Triad Pairs – Part 1

In this lesson I am going to go over what triad pairs are and how you can use them in improvisation and try to highlight some of the useful aspects of the lines you can make with them.

Triad Pairs withut common notes

The reason why we use triads to improvise is that it is a very strong melodic structure. This is probably the most important reason why we spend so much time on working on triads and look at them as something we can superimpose on other chords, which is what is often referred to as upper-structure triads.

When you hear people talking about improvisation referring to triad pairs, what they usually mean is a pair of triads without common notes. The fact that they are without common notes means that we could look at it as a sort of scale with six notes that is naturally split in to two groups.

Let’s first look at a basic example: C major scale, two triads F and G major.

Triad Pairs Part 1 ex 1

F and G major triads have no common notes (that is always going to be the case for two diatonic triads that are a 2nd apart in a major scale) In example 1 I have written them out first as 2 triads and then as the scale you get if you combine them. In this lesson I am not going to go too much into treating them like scales, simply because I find myself using them more as triads that I chain together.

Triad Exercises

Let’s first quickly go over some useful triad exercises to make sure that we have the flexibility to make lines with the triads.

The first one is a major triad in inversion on a string set, you need to do this for minor, dim and augmented triads and other string sets of course.

Triad Pairs Part 1 ex 2

Remember that you can practice these as chords and as arpeggios, as I do in the video.

To have a bigger vocabulary of triad inversions you could also try the two varitions that use 2 strings

Triad Pairs Part 1 ex 3

Of course you should also try to pracitice diatonic triads in a major scale to be able to place them in the context that you need to use them, and what many often forget is that you should also do this with the inversions which is a really good way to get a better overview of what notes are in what triads. Example 4 is Diatonic triads of C major in the 2nd inversion

Triad Pairs Part 1 ex 4

Remember that is not about speed it is about overview and having the shapes in your fingers for later.

Triad Pair Hack

Hopefully this should get you on the road to combine triads. In the 2nd part of this series I am going to give a few more exercises to work on gaining overview and making melodies with this material.

How do we chose a good set of triads for a chord?

In most situations when you encounter a chord it is in a key, which has a scale with 7 notes.  In most cases you have an avoid not in the scale, so a note that does not fit the chord well and that you can not land on.

If you know the avoid note you can easily make a triad pair, let’s do a few examples:

Dm7 in the key of C, depending on the situation you might consider the B an avoid note.

Cmajor without a B is C D E F G A, if we make triads on the notes after the B (C and D) we get C major and D minor

G7(b9) in Cm Harmonic. Here C is the avoid note.

C min harmonic without a C: D Eb F G Ab B , and the triads on the notes after C(D and Eb) are D dim and Eb augmented triads.

Lines with triad pairs

Now that we have a strategy for finding triad pairs and some exercises for playing triads we can try to put the two together in some lines:

In the first example I am using the triad pair from above on a Dm7 chord. The line starts with a second inversion Dm triad and contiues to a first inversion C major triad. The G7 alt line is basically a scale run with a trill at the beginning. It resolves to the 3rd(E) of Cmaj7

Triad Pairs Part 1 ex 5

The second example is using the triad pair we deduced for a G7(b9) in the previous part of the lesson: D dim and Eb aug triads. The line on the Dm7 is essentially derived from an Fmaj7 arpeggio and leads into the dominant by encircling the 3rd(B). The dominant line is first the Eb aug triad in second inversion and then the D dim triad, after that it resolves down the scale to the 3rd(E) of Cmaj7.

Triad Pairs Part 1 ex 6

The final example is combining all the triad pairs so first Dm and C over Dm7 and then Ebaug and Ddim over G7(b). I added a pair for Cmaj7. Same process as above: The avoid note over the Cmaj7 is an F, if I take that away and construct triads on the two following notes I get G major and A minor triads.

The line consists of playing each triad in a 4 note pattern so that it is first Dm 2nd inversion, then C root position followed by Ebaug 2nd inversion and D dim root position. This resolves to a G root position and Am 1st inversion over the Cmaj7 where it finally ends on the 9th(D)

Triad Pairs Part 1 ex 7

As always I hope you can use the ideas and concept I went over in this lesson, as always I’d suggest that you take them as a starting point and use them to make your own lines with triad pairs.

You can download a PDF of the examples for later study here:

Triad Pairs Part 1

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

There will never be another you – Reharmonization Solo

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