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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