Tag Archives: triad inversions guitar

Triads – You Are Missing 3 Skills In Getting The Most Out Of Them

Triads are essential building blocks in the strongest solos and melodies, and you want to make sure that you not to miss some of the great ways they can be put to use.

You already know that even though Jazz is mostly using chords with a lot of notes and extensions then triad melodies are still incredibly strong and something that should be a core part of your playing.

It doesn’t matter if you look at a Parker Lick – Parker Billie’s bounce lick

Or classical music – Mozart or Beethoven

The triads are always in there and they should be in your playing as well.

Getting Your Triad Practice Right

There are probably two ways that you are practicing triads:

In positions, playing the triad across a position, hopefully visualizing or keeping in mind what scale it is found in (voice-over)

The other way that you want to practice triads is by playing diatonic triads

This exercise will help you find all the triads in the scale and give you an overview of the harmony.

Both of these are great ways to work on the material, but not directly help you use them in solos and what is more important: a lot of very useful triad melodies are also left out, so let’s fix that.

Practice All The Melodies

One of the most common triad melodies both in Bebop themes and solos is the 2nd inversion triad. You have clear examples of this in Anthropology.

or Blue Bird :

And the 1st inversion major triad is also great for solo lines like this:

So if you are not practicing those then you are leaving A LOT of great melodies out of your vocabulary.

It is not that difficult to get used to playing the inversion so that you can start incorporating them into your playing, and actually it is also a great exercise for your ear, and the connection between what you hear and what you play.

Incorporating the inversion into a triad position would mean playing it like this:

But working through the triad inversions in a scale position is a great exercise for quite a few things:

So of course, just playing these is already giving helping you be more flexible with what you can play in the scale, but it is also introducing some string skipping,

but maybe the most useful part of the exercise is that you take a predictable 3-note melody and then try to play that through the scale.

When I start working on this then I am not really thinking about which notes or which triad I am playing, as much as I am hearing a melody and then hearing it move up through the scale. This may sound a bit vague, but it is actually a great exercise that will help you become better at playing melodies by ear. If you have never tried this before then take 3rds through a scale, and notice how your ear will tell you if you are playing the right notes or not.

Now that you know the triad and the inversions then you want to start getting this into your playing.

The Power Of Simplicity

An important part of how we use triads in Jazz is as upper structures, mainly because it ties together extensions in a strong sound and make the chord or melody make more sense, similar to this line and I will talk about how you can use triads like this later in the video, but this is not the strongest melodic tool when it comes to triads.

The first thing you want to do is to become better at making lines based on the basic triads and then really get good at using those in a creative way so that your skills are already in place when you move up into the thin air of more tricky extensions.

If you think about the Charlie Parker Lick from Billie’s Bounce that I used in the beginning then that is using an F major triad over an F7. Another way that Parker uses the F major triad is in the opening of the solo:

So, as you can see, it really pays off to start making lines that are using the basic root triad and also do more than just play it up and down, but use it as a skeleton for the melody you want to play.

For example, you can use scale notes as passing notes as I do on the Dm7 and the Cmaj7 here:

And because the triad is such a strong melody then you can also change the order of the notes and skip around more, as I do on the Dm7 here:

So if you find something that works, like the Dm triad melody here then try to explore using it in different ways like playing it backward:

Or explore how changing the order of the notes sound:

There are some great melodies in there for you to discover.

The easiest way to start doing this is to play the triad and then add a scale note between the notes in that inversion:

For the root position C major triad, you can add either a D or an F between the triad notes, for the first inversion then you can add the F between the E and the G, and for the 2nd inversion you would add the D between C and E.

This is just how you start, and in the end, you can, of course, do a lot more. The reason for starting here is just that it makes it easier to keep the sound of the triad in there.

But triads are also great for adding extensions and colors but also how it helps with some strong melodies.

Shifting Colors On Top

There are two levels to using upper structures. First, let’s look at how you can use a system to create shifting lines and the second is creating a flow of shifting colors on a single chord.

The best way to understand this is to look at the available triads over a Dm7. That is easy if you write out the scale in 3rds from D.

This gives you Dm F Am C triads, the rest are not directly useful for the sound of the chord.

You can build the same thing for G7 altered, for voice-leading purposes then I am starting on Db, but the result is as you will see, the same:

That gives you: Db Fdim Abm Baug Eb and Gdim and Bbm. For the G altered chord then pretty much everything will work, so there are more options.

In the line then you can see how I am using an Am triad over Dm7 and then moving that to Abm on G7 altered, so I am really just voice-leading or shifting the upper structure triad to create the lick.

You can even do this moving up from Am instead of down so you go to Bbm:

What is Better Than One Triad?

The previous example was using two triads on the G7 altered: Bbm and B augmented, and constructing melodies like this is a great way to create interesting lines and also often lines that span a larger range.

For the G7altered this is equal to the sound you get if you change several notes in the chord

The easiest way to get a triad pair like this is to just take two triads that are next to each other. Because, this works better if there are no common notes between the two triads, especially for the next approach to creating melodies.

A basic version of this type of lick using Abm and Bbm triads on G7altered could be something like this:

You can see how the Dm7 lick is also using an Am triad and that helps make that transition stronger.

Another way to make more adventurous lines is to work with melodies that connect inversions of the triads.

If you take B augmented and Db on the G7 altered then that could give you something like this:

Modern Jazz Sounds

An incredibly useful tool that, like triads, can really add something to your soloing is using pentatonics in your jazz lines. In this video, you can see how pentatonic scales can create completely different sounding melodies and how to put them to use on pretty much any type of chord. This approach is a great shortcut to a more modern sound in your playing.

7 Pentatonic Tricks That Will Make You Play Better Jazz Solos

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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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If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for topics then please let me know. Leave a comment 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 are searching for.

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