Triad pairs in the altered scale

Making good melodies on altered dominants is often a tricky business. One strong approach is to use triad pairs to make some strong yet surprising melodies.

One of the advantages to using triad pairs over altered dominants is that triads are by themself already quite strong melodies. Another advantage is that the triads are excellent tools to pull out and emphasize certain extensions over a dominant.

I have already made a few lessons on Triad Pairs. You can check out one here: Triad Pairs – part 1

The scale and the triads

In this lesson all the triad pair examples are on a C7 altered chord and therefore using the C altered or Db melodic minor scale as shown in Example 1

Triad pairs in the altered scale - ex 1

To get used to the triads one of the first things that it would make sense to practice is to play the scale in diatonic triads, which is what I have written out in Example 2

Triad pairs in the altered scale - ex 2

Choosing a triad pair

Since we are using triad pairs with no common notes it is not too difficult to find triad pairs in a 7 note scale. The two triads will contain 6 notes. This means that we can just take out a note, and then you have the two triads on the following two notes.

As an example: If we take out the C in the Db mel minor scale we have two triads left: Dbm and Ebm.

Since we want to have some freedom in making melodies with the triads it is important to also have be able to play the inversions of the triads. In Example 3 I have written out the triad inversions of Dbm and Ebm in the position that we are working in.

Triad pairs in the altered scale - ex 3

Another exercise that I do that I find very useful and which is also helping you not only lean the triads and their inversions but also helps getting started making lines with the triads.

The idea is to just improvise and then after playing one triad try to move to a close triad inversion and then keep playing. It forces you to think ahead and also to try out some combinations of triads that you can then later use in lines. I’ve written out a bit of how I demonstrate this in the video in Example 4.

Triad pairs in the altered scale - ex 4

Making altered dominant lines with Triad pairs

In the examples I am going to use a few different triad pairs to demonstrate some of the different sounds you have available. I won’t go over exercises like I did with the first pair, but the exercises would be just the same.

In the first line I am using the Dbm, Ebm triad pair. The line on the Gm7 is using an inversion of the Gm7 arpeggio followed by a little Gm pentatonic  fragment. On the C7 the line is a descending version of Example 3 that resolves to the 5th(C) of Fmaj7.

Triad pairs in the altered scale - ex 5

A distinct part of the melodic minor sound is the Augmented triad. This makes that a very nice candidate for a triad pair. In the 2nd line I am using the Eaug and Gb triad pair. The line starts with a chain of arpeggios over Gm7. First a Dm7 arp and then a Bb triad. On the C7alt the line is first a pattern of the E augmented triad and then a 2nd inversion Gb triad.

Triad pairs in the altered scale - ex 6

The final example is using an Ab and a Bbdim triad. This triad pair gives us a lot of the alterations from the Ab and the more basic 3rd and 7th sound of the C7 in the Bb dim triad. The Gm7 line is a basic Bb maj7 arpeggio followed by a descending scale run. On the C7 alt it is first a melody made with the Ab triad in 1st inversion followed by a Bb dim triad before it resolves to the 5th(C) of F

Triad pairs in the altered scale - ex 7

I hope you can use the examples and the exercises to get started making some interesting lines with triad pairs over your altered dominants!

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

Triad pairs in the altered scale

Check out how I use Triad pairs  in this solo transcription/lesson:

There will never be another you – Reharmonization Solo

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