Tag Archives: triads guitar exercises

7 Reasons The Major Triad Is The Most Important Arpeggio

Triads are often underrated! You try to get away from using triads because they are too simple and boring. It becomes about playing the hippest extension and the most glorious superimposed arpeggio. But often the triad, and especially the major triad is a way to get those notes to make sense. If you solo only focusing on what extensions you are playing without thinking about making it melodic, you will not sound great, and triads can help you fix that!

Let’s check out how to use triads to create Bebop lines, Some Jazz Blues, and play melodic upper structures even a bit of outside symmetrical stuff. It is really the entire spectrum!

How well do you know your triads?

I am not 100% sure I practiced triads in positions, that is anyway not how I use them. Most of the time it makes a lot more sense to practice things in a context, so for me, what mostly worked was practicing triads in scales, and you will see why that connection is very important later:

and the same thing along the neck is useful, but remember to see those shapes on the neck as well to be able to think of the triad as one thing AND as 3 separate notes.

but it can also be useful to practice them in chord progressions like inversions of a IV V I cadence:

there are many more exercises you can do, and if you have a great suggestion then let us know in the comments!

#1 Bebop Triads!

There are two very important things you need to be aware of when it comes to triads:

  1. Major Triads are incredibly strong melodies, and so are the inversions.
  2. Because they are strong they also work when they are the foundation of a line that includes other notes.

You will see plenty of examples of both, but because it is an important skill to be able to take a triad, and add a few notes to turn it into a great jazz lick, then that is the place to start. Later in the video the examples of outside use often work better using the pure triad melodies, so that is coming up as well.

I’ll get to some famous examples of this in a bit. But check out how much you can do with a simple C major triad:

Try to play it descending

and just adding notes from the scale you can start to create lines that are based on the C major triad but have much more of a Bebop flow:

Doing this you immediately see why you want to practice triads in the context of a scale, you need those notes as well when you are soloing. And if you go all Jazz, and add chromatic enclosures and passing notes to the triad then you get beautiful Bebop vocabulary:

The method is pretty simple: You have the triad and then you add either a diatonic or chromatic melody that targets a note in the triad, the possibilities are almost endless. Here’s another one

And even though there are all these extra notes it is still working because the basic structure is that major triad. Here’s a very famous example of this from Charlie Parker’s solo on Billie’s Bounce. He is using an F major triad with a few leading notes:

I’ll get to a George Benson example in a bit.

#2 The Most Basic Upper-Structure

Major triad upper structures: Let’s start with a chord. Here’s an Am7:

If you leave out the bass note then you get a C major triad:

Of course, this is true for any 7th chord: If you take away the root you have a triad, but in this case, I will focus on the m7 chord where you get a major triad.

I’ll show you how to use this in a solo, but you also want to keep in mind that if you have a C major triad as a rootless Am7

then you immediately have 3 great Am7 voicings:

But there are some great solo ideas from this as well!

Check out this George Benson lick, which is, oddly enough, also from a solo on Billie’s Bounce

And if you want to explore this then you can of course add chromatic and diatonic phrases to the triad to give it a bit more Bebop flavour like this II V lick:

But the Major triad is also the core part of A LOT if not most Jazz Blues Licks.

#3 Triad Jazz Blues Rules!

A great recipe for a Jazz Blues lick is a major triad plus a few grace notes played as slides, hammer-ons, and pull-offs it is by far the easiest way to create some amazing Jazz Blues!

This is all coming from the major triad with a few grace notes and an enclosure, so sliding into notes:

and using this enclosure of the 3rd of the chord

#4 The Triad has 3 Melodies

You may have heard me talk about how inversions of 7th-chord arpeggios are not used in Jazz solos very often, which is sometimes a hot take.. But luckily that is not the case for triads there all the inversions are great!

For the C major triad you have these 3 inversions:

And these work for solos as well. Like this Blues lick using the 2nd inversion:

Or a II V using the 1st inversion C major triad for the Am7 chord, following what I just covered about upper structures:

So you can also explore that if you are looking for new things to play!

#5 An Introduction to Altered Dominants

The altered scale can be a mysterious and difficult sound to get into, and it can be good to start with some chords so that you can hear what the sound is. For a II V I in C major with a G7 altered you could play:

And triads can be a great introduction to creating solo lines over an altered dominant. In this case, the triad from the b5: Db major is a great option.

Check out this this line with an F major triad on Dm7 and the Db major triad on G7alt:

And all that is happening on the G7alt is the Db major triad and a scale run in G altered which is the same set of notes as Ab melodic minor. The advantage is that you have the Db triad to make it a melody and not just running up and down a scale that is more theory than music. Here’s another example:

Notice how I am not mixing in so many notes with the triad here, because that happens in the next section as well, which is about using the triads as shifting colors on a dominant chord.

#6 The Diminished Triad Flow

The altered scale is one of two scale sounds that are difficult to get to work when you are beginning with Jazz, and the other one is using the diminished scale over dominants, sometimes referred to as half-whole diminished.

Luckily Major triads can solve all your problems!

For a G7 then the diminished scale you would play is this:

G Ab Bb B Db D E F G

And using these triads will give you much more interesting solos compared to running up and down the scale which is such a boring sound:

The chords that sound like this scale are G7 with a b9, a 13th and maybe a b5. It’s a complicated but also really beautiful.

Mixing up two triads like E and Bb major gives you some very beautiful lines, and it is really just about finding playable melodies using the triad inversions, like this:

And because the scale is symmetrical then you can move the G7 line around in minor 3rds and get other useable licks, like this one a minor 3rd higher which mixes G and Db major triads:

Now you let’s check out a great way to shift outside over a maj7 or a m7 chord!

#7 Outside Symmetry

On the dominant chords you can use the major triads in minor 3rd distance, but if you want a similar trick for maj7 chords then look at major triads in major 3rd distance. For Cmaj7 then you get these 3 triads:

C major: C E G

E major: E G# B

Ab major: Ab (G#) C Eb

And if you put these 3 together then you get a symmetrical 6-note scale: the Augmented scale, but the best lines for that are using the triads, check out the sound, it is a bit spacy but also quite beautiful:

And, of course, you can also put the 3 triads together in a descending melody:

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And as a bonus: since C major is an upper-structure of Am7 you can also use these 3 triads on Am7 chords, even if the scale doesn’t have an A:

I Wish Every Jazz Beginner Would Start Here

With any arpeggio based-lick you create and learn to play it is not only knowing the arpeggio, it is much more important what you can do with the arpeggio, and it doesn’t matter if it is a triad or a 7th chord or anything else. You want to develop the skills that help you turn the arpeggios into great lines. That is also the only way to get the things in this video to sound great and those skills give you tons of options. I talk about developing skills like that in this video starting from the very beginning but also focusing on the most important things to get right! Check it out!

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