Jingle Bells: A Lesson in Reharmonization and Piano Harmony

Ho ho ho, merry Christmas! In this harmony lesson we’re going to reharmonize the famous Christmas carol Jingle Bells. This means we’ll replace some chords with other chords, and add some new ones. I’m going to play a simple version of Jingle Bells, followed by a reharmonized version with some chord substitutions. Then I’m going to discuss how and why I made those substitutions. This will hopefully give you an idea of how to approach the reharmonization of a simple song, how to use some basic chord substitutions, and maybe see some interesting chord progressions. The majority of substitutions will be based on the 2-5-1 progression, the minor 3rd substitutions and occasionally a major-to-minor substitution. The first two are reviewed in the video, but here are links to some of my other videos that discuss them as well:

Chord Substitutions: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aKX0cmkWaQM
The 2-5-1 Progression: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8zWoOLQgOks
Major to Minor Substitution: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nIE7e_LQOMY

What is a Chord Substitutions?

As its name implies, whenever you’re changing one chord for another chord or for another set of chords you’re performing a substitutions. The trick is of course knowing which chords to change and when, which is what this video is about.

An Example

Let’s look at the following simple chord progression:
| C / / / | G / / / |
(One chord per bar; the forward slash is used to indicate the preceding chord should be repeated on that beat.)
One common substitution, known as the 2-5 substitution, says you can precede any chord with a chord a perfect fourth below it (be it minor or major). The chord Dm (D minor) is a perfect fourth below G major, so we can write:
| C / / / | Dm / G / |
We’ve just substituted | Dm / G / | instead of | G / / / |.

Common Chord Substitutions

The video covers several common chord substitutions, including:
(1.) Chromatic substitution: any chord can be preceded by a chord one semitone above it (e.g., G can be substituted by Ab, G).
(2.) Diminished substitution: any dominant 7 chord can be replaced by a diminished 7 chord 4 semitones above it (e.g. Ab7 can be substituted by Cdim7).
(3.) 2-5 substitution: just covered above in the Example section.
(4.) Minor 4th substitution: The 5th degree of the scale can be switched with a minor 4th (e.g., G in the key of C can be substituted by Fm).
There are many other variations available, more than I can cover in a single video. I urge you to experiment and explore using your favorite search engine.

More About Chord Substitutions from Wikipedia:

In music theory, chord substitution is the advanced technique of using a chord in the place of another, often related, chord in a chord progression. Jazz musicians often substitute chords in the original progression to create variety and add interest to a piece. The substitute chord must have some harmonic quality and degree of function in common with the original chord, and often only differs by one or two notes. Scott DeVeaux describes a “penchant in modern jazz for harmonic substitution.”
For more, visit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chord_substitution

Related Videos/Playlists:

My channel has many additional piano tutorial videos which I welcome you to check out. The main channel page is:

Here’s an interesting video about voicing the 2-5-1 progression:

How to modulate between keys using the 2-5-1 progression:

Learn to play Bach’s Prelude in C major:

My playlist of inspiring piano harmony, chord and voicing tips and tricks:

(Inside you will find additional major chord voicing ideas for piano!)
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8 thoughts on “Jingle Bells: A Lesson in Reharmonization and Piano Harmony

  1. I've been watching you since I started piano and today I still drop by to your channel. I can honestly say I wouldn't be the player I am without your help thank you so much for these videos 

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