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Page 76 Just Jazz Guitar I

November 2008
The Power of Triads: Part 3 by Brandon Bernstein
n the past few issues we have looked at playing triads in all inversions, both
closed and open voicings, with suspensions, and looked at some examples of
how to voice-lead them on the guitar. I mentioned in my first column that a lot
of musicians, by nature, tend to bypass some of the fundamentals of music in a rush
to get to what they may think is ‘hipper’ or more impressive at the time. In my expe-
rience as a jazz student and teacher, I have found this attitude to be a very natural
tendency in the aspiring musician. However, serious students will find it wise to pay
close attention to fundamentals in order to avoid glaring weaknesses. At first glance,
triads are typically not very appealing for the beginner to intermediate musician, yet,
as with most things in music, if you pay attention to the details and the explore all
possibilities, the mileage you can get out of the simplest idea can take you to places
that you may have never before imagined. This is where I will segue into this
month’s column as we begin to explore some of the mileage we can get out of such
a simple 3-note chord, the triad, and how to apply what we have learned over the previous two columns in a new

This lesson will look at how to take triads that we already know and superimpose them over various chords to
get extensions and different colors in our chords. A good starting point to this concept is the application of triads
with modes we already know. You can easily substitute any triad from a chord’s relative “chord-scale” for that
chord. If you know the chord-scale harmony as it exist in 7th chords, then any triads derived from any chord in
that chord-scale can work. Some triads work better then others. You should experiment and see what triads get
the ‘colors’ or extensions you desire. To better exemplify this concept, I chose the three main scales used in jazz:
the major modes, the melodic minor modes, and the harmonic minor modes. Below is how this concept works
when applied to various D minor sounds.

The following example illustrates a D Dorian sound when using the any of the following triads over a D pedal.

D Minor 7
D minor
E minor
F major
G major
A minor
B diminished
C major

To offer a different color you could choose different scales to get your triads from. Any of these triads could be
used over a D Minor/Major7.

D Melodic Minor
D minor
E minor
F augmented
G major
A major
B diminished
C # diminished

Just Jazz Guitar I

November 2008 Page 77
Here is the same principle using harmonic minor.

D Harmonic Minor The following examples below demonstrate superimposing triads over various
D minor chord progressions. Example 1 demonstrates using triad substitutions over a ii-
E diminished V-I progression in Major. Example 2 demonstrates triad substitutions over a
F augmented minor ii-V-i. Example 3 uses various triad substitutions over “All The Things
G minor You Are.” (At the bottom of the example is the ‘real’ harmony as it exist and at
A major the top are various triad substitutions I chose using the ideas mentioned earlier).
Bb major Feel free to contact me at if you have any questions or
C# Diminished would like copies of my previous columns on triads.

Example 2: ii-V-I

Example 2: ii-V-i

Example 3: Based on “All The Things You Are”

Page 78 Just Jazz Guitar I

November 2008