Jazz Blues – How To Solo Only Using Triads And Why It Is Powerful

Why would you want to play a Jazz Blues just using triads?

When you have one triad per chord then that is only 3 notes:

  • That It is easy to remember
  • It helps you play better melodies and use more creative rhythms and
  • It is an amazing foundation for more complicated lines.

And finally, It also kind of fun to mess around with.

What is a Jazz Blues?

Let’s take a blues in C. If you take a simple 12 bar blues, the kind that would make ZZ top proud, then that would be these chords:

For a Jazz Blues then there are a few other chords in there, the II V, a dim chord, and some short II V’s:

To keep it simple let’s reduce it to one chord per bar and turn some of the quick II V’s into a single dominant>

Let’s keep it really easy:

For the C7 you can use a C major triad, like this one:

and then you can play solid phrases like this:

The next thing we need to figure out is what to play on the F7, but you probably already know this F7(9) chord:

and the top part of this F7 chord is a Cm triad, so for the F7 you can use a Cm triad.

and you already have a line on the F7, just change one note in the C7 line.

With these two triads you can cover the first two bars of the solo:

This idea of playing a C major and then a Cm phrase on the first two bars is a really great way to connect melodies and is something you’ll hear Parker do ALL THE TIME.

Triads For Altered Dominants

The next chord in the progression that you need a triad for is C7alt.

One way that you often play a chord like this is this C7(b9b13):

Here you have a Dbm triad as the top part of the chord, and that will work very well:

And because it is really close to the C major and the Cm triads then it is easy to make some strong melodies:

The Bonus of Limitation

Notice how you are really using the limitation of 3 notes to get a lot more creative with rhythm and melody. This is something I always liked about limitation exercises: Limiting yourself with one thing actually opens up more options with all the other things that you are not limiting. You will also see another nice side effect once we get to the II V in a few bars.

That Damned Diminished

Now we have the F#dim chord,

and here I will just take a triad in the chord: Eb dim, which is F#dim without the C.

And you can use that in a lick like this:

Notice that you can create the lick by moving the melody on the F7 and play the same melody on the F#dim, and again that also just ties those two phrases in a musical way.

A Scary Altered Chord

Before going on to the II V then there is one difficult-looking chord to deal with that isn’t really that difficult: A7alt.

You can use the same trick as with the C7alt. A7alt could be played like this:

So you have a Bbm triad at the top of this chord, and that triad is going to be a great fit for the chord. You can play that like this:

And then you can create lines like this:

II V Hacking with Triads

Let’s use a hack for the II V Since they are so common in Jazz then it makes sense to figure out these two chords at the same time and make sure the two triads really fit together.

One way you could play the chords would be this:

For the Dm7 that gives you an F major triad and the G7(b9) is an F diminished triad.

And these two fit together very well so they are easy to make lines with and also to create some motivic melodies. Something like this:

What you want to practice with material like this is really just being able to play more rhythmical and clear melodies. It is also a great way to really start getting those nice syncopated rhythms into your solos.


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