Tag Archives: triad exercises guitar

The Best Triad Exercises – How To Get The Essentials Right

Working on triad exercises is a great way to get more things you can play in your solos, but is also a great way to build your overview of the fretboard and open up how you move from one position to the next in a solo.

In this lesson, I am going to show you 5 triad exercises that were very useful for me and that will develop your playing, fretboard overview, and your technique.

#1 Diatonic Triads – Most Important Triad Exercise

Whatever you want to learn or get better at in Music, a good strategy is to also keep in mind what context you will use it in, and somehow include that in the exercise. It is never really enough to just be able to play something, there is always more going on. To link the triads to scales, positions and inversion then I am going to cover some horizontal, vertical, and diagonal connections that are very useful.

Diatonic Triads

The first place I would suggest that you start working on triads is to practice the diatonic triads in whatever scale positions you are used to.

This is a great way to start seeing those patterns within the scale, and you can use the triad as a part of a lick and easily connect it to other things like 7th chord arpeggios and scale runs.

With knowing these then it is of course also really useful to know what triads you are playing so that you know

  • The Diatonic Harmony of the Scale
  • What Triads are available and will work over other chords

This is the most basic way to practice the triads, but once you work on this I would recommend that you try to also explore the inversions.

Creating Inversions of the triads

Creating inversions of a triad is fairly simple. You have one root position and then 2 inversions. You can create the inversions by moving up the lowest note an octave.

So C major root position: C E G, move up the C one octave and then play from E, G, C  once more now the G is the lowest note: G C E

Taking this through the scale and keeping track of the triad is a great exercise and sounds like this:

Diatonic 1st inversion triads

Another great thing to explore is to play the notes in a pattern to get a different melody out of the triads already when they are technical exercises. This pattern which goes 3rd, root, 5th is a solid melody in solos as well, plus it is easy to play.

Diatonic Triads in 315

Technique For Diatonic Triads

When you are playing these exercises then you can use several techniques. It is not really important and depends more on how you play. I would start with alternate picking, but in the end, adding in economy and legato is a good idea, just make sure to listen to how it sounds, your choices can change the dynamics in the triads and maybe accent something that you don’t want to.

#2 Diatonic Triads Along The Neck

Let’s look at moving up and down the neck to start bridging the gap between positions

Diatonic Triads of C major on the A,D and G string set

Again you want to be aware of the chords you play, and also check out the other string sets like the next on D,G and B

Diatonic Triads of C major on the G,D and B string set

And with these, you can also work on the inversion of course. Here are the 2nd inversion triads along the neck on the top string set:

2nd Inversion Diatonic Triads of C major on the top string set

A Fantastic Alternate Picking Exercise

Working on these one-note-per-string triads is a great way to become more precise and efficient for your right hand when it comes to alternate picking. It is the type of thing that you will see in exercises by Steve Morse and also have jaw-dropping examples of in Bluegrass.

You can of course also work on different economy picking strategies, but maybe that is something for another lesson (once you have practiced your alternate picking a bit more)

#3 Inversions Along The Neck

The next level for your fretboard overview is to start working on inversions of a single chord along the neck. One way to do that could be on a single string set:

C major inversions on A,D, and G string set

And of course, you can do this on other string sets as well.

C major inversions on D, G and B string set

This is great to develop your fretboard knowledge and really know the triads. A good mental exercise is to play the triad inversions and then see the scale around it for each inversion, really linking up the triad and the scale.

#4 Turning Inversions into Vertical Triads

The inversions are a great way to play the triads as flexible groups of notes around the neck, but you can also turn them into a gateway to seeing entire positions of the triad by linking inversions from string set to string set (play inversions horizontally to show the gradually reveal the triad position)

This way of looking at a triad position is useful because it is not just a large block that you run through without thinking. Something that is often an issue with scale and arpeggio positions.

You can make the connection as chords or play them as an inversion exercise

An exercise like this is really about linking all the information so that you have an easier time remembering and using it in solos. Now you have linked the triads across the neck both in a vertical and horizontal way, let’s add a diagonal approach as well.

#5 Repeating Cell-Shapes

If you look at the way the first root position C major triad looked at the beginning of the lesson;

then that is a pattern that is taking up two strings, and the way the guitar works, a pattern like this is easy to move across the fretboard by moving it up an octave and playing the exact same pattern.

And this works for any type of triad and its inversions

EXAMPLE 2nd inversion triad cell

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Jazz Chords – Using Triads in Jazz Comping – Study Guide

You can use triads to play jazz chords, and it is a very powerful tool for this. Triads are very flexible and easy to play while also sounding great as chords. In this playlist, I will go over how you can use the triads you already know to play great sounding jazz progressions using only easy 3-note jazz chords.

We can play a wide range of chords with these 3-note easy jazz chords and they are very easy to add notes to or change notes to give us the extensions or alterations we want.

You can check out the videos here or go through the playlist on YouTube through this link:

Jazz Chords – Using Triads in Jazz Comping – Study Guide

Working with Triads as Jazz Chords and making it a flexible tool

This video discusses how you can work with triads and inversions when comping, showing you how to voice-lead them, use inversions, and add extensions and alterations.

Finding Triads for 7th chords

This video is actually about soloing, but the first few minutes provide a very thorough method for relating triads to a 7th chord.

Playing a Jazz Standard using Triad voicings

In this lesson, I am going to show you how you can get started with some triad voicings. Starting with what you already know and then go over 5 levels, step-by-step, of how you can play some great sounding comping ideas using these amazing voicings.

Applying Triad voicings to a Jazz Blues

This lesson is going over how you find triad voicings for a C jazz blues. You will also learn what you can do with the voicings you find using melodies and inversions.


Other great 3-note Jazz Voicings to Add To Your Vocabulary

When you think about Jazz Chords then you are probably thinking about rich chords with a lot of beautiful extensions. Of course, the rich colors of Jazz are about having chords that are embellished like this. At the same time when you are playing Jazz and when you are comping then you also want to have flexible chords so that you can move from one to the next, create small melodies and 3-note chords are fantastic for this.


Using less common Triad choices on a Maj7 chord

This video is going over 6 triads that I use for my Cmaj7 voicings and will also demonstrate how you can use them in a II V I cadence in C major. At the end of the video, I go over 4 more triads that are a bit tricky to use but also yield more interesting sounds!

Let me know what you think!

These videos give you a path to work on using triads and becoming very flexible with them, is there something you are missing or maybe something else you would like to see?

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Triads – How To Make Them Jazz Chords

In this video, I am going to show you how you can use the triads that you already know as a great way to create some beautiful jazz chords. Starting with material that you already know to open up a vast amount of jazz voicings is a really efficient approach to becoming much freer and begin to create a jazz chord vocabulary, and it is also really great for fretboard knowledge.

It is really interesting to explore how great a tool the triads are as jazz voicings.
I am going to do this in three steps:

  • How To Find Triads You Can Use, in a Practical Way
  • Easily Turn This Into a lot of chords and ideas to play
  • Find Triads for more Complicated Chords with Extensions

Step 1 – Rootless Jazz Voicings for a II V I

If we take a II V I in C major with some very basic jazz chords then we have this:

If I remove the Bass note then I have

Turning Diatonic 7th chords into triad voicings

The same principle use on all the diatonic chords in C major would yield:

And without the root we have these triads that could work as the above chords:

Step 2 – More Triad voicings with inversions

Before looking at adding extensions and alterations to the chords, let’s have a look at how much we can already do with these simple triads.

We now can play a II V I with these rootless, triad-based, but if this F major triad is a good voicing for Dm7 (Example 3) then the inversions of it are as well.

If I do this for the II V I progression I have these 3 ways to play that:

And of course this is just on the middle string set. This works on other string sets as well

Step 3 – Adding Extensions and using other triad types

If you look at a G7b9 voicing spelled out x 10 9 10 9 x or G B F Ab then the top notes of this chord are B F Ab which is, in fact, an F dim triad.

If I inser these into the II V I’s from example 4 then I have:

In the same way a Dm11: 10 x 10 10 8 x or D C F G has the three notes C F G on top. That is a Csus4 triad.

This gives us these II V I examples

And finally we can add a 13th to the Cmaj7: which is the same as playing an Asus4/C which gives us:

If you want to check out more options on using upper-structure triads for Cmaj7, I also have this lesson: 6 Triads for a Cmaj7 Chord (well 10 actually..)

Mix it with Other Chord Types

Check out how Triads work well with other 3-note voicings in this lesson on the changes of Some Day My Prince Will Come.

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Triads – 5 Easy Exercises for Better Solos

You want to include Triads in your Jazz Guitar vocabulary. Triads are some of the stronges melodies we have available and in the video I am going to go over 5 easy exercises to build your triad vocabulary on jazz. For each of the exercises I also have a jazz lick using the pattern so you can hear how it sounds in context.

Of course you are practicing scales and arpeggios but it is difficult to put that into real music. But there are also ways to practice that are a lot easier to put into a solo.  I am also going to talk about how ways practice them and of course give you some examples on how to use them in a solo.

I find that working a bit at these patterns really helps:

  • Making more interesting solo lines
  • Use the things you Practice for technique
  • Have a better overview of arpeggios on the neck
  • Knowing the Scales and music theory

As a small extra feature this also demonstrates some of the places where I use sweeping or economy picking!

Lick #1 – Top Note Targets

As you will see I tend to work mostly on triads in scales, so what is often called diatonic triads. This is because if you check them out there then you have them together with all the other notes you use when you are soloing so it is about understanding the triad, the chord and the scale.

This first example is a pattern that really emphasizes the top note of the triad arpeggio. Since the top note also almost can work as an independent melody this is an easy way to build a strong line just having a simple melody that is harmonized with arepggios.

On a side note you can hear Lage Lund use this pattern quite a lot.

Exercise 1 – Diatonic Arpeggios

Probably the great thing about this pattern is that it really emphasizes the top note, so the rest of the notes almost sound like they are accompanying that note. This means that the melody you hear is mostly the top-notes moving. The large interval skip from the 5 to 1 followed by the ascending arpeggio also gives the line a lot of forward motion.

Altered Scale Triad Pair

Here you have an example of how I might use the top-note pattern. In this II V I lick I am using it starting on the Dm7 and then going on to the G7alt with Bbm and Abm triads.  

Bbm and Abm form a triad pair on a G7alt since they are triads with out common notes:

Abm: Ab B Eb and Bb: Bb Db F

Finding triads for a chord

The way I find the triads that I can use over a chord is by looking at a chord with extensions. As an example you can look at the Dm7 chord, with the stable extensions in C major that would be a Dm(11):


And the process is really just to pick out the triads contained:

Dm: D F A

F: F A C

Am: A C E

C: C E G

Lick #2 – 3rds Distance Cascade3rds distance

This way of playing the triads is useful because you are playing them together so that they fit a chord. If you are improvising over a Dm7 then Dm, F and Am triads all work over that chord.

Having the triads together like this works well for cascading arpeggio ideas combining several triads over one chord.

A useful or practical way to practice this is across the string sets in two different ways

The first approach relies on Economy picking where the second is using legato for the same note set. As you may have noticed in other lessons I use this economy patter quite a lot.

3rds Distance – Legato idea

In this lick the cascading triads are on the Dm7 and then stretching into the G7alt with the Db triad. This way of using the triads also creates a great 3 note grouping.

Lick #3 – Leading Notes

Adding chromatic passing notes to triads is a great way to use them and add some bebop or jazz flavour to the triads.

The exercise here below is taking the diatonic triads in a common 8th fret scale position and add a chromatic leading note before the root.

Chromatic leading notes

The example here below adds a leading note first to the F major triad and then the A minor triad. The G7alt also adds a descending version of the leading note to an Abm triad.

Lick #4 – The Wrong way around

Another variaton that is easy to use is to play the triads ascending through the scale, so Dm, Em, F, G, Am, Bø, C but then play each triad descending.

This exercise is showed on the top string set and notice how I am using economy picking to play the triads.

New Directions for Triads

The lick is using the first three triads from the exercise: Dm, Em and F major and from there going into an altered lick based on an AbmMaj7 arpeggio.

Lick #5 – Arpeggios are melodies

You don’t have to play the notes of the triad in the same order all the time. In this exercise I am changing the order from 1 3 5 to 3 5 1. 

This has two advantages: I t really brings out the 3rd in the triad and of course creates a strong melody.

Creating new triad sounds

This lick is demonstrating how you might use the triads. On the Dm7 I used an F major and an A minor triad.

Notice how the lick has a lot of large intervals and the triads still pull everything together.

Arpeggios and Target notes

A huge part of playing over chord changes is using arpeggios like triads and then thinking ahead so you hit the right target notes in the next chord.

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Triads – How To Make Jazz Licks and what to Practice

Triads are one of the strongest melodies that we have and in this video I am going to show you some triad exercises and how you can use them to make strong and more interesting triad jazz lines. Triads are used all the time in jazz by people from Wes Montgomery to Kurt Rosenwinkel and Lage Lund and everybody else.

Every scale exercise you play should be something that is a melodic building block. It is important to remember that besides playing the right notes you also have to create strong melodies to play a good solo. 

For each of the triad ideas I will go over a lick using the inversion or pattern and I will also give you some exercises that will test your abilities with both triads and scales since some of them are really difficult to play.

Practicing Arpeggios The Right Way

One of the most effective ways to practice your arpeggios is to practice them in the scales as diatonic scale exercises. When you are improvising you are not only thinking of the arpeggio but also about the scale that surrounds, so learning the arpeggios in that context is very important.

Super-Impose Diatonic Triads

This first example is an jazz lick that demonstrates how you can super-impose diatonic triads over the chords in a II V I in C major.

On the Dm7 I am using an F major triad which is the top notes of a Dm7 chord. In general you want to check out what all the triads are against the different notes in the scale. That wil give you a lot of ideas for creating lines with this material.

The G7 bar is using the basic G triad which of course is also a great option for making lines.

Finally the Cmaj7 bar is made entirely out of super-imposed triads. Em followed by Am and finally a G major triad.

Exercises for Basic Diatonic Triads

There are two basic exercises to check out when it comes to triads. The triads in a scale position as shown here below:

And it is also very useful to practice the triads along the neck on a string set:

When playing these exercises then try to keep track of what triads you are playing.

1st Inversion Triads

A good melody to add to your vocabulary is 1st inversion triads. In this example I am using a 1st inversion Dm triad in beginning of the lick. This is followed by a 1st inversion Am triad later in that bar. Notice that the Am triad adds the 9th to the sound: Against D: Am – A(5th), C(b7), E(9th).

On the G7 the triads are coming out of the Altered scale. The first triad is a B augmented triad which is in root position. The next part of the line is a first inversion Db major triad.

For G altered (or Ab melodic minor) we have these diatonic triads:

Gdim, Abm, Bbm, Baug, Db, Eb, Fdim

On the Cmaj7 the line is using first a C major 1st inversion and then an Am first inversion triad.

1st Inversions Triad exercises

A good but also slightly difficult is to play 1st inversion triads through the scale. For me it was very difficult to think triads from the 3rd, but after a few times you also get really used to hearing the melody and the exercise becomes something you can do in the scale by ear.

The 2nd inversion Triad

The melody in example 6 relies heavily on shifting a 2nd inversion triad through first the major scale and then the harmonic minor scale.

I am using C harmonic minor on the G7, which yields a G7(b9,b13). The melodic idea starts on Dm7 with a 2nd inversion Dm triad and then I am adding a diatonic passing chord in the line by using a 2nd inversion Em triad. Adding chord movement in the melody like this can be very useful. Diatonic passing chords are great colours to have in your vocabulary

Inverted Diatonic Triads

Practicing the 2nd inversion triads in the scale position is really where you want to start with this. I always find that the beginning 4th interval in these inversions are great for a signal like sound in a jazz lick.

Melodic Patterns with Triads

As I talked about in the beginning of this lesson, it is important that you consider all these different triad ideas as different melodies. We too easily get caught up in a way of thinking that is only thinking of the colour they add to the harmony and not the melody.4

Therefore playing a triad as 3 1 5 is different from 1 3 5, and working with this will give you a lot of great options. A bonus feature is also that it makes sense as a melody but does not sound like a typical triad.

The first part of the Dm7 is again using the F major triad, but now in the 3 1 5 pattern. This is followed by a sus4 triad.

On the G7alt the line is using first an F and then a G diminished triad in 3 5 1 pattern. Notic how it does not really sound like a triad and has a lot of interesting skips because of the 5th interval from 5 to 1 in this pattern.

The Cmaj7 bar has an Am triad in a 3 1 5 pattern.

Practicing Melodic Patterns

Again it can be challenging to take a pattern like this through the scale, but it is a good exercise.

Picking Technique Challenge!

Spread triads or open voiced triads are a fantastic way to add larger intervals to your lines and still sound melodic. They are however a bit tricky to play since they consist of only large intervals. Spread Triads will work great both as arpeggios and as chords

The example starts with a Dm 1st inversion open voiced triad followed by a descending scale run.

The construction of the G7alt line is similar since it opens with an Eb 1st inversion spread triad. The Eb major triad is very colourful against the G7: Eb(b13), G(root), Bb(#9).

The Cmaj7 bar has a G major triad which is also played as a 1st inversion open-voiced or spread triad.

Triad Exercises from Hell!

Practicing Spread Triads is difficult for your right hand. I’d suggest you start by learning some basic inversions first:

And then also try to experiment with moving these through the scale like this:

Take Your Soloing to the next level

For me this was the best strategy to learn how to improvise over chord changes and really nail all the fast moving scales and chords. Using target notes was a huge help in thinking ahead and playing sensible melodies that move in a logical way to the next chord.

It is also the approach that has helped a lot of my students in getting this essential skill into their playing.

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