The Triad we never talk about – but we play it all the time!

Triads are very important to jazz guitar and jazz in general! We use triads for chords and in solo lines all the time, basic arpeggios, upper-structures, triad pairs are all standard terms in jazz. That is what this lesson is about. The main categories of triads are major, minor, diminished, augmented and sus4 triads. But there is one more triad that we use very often but don’t really talk about.

Identifying the triad new type

Let’s first talk about where we come across the triad. To illustrate this, I have written out two examples of cadences. Both are very common and I am sure you have played them or something very similar at some point.

In the first cadence, the triad is used for the Cm6 chord. The voicing is A Eb G and we could describe this as an Eb major triad with a b5.

The second cadence has a B major b5 triad on the G7alt: B Eb F (which could also be written B D# F).

In Dutch this is called “hard verminderd” but there is, as far as I know, no name for them in English or Danish.

As you can see we use it all the time so it is a bit strange that it doesn’t have a name or category of it’s own.

Using the Major b5 Triad for chords.

In order to use the triad it is useful to learn some inversion of it on the neck.

To give you a good start for this I have written out C major b5 on the E,B,G and B,G D string sets.

As you can tell in the video I use the b5 triad as the following chords:

Am6, D7(9), Ab7alt, B7sus4(b9), F#m7b5.

Using the major b5 triad in an Am6 context

To put the C major b5 triad to use as an Am6 here’s a standard A minor cadence:

The voicings are all root-less. Here we have a Dm triad as a voicing of Bø, a D diminished triad for E(b9) and the C major b5 triad for Am6.

The Dom7th(9) Voicing.

This example is illustrating how you can take a C major triad and use that for Am7, then C major b5 for D7(9) and then that resolves nicely to a Gmaj7 chord. Here voiced with a Bm triad.

Altered dom7ths

Since we have a D7(9) voicing we can of course also consider that a voicing for the tritone substitute Ab7. In that case we have an Ab7 altered with a b13. In this example I am using that voicing in a II V I in Db major.

Using the Major b5 triad in solos.

Of course, there are also some great applications when it comes to using this triad in a solo.
Again, it is probably best to start with learning to play the arpeggio. There are many ways you can do this. Here I have chosen to focus on two. The firs example is using the nature of the guitar where we can play the triad on a set of two string and then repeat the pattern up the string stets. This is the first example written out in example 7
The 2nd example is using a more strict position, so now the focus is on keeping it in the 8th position.

When making your own triad fingerings you should probably use whatever system you are already used to and alter the major triad with a b5 to come up with new fingerings. That way you can rely more on what you already know.

The Altered Scale and Major b5 triads

In this example, the II line consists of a Bb major triad and a scale run. The C7 altered line is first the C major b5 arpeggio and then a scale run in the C altered scale that is resolved to the 3rd(A) of Fmaj7.

In the C altered scale we have 3 major b5 triads as shown In example 9: E, Gb and C major b5 triads.

This is shown in ex 9

The Diminished scale and it’s major b5 triads

Here the Major b5 triad is used as it is found in a Diminished scale.

The Diminished scale that we associate with C7 is: C Db Eb E Gb G A Bb C.

The Major b5 triads that we can make there are on C, Eb, Gb and A

In the example I again use a Bb major triad and a small scale fragment on the Gm7 chord.

The C7 line is created combining a C and an A major b5 triad and then the last two notes lets it resolve to the Fmaj7 chord

The Tonic minor arpeggio

Since the C major b5 is a great voicing for an Am6 then we can of course also use it as an arpeggio in a line.

In the exampl, here above, I am playing a fairly basic II V I in A minor that I resolve to a small melodic idea using a C major b5 before finally ending on the 9th of the Am chord.

As I mentioned in the C7 altered line the melodic minor scale has a major b5 triad in 3 places. For A melodic minor that gives us G#, C and D. Theses are shown in Ex 13

The trick to get this into your playing is probably to rely on that you already use it in a lot of contexts and therefore you are used to them and can use the ideas I went over here to just broaden the amount of places that you can put it to use. This goes for both using as a chord voicing and as an arpeggio.

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The Triad we never talk about – but we play it all the time!

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