Stop Being Lazy With Your Triads (Jazz Guitar Secrets)

Triads are only 3 notes but you can use them in so many ways for both comping and solos.

If someone asked me what 3 things are most important to learn for your solos, Triads would be on that list!

Often people hear triads and just think about campfire chords and country music, but I am going to show you how much you can use triads when it comes to Jazz.

Let’s start with some chords:

#1 Triads Are Great Jazz Chords

On-screen: chord progression arrow written out chords(fancy)

Playing Jazz Chords is about taking a chord progression and turning it into exciting and beautiful harmony that fits the song, therefore you want to have flexible chords, and here, triads are a fantastic option.

Let’s say you have this

That’s Dm7, G7 and Cmaj7.

For all of these chords then if you take away the root you get a triad:

Dm7 becomes, F major, G7 becomes Bdim and Cmaj7, E minor

And the 3 note voicings are a lot easier to play, and you can do stuff like this:

But before we get into using triads for soloing, you can actually take this a step further, with something that I think is often overlooked:

#2 Open Triads Are Amazing Chords!

The basic triads that you just saw can do a lot of great things, but don’t forget to also check out the open triads which are also easy to play but gives you a different sound.

The method is pretty simple:

The Open triad version of an F major triad gives you these 3 inversions:

And using these on a II V I sounds beautiful and is a really nice, but more unusual way to use 3-note chords

And you can do this on the other inversions as well

and since it is only 3 notes you can also easily add some extra things to embellish the progression:

But it is not all comping, and triads are solid for soloing as well!

#3 Getting Free From Scale Melodies

One of the most boring types of melodies is to just play scales in your solos:

Example 4

And both triads and arpeggios are great ways to fix this, so you want to practice your scales in diatonic triads:

and like this, you have a connection between the scale and the triads,

so using the same triads I used with the chords: F major, Bdim, and Em then you can create lines like this:


But you don’t want to forget to also check this out in other scales than the major scale. Diatonic triads in Melodic minor are incredibly useful as well, and there is actually a nice trick to using them that I’ll show you.

Here are the triads for Ab melodic minor which is what you use for G7 altered.

With this you don’t have to only play altered licks like this:

Instead, you can use a B augmented and an F dim triad,

and actually, also make a line that fits over some other chords as well:

The beauty of melodic minor is that if you move up the altered lick a half-step then you have a great lick for an Am6 chord:

So knowing your diatonic triads in other scales will give you a lot of different sounds and melodies.

#4 This is REALLY knowing your triads

Now you have the diatonic triads that you can use but you are actually still missing something. Listen to Wes, just using a Dm triad on a Dm chord:

Here Wes is using the 2nd inversion of the Dm triad.

And you want to start practicing both 1st and 2nd inversions of the triads as well, not only as exercises like this

But also in make some lines, mainly just because they are incredibly strong melodies that you can use for a lot of nice things. Here is an example using the same Dm 2nd inversion triad on a II V I in C major:

Let’s look at another way to work on creative melodies with triads.

#5 Getting Melodic

Triads are amazingly strong melodies, but you want to take advantage of the fact that they are only 3 notes and therefore also very flexible and easy to do things with.

So instead of just playing up and down the triad all the time like this

Then you also want to be able to turn them into something like this:

In this line the triads are played in different patterns for the F major (partly voiceover slow version), B diminished, and Em triads. Still just using those basic choices. that I showed you at the beginning

And it really pays off to work on taking some of these patterns through the diatonic triads in exercises to get them into your ear and into your fingers. Here is an exercise using the melody I used on the B dim triad:

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