The tritone substitution is a staple of jazz guitar that’s been used by the greats. Here’s how you can use it to quite literally jazz up your chord progressions

Pat Martino plays his Gibson signature guitar onstage at North Sea Jazz Festival
(Image credit: Frans Schellekens/Redferns)

The term tritone refers to an interval that spans three whole tones. For example, this could be: C to D, D to E then E to F#. However, another way of looking at it could be as an augmented 4th (C to F#) or a diminished 5th (C to Gb). As you can see, these are all different names for one specific sound.

Once we get into chord progressions and ‘diatonic speak’ such as II-V-I, you may well come across the term ‘tritone substitution’. All this actually means is that a chord within a progression (usually the V) has been exchanged for another with the root a tritone away.

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Richard Barrett

As well as a longtime contributor to Guitarist and Guitar Techniques, Richard is Tony Hadley’s longstanding guitarist, and has worked with everyone from Roger Daltrey to Ronan Keating.