Tag Archives: triads jazz

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 on a G7 – The Most Important Solo Tool

When you start to play jazz it is easy to get completely lost in extensions, alterations and chord substitutions. And while that is also a part of jazz then it is often much more useful to work on more simple things like what Triads you can use on a dominant chord.

To demonstrate some of triads you can use in a Jazz Blues solo and also talk about different ways to use them I have written a one chorus solo on a Blues in G which will illustrate a lot of options in terms of triad options for a lot of the chords in there.

The G Jazz Blues Solo

As you can see in the video the first thing to check out is the solo. If you can then go through the solo now and mark down the different triads you see. Not all phrases are pased on triads, but most of them are.

The Basic triads on a G7(9,13)

The first bar is a phrase made with a root position G major triad, sliding up to the 3rd and then playing first the root and then the 5th that I repeat.

You want to check out how to use the G triad on a G7, especially for a G jazz blues, but make sure to also work on how to play different melodies with it by learning the triad notes in different order or checking out inversions.

If you want to hear somebody use triads well then listen to Charlie Parker or John Coltrane (not the smallest names in Jazz..)

An overview of the triads on a G7 can be made by looking at the G7 with all extensions, similar to stacking the scale in 3rds from G:

G B D F A C E – G7(9,11,13)

G B D – G major

B D F – Bdim

D F A – Dm

F A C – F major

E G B – Em

Am and C major have too much of a “C” sound to really work well on G7. If you want to check out some more ideas for triads then this article might be helpful: Triads – How To Make Jazz Licks and what to Practice

The line on the C7 is not based on a triad.

In Bar 3 the opening phrase is developed using a similar but extended version of the melody. Now the triad used is the one from the 3rd of the chord: B dim.

This is developed further moving up to a Dm triad in bar 4. From there the melody is with a Db triad. The triad of the tritone substitute: Db7.

The IVth degree and the #IV dim chord.

On the C7 the melody is constructed of the triad on the 5th: Gm and on the C#dim the triad is on C#dim. Of course all 4 dim triads could work: C#,E,G and Bb.

Returning to the G7 the melody is constructed from a descending F major. With the F major triad you need to be a little careful with the C so that it still sounds like a G7. In this case I am moving the melody to a B.

On the Bø E7 is played using the triad from the 3rd of Bø: Dm and the one on the b9: Fdim

The Final Cadence and two Triad Combinations

The Final II V: Am7 D7 is using combinations of triads. The Em and C triads on the Am7. In this case this is not a triad pair since a triad pair is made up of triads that have no common notes. If you want to explore triad pairs then this lesson might be useful: Traid Pairs Part 1

On the D7al the triads are Ab and Ebm. The Ebm is neatly resolving to the triad on the 13th of G7: Em.

The melody on the D7alt and G7 is repeated and developed on the D7 into a D augmented triad.

Give you Jazz Blues playing a Boost

If you want to get some new ideas for you blues soloing and check out how I phrase on a medium Bb Blues then check out this lesson based on a transcribed 4 chorus solo. Discussing arpeggios, blues phrasing and pentatonic scales.

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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):

D F A C E G

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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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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