III VI II V I with Triads

Triads are great for playing chords with extensions. They are compact and flexible which make them easy to play and also easy to make melodies with. In this lesson I am taking a III VI II V I in the key of C and go over some possibilities with triads when comping over this progression.

Finding the triads

The first thing we need to cover is what triads we can use to play the chords. The simple way to approach this is to use the triad found on the third of each chord. This is what we’ll do in most of the examples:

  • CMaj7 – E minor triad
  • Dm7  – F major triad
  • G7 – B diminished triad
  • Em7 G triad
  • A7b9 – G diminished triad

The only example where I am not using the chord found on the 3rd is the A7. Since the A7 in the key of C resolves to Dm the scale we expect to hear there is a Dm harmonic, and the chord is a dom7th(b9) chord. If we take the diminished triad found on the 7th of the chord we get 3rd and 7th and also the Bb which is the b9 of the chord.

In example 1 you see the examples written out on the middle string set. I included the inversions of ot he triads as well.

III VI II V I with Triads - ex 1

I made another lesson a few years ago on this subject which is a bit more general. You can check it out here: Jazz Chord Essentials it’s a bit old so my camera was not so good but the lesson is fine.

Some exercises with the triads

To be able to use the triads we need to use them to play some melodies over the chords. The way we do that is to harmonize the scale that they are found in. In that way they have a tool set to make melodies when we are using the triads to comp over the progression.

I chose to only do this for the Dm7 and the A7b9 mainly because it is quite easy and to go over all the chords isn’t really necessary in this lesson.

III VI II V I with Triads - ex 2

Since the A7b9 is another scale here is the same exercise on the A7 using the D harmonic minor scale:

III VI II V I with Triads - ex 3

Comping examples on the II VI II V

The first example is a very simple melody using the G major triad over Em7 to move to the Gdim triad on A7. I write out the G dim triad with a C# to relate it to the A7. Dm7 is a similar stepwise melody with te F triad and on the G7 I use two inversions of the B dim triad.

The C6 voicing is not covered in the previous examples, but if you look at an Am triad related to a C root you get: A(6th) C(root) E(3rd). So the Am triad is a good choice for a C6 sound.

III VI II V I with Triads - ex 4

The 2nd example is moving a bit more around and has more chords. The Em7 is a descending melody in the scale. The A7 is played this time with a C# dim triad (the triad found on the 3rd of the chord) and then the melody moves up a half step but the rest of the chord stays the same.

The melody in the 2nd bar is a little riff statement that is stated on the Dm7 (with basically one voicing that changes melody) and then varied on the G7 before it resolves to the Cmaj7

III VI II V I with Triads - ex 5

In the third example the first part is the same melody as we had on the Dm7 in the previous example. From there it continues with C# and G dim triads over the A7(b9). The Dm7 is first an F major triad and then the melody is changes so that it becomes a Dm11 voicing (I guess you could also see the voicing as a Csus4 triad?) From there it continues to the G7 chord that this time is an altered G7 which is using an F dim triad (similar to using the G dim triad over A7)

III VI II V I with Triads - ex 6

If you want to study the examples away from the video or article you can download a pdf here:

III VI II V I with Triads

You can also check out my lesson on soloing over rhythm changes:

Rhythm Changes Solo Etude #1

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.

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