Tag Archives: upper structure

The Craziest Arpeggios & How You Make Beautiful Jazz Guitar Sounds With Them

In this lesson I am going to talk about some of the Craziest Arpeggios I know. If you are familiar with my lessons you probably know that I like to use jazz chords like, drop2, shell or quartal voicings as arpeggios. The arpeggios I am going to discuss in this lesson are extended range arpeggios that are constructed by stacking different types of structures on top of each other.

Extended range arpeggios

These extended arpeggios have an Allan Holdsworth or Mark Turner like sound to me.

Since the arpeggios are made by combining different types of structures I think the easiest way to demonstrate them is to go over some examples and talk about how they are constructed.  

A modal example

In example 1, here below I am using an extended range Am7 arpeggio in bar 2. As you can see the arpeggio is constructed of two parts, a lower and a higher part. The lower part is closely related to the chord, it’s an Am triad in open voicing, and the higher is adding the extensions and colors since it is a D quartal arpeggio that adds the b7, 11 and repeats the 3rd.

Extended range Altered Dominant!

This line is on a II V I in G major. The Am7 is fairly standard. I am using an extended range arpeggio for the altered dominant. In this example the lower part is a drop2 D7(b5) arpeggio and the higher part is an upper-structure triad: Fm. The Fm triad yields a b5, b7 and #9 over the D7 so that fits extremely well with the D7alt sound.  

Using the arpeggio on an IIm7 chord.

In the 3rd example the line on the II chord in the II V I is an extended range arpeggio. The arpeggio is here constructed of a lower Am7 drop2 voicing and then a Bsus4 triad, which gives us a total of an Am7(9,13) voicing. The Valt line is vaguely coming from an Ab and Bb major triad pair.

I chose to use a 12/8 feel to vary the examples a little.

Extended range arpeggios in Chord Melody arrangements

Another way of using the arpeggios is to spell out chord sounds in a chord melody arrangement. On guitar it can often be difficult to play chords with a lot of notes in them because we only have six strings (let’s face it… it is true)

Using the arpeggios to spell out the sound can be very effective as shown in the example below which is the first 4 bars of Stella by Starlight.

The first arpeggio is an Em7b5(11) voicing that consists of an Edim triad (with the Bb in the bass) and a Dsus4 triad voicing. On the Cm7 I am first playing an Cm11 chord and then using an arpeggiated version of what is sometimes referred to as the Herbie Hancock m11 voicing. It is in fact a Cm7(11) voicing with a Bb major triad upper-structure  

Poly Tonal arpeggio sound

A final example is using the arpeggios for more exotic sounds. The 5th example is on using an augmented scale over a Gmaj7#5 chord.

The G augmented scale consists of the notes of the G, B and Eb major triads. In the line I am using an arpeggio that is the combination of a lower Gmaj7 drop2 voicing and over that an EbmMaj7 arpeggio. Two structures that are not that closely related away from the augmented scale or Messiaen modes.

The inspiration

The Idea for these arpeggios came from checking out a Jacob Collier interview where he is singing some piano voicings and then I started messing around with piano voicings and making my own constructions. I hope my examples somewhat illustrated this.


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You can also download the PDF of my examples here:

The Craziest Arpeggio I know

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for topics or how I can make the lessons better 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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Triads – Easy 3 note Jazz Chords

Using triads to play jazz chords a very powerful tool. We can play a wide range of chords and they are very easy to add notes to or change notes to give us the extensions or alterations we want.

It’s a very practical and guitaristic approach but also one that I on guitar is often very practical and beautiful in a lot of musical settings.


Finding triads for each chord

Take a look at these these Cmaj7 voicings which are all an E minor triad over a C bass note.


So if we take the Cmaj7: We get these notes: C E G B so that’s a C and an E minor triad, and we can use it like that when we are comping or soloing.

Now take a look at the diatonic chords in C major:


So if you want to play the chord but not the root, you can use the triad from the 3rd. Using this concept we have these triads to play in C major:

  • Cmaj7: E minor triad
  • Dm7: F major triad
  • Em7: G major triad
  • Fmaj7: A minor triad
  • G7: Bdim triad
  • Am7: C major triad
  • Bm7b5: D minor triad.

So if you know how a chord is constructed it is easy to figure out what triad you can use to play that chord. There’s another concept that is closely related to this which is called upper-structure triads. The idea behind this is that you use a triad as the extension part of a chord to have a strong sounding voicing or melody, but that’s a little more complicated theoretically and for another lesson.

The advantage to this approach it is an easy way to play rootless chords and fever notes makes it more flexible for adding notes and making melodies within the chords.

Triad exercises – Technique

The basic exercise you need for this is to learn the triads in inversions on every set of three strings. When using them as chords I play them 90% of the time on the two top sets, but since triads are such a basic resource that you need for soloing as well as chords I’ve chosen to demonstrate all three types of triads that are found in the major scale on all string sets:


Basic II V I cadences

Of course you can make a lot more exercises with the triads, playing them in scales and different voiceleading or melodic ideas but for now I just cover the basics. You should check it out in diatonic situations, and work it through songs since triads are one of the fundamental building blocks in most kinds of music.

George van Eps has written a lot of exercises with triads in his books everything with fingerings and in all keys, worthwhile checking out and practicing from.

Let’s continue by playing a few cadences in C, so Dm7, G7, Cmaj7:


Adding extensions and alterations to the jazz chords

To make this approach work we also need to have a way to deal with altered dominants. For that I use the approach that I also talked about in my lesson on diatonic arpeggios: Altered chords and superimposing Namely taking the upper part of the tritone substitute and used that on an altered dominant.


Another way to say that is: Altered dominants: use the dim chord from the 7th degree: G7alt: F dim: F Ab B which is 7,b9,3rd

You can use some of the same substitution rules as I explained in on of the drop2 lessons, so
13 instead of 5 (example: G7/Bdim), b5 instead of 5 and to make a sus4 chord you can suspend the 3rd with the 4th.


For minor chords: 11th instead of 5th or #11 instead of 5 on major 7th chords (you could also see that as a sus4 triad in inversion being used over a C bass note, but since I did not talk about sus4 triads and inversions I won’t go furter into that. The last example is how to replace the 7th with the 6th.


 Putting it to use

Just so you get an idea about how I incorporate it, here’s an example over a trusted old I IV II V with altered dominants: Dm7 G7alt Cmaj7 A7alt

You might notice that I am trying to play with the different voices within the chords because the triad approach lends itself to this very well.


I hope you can use the material and the ideas I went over here to start using Triads in your own comping and chord melody playing. As I already mentioned it is something that I use really a lot because it is flexible and lends it self well to most situations.

If you want some more examples of how I use triad based voicings in the context of a standard you can check out the lesson here below:

Comping Etude – How High The Moon

If you want to study the examples I went over in the lesson you can of course also download them as a pdf here:


If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for topics or how I can make the lessons better then please feel free to leave 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 want to hear.

Please subscribe to my YouTube channel and feel free to connect with me via Instagram,Twitter Google+ or Facebook to keep up to date with new lessons, concerts and releases.



C Jazz Blues with triad voicings

Playing chords on a jazz progression can be quite complicated, and the voice leading, the extensions and alterations makes us forget about making music. Using triads for chords is a very practical and easy way to play full chords and still have a lot of flexibility to interact with the rest of the band. This lesson is going over how you find triad voicings for a C jazz blues and also demonstrating what you can do with the voicings you find using melodies and inversions.

Basic triad voicings

To demonstrate how easily you can use the triads as chords in a blues I have written out a chorus of voicings in example 1. I play the chorus in the videos, and you should notice that I don’t use the simple rhythm that I’ve written, but interpret that freely. I am however only using the voicings in example 1.

C Jazz Blues with triad voicings - ex 1

The way I find the triad voicings is quite simple and an approach that is almost always coming back in both comping and improvisation lessons:

A C7 chord consists of the notes C E G Bb. If we take away the C we are left with the notes E G and Bb which spell out an E diminished triad.  This way of looking at the diatonic triad found on the 3rd of the chord is how I find most of the triads.

The only exception in this lesson is the dom7th(b9) chords. Here I take an common C7(b9) voicing: C E Bb Db and if we take the C away we are left with the notes E Bb Db, which is infact an inversion of a Bb diminished triad. The conclusion is that we can use the diminished triad found on the 7th for dom7th(b9) chords.

I have written out the reasoning on the guitar with first a C7 and then a C7(b9) voicing in example 2

C Jazz Blues with triad voicings - ex 2

So now that we can find triads for all the chords we can of course also invert them.

In this lesson I have kept everything on the middle string set (D,G,B) just to keep it simple and also because that is the place where they are the most effective.

In example 3 I have written out the chords with inversions:

C7 – Edim

F7 – Adim

Dm7 – Fmajor

G7 – Bdim

F#dim – Ebdim 

C7(b9) –  Bbdim

G7(b9) – Fdim

Em7(b5) – Gm

C Jazz Blues with triad voicings - ex 3

The only one that takes a little explaining is the Ebdim triad over the F#dim(7) chord. Since F# dim is F# A C Eb the one note that is in both the chord before and the chord following it is the C, so I leave that out and have: F# A Eb Which is an inversion of and Ebdim triad.

I left the A7 and the Gm7 voicings for you to figure out by yourself, it’s a good exercise!

Adding melody to the triads

Now that we have triad voicings for all the chords we can start working on adding melodies. I think my approach to this is really simple, for each of the triad inversions we can use the voicing and also use the neighbouring notes in the scale to make melodies. If you look at the first bar of example 4 you can see that I am using an E dim triad over the C7 but then changing the melody from G to Bb and A. A similar idea is used over the F7 where the A top note is replaced with a G in a melodic movement.

To work this out you need to be able to work out what scale fits the chord and you need to be able to play that scale on the B string.

To list some examples of which scales I use:

C7 – Fmajor (or C mixolydian if that works better for you)

F7 – Bbmajor

Gm7 – Fmajor

C7b9 – F harmonic minor.

F#dim – G harmonic minor

Em7(b5) – Fmajor

A7 – D harmonic minor

The final example is a blues chorus with some rhythmical and melodic variations added. If you work your way through it you should be able to figure it out without too much trouble.

C Jazz Blues with triad voicings - ex 4

I think the chorus in example 4 is so busy that it is almost a solo, but it will work as a comp example, and it also demonstrates a lot of the options available with this approach.

I hope you can use the material I went over here to get some flexible and effective voicings into your vocabulary. If you want to check out more on triad voicings you can check out my lesson : III VI II V I with triads

If you want to check out some mote chords and learn some drop2 voicings you can also check out my WebStore lesson:

F Blues Comping Etude #1


If you want to study the examples away from the video or article you can download a pdf here:

C Jazz Blues with triad voicings

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for topics or how I can make the lessons better then please feel free to leave 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 want to hear.

Please subscribe to my YouTube channel and feel free to connect with me via Instagram,Twitter Google+ or Facebook to keep up to date with new lessons, concerts and releases.