Playing chords on a jazz progression can be quite complicated, and the voice leading, the extensions and alterations makes us forget about making music. Using triads for chords is a very practical and easy way to play full chords and still have a lot of flexibility to interact with the rest of the band. This lesson is going over how you find triad voicings for a C jazz blues and also demonstrating what you can do with the voicings you find using melodies and inversions.
Basic triad voicings
To demonstrate how easily you can use the triads as chords in a blues I have written out a chorus of voicings in example 1. I play the chorus in the videos, and you should notice that I don’t use the simple rhythm that I’ve written, but interpret that freely. I am however only using the voicings in example 1.
The way I find the triad voicings is quite simple and an approach that is almost always coming back in both comping and improvisation lessons:
A C7 chord consists of the notes C E G Bb. If we take away the C we are left with the notes E G and Bb which spell out an E diminished triad. This way of looking at the diatonic triad found on the 3rd of the chord is how I find most of the triads.
The only exception in this lesson is the dom7th(b9) chords. Here I take an common C7(b9) voicing: C E Bb Db and if we take the C away we are left with the notes E Bb Db, which is infact an inversion of a Bb diminished triad. The conclusion is that we can use the diminished triad found on the 7th for dom7th(b9) chords.
I have written out the reasoning on the guitar with first a C7 and then a C7(b9) voicing in example 2
So now that we can find triads for all the chords we can of course also invert them.
In this lesson I have kept everything on the middle string set (D,G,B) just to keep it simple and also because that is the place where they are the most effective.
In example 3 I have written out the chords with inversions:
C7 – Edim
F7 – Adim
Dm7 – Fmajor
G7 – Bdim
F#dim – Ebdim
C7(b9) – Bbdim
G7(b9) – Fdim
Em7(b5) – Gm
The only one that takes a little explaining is the Ebdim triad over the F#dim(7) chord. Since F# dim is F# A C Eb the one note that is in both the chord before and the chord following it is the C, so I leave that out and have: F# A Eb Which is an inversion of and Ebdim triad.
I left the A7 and the Gm7 voicings for you to figure out by yourself, it’s a good exercise!
Adding melody to the triads
Now that we have triad voicings for all the chords we can start working on adding melodies. I think my approach to this is really simple, for each of the triad inversions we can use the voicing and also use the neighbouring notes in the scale to make melodies. If you look at the first bar of example 4 you can see that I am using an E dim triad over the C7 but then changing the melody from G to Bb and A. A similar idea is used over the F7 where the A top note is replaced with a G in a melodic movement.
To work this out you need to be able to work out what scale fits the chord and you need to be able to play that scale on the B string.
To list some examples of which scales I use:
C7 – Fmajor (or C mixolydian if that works better for you)
F7 – Bbmajor
Gm7 – Fmajor
C7b9 – F harmonic minor.
F#dim – G harmonic minor
Em7(b5) – Fmajor
A7 – D harmonic minor
The final example is a blues chorus with some rhythmical and melodic variations added. If you work your way through it you should be able to figure it out without too much trouble.
I think the chorus in example 4 is so busy that it is almost a solo, but it will work as a comp example, and it also demonstrates a lot of the options available with this approach.
I hope you can use the material I went over here to get some flexible and effective voicings into your vocabulary. If you want to check out more on triad voicings you can check out my lesson : III VI II V I with triads
If you want to check out some mote chords and learn some drop2 voicings you can also check out my WebStore lesson:
If you want to study the examples away from the video or article you can download a pdf here:
If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for topics or how I can make the lessons better then please feel free to leave on the video or send me an e-mail. That is the best way for me to improve my lessons and make them fit what you want to hear.