path the to creativity.



* Derived form a classical German 6th, where the 5th is flattened and drooped to the root)
 

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So can someone who "uses" tritone substitutes when improvising on a saxophone (as opposed to rhythm section accompanists or arranges who use them to substitute chords in the backing) please explain to me the point?

I'm not trying to be funny, I understand exactly what tritone substitutes are*, it's just that I don't see the relevance to improvising against an existing sequence.

ie, if the band is playing G7, how does it help to be thinking Db7, when you could just be thinking "use a b5 and a b9 with that G7?"

It seems to me that changing the chord in your brain is an unnecessary step on the path the to creativity.



* Derived form a classical German 6th, where the 5th is flattened and drooped to the root)
Whether you think Db7 or G7b5b9 or whether you think at all (I prefer not to...) ultimately it's the sound. Practice is one thing, and understanding how "altered" tones work sonically in various contexts is a necessary part of understanding how music works. So you can think Db7 or G7b5b9 as you choose, it shouldn't make any difference to the outcome in terms of what you play. But performance is a different thing altogether and we should play by sound alone, in light of which the question doesn't arise.
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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I think Db7 as a tritone for G7 does not have a G.
Whether or not it is a tritone substitute Db7 doesn't have a G. But when improvising, G makes perfect sense with Db7 as it would just be an alteration or what we sometimes call a blue note (b5)
 

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Whether or not it is a tritone substitute Db7 doesn't have a G. But when improvising, G makes perfect sense with Db7 as it would just be an alteration or what we sometimes call a blue note (b5)
But then it’s just a altered chord. And yes that sounds good too.

I think the fun of playing a tritone is that you switch the keycenter. So, for instance, the piano player is playing G7 to C, you can play Db7 (like if you are in the key of Gb) to C
 

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Grafton alto | Martin Comm III tenor
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I think the fun of playing a tritone is that you switch the keycenter. So if the piano player is playing G7 to C, you can play Db7 (like if you are in the key of Gb) to C
When you say "you play Db7" this is what I don't get6. ie if you play the notes of Db7, that is Db F, Ab and Cb (B). So when you play a tritone substitute (when improvising) are saying it only applies if you play an arpeggio of the chord that is the tritone substitute?

There is so much more to improvising than just playing chord notes as arpeggios.
 

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I think the fun of playing a tritone is that you switch the keycenter. So if the piano player is playing G7 to C, you can play Db7 (like if you are in the key of Gb) to C
I'm not so sure you've switched the key center when you resolve that Db7 chord to C. You're still playing in the key of C. And, along the lines of what Pete is saying, I really don't see any reason or advantage in suddenly deciding the key center has switched to Gb, when you are playing in C. Seems like an unnecessary complication.

Of course if you are modulating to another key (even temporarily), that's a different thing.
 

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There is so much more to improvising than just playing chord notes as arpeggios.
+1. Maybe it's important to distinguish between playing an improvised line on the sax (or even guitar or piano) from playing actual chords, comping on a keyboard or guitar.

I find it really interesting from an intellectual standpoint to uncover all the permutations and connections between chords, and how it all fits together. But it's a different matter when you are actually improvising.
 
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