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Intro to Triad Pairs

This lesson is based on an excerpt from Chapter One of my new book "Advanced Arpeggio Soloing for Guitar", available at Amazon and 




I first heard what turned out to be a triad pair in Cher’s 1987 hit, I’ve Found Someone. Played on a layered piano and synth pad sound, the catchy intro keyboard hook alternated between two triads and inversions with the right hand while holding a static bass note with the left. What I picked up from that little hook is that you can combine stationary and moving ideas to create something uniquely melodic.


In modern Jazz and Fusion, triad pairing is a common melodic device used by improvisers including guitarists, pianists and saxophonists. Rock guitar players can get in on the fun too since triad pairs are a perfect fit for sweep picking and other techniques while broadening the capabilities of the humble triad.


A pair is merely the alternating of two triads within a phrase. Pairs are commonly (but not limited to) neighbouring triads within a key and can use various cluster sizes and directions. By combining the tones of two adjacent triads, six notes are at your disposal to create melodies that outline different modes, build tension and release, imply upper chord extensions or create some unique outside playing concepts.


You can try any triad pair over any chord as you experiment but, for the best results, take care with pairs that clash with chord tones. For example, triad pairs containing a C note sound pretty awful against the B note of a G chord. In this chapter, I’ll be focusing on cases that sound great and show you how to push the boundaries without creating dissonance.


Whether you’re a rocker or a jazz head, there will be triad pairs that suit your style. The information in this chapter is thorough, but even a passing glance will make you the thinking man’s arpeggio player.


Major Triad Pairs


One of the most common pairs contains the IV and V triads of the major key (C Major and D Major in the key of G). Before heading into the sounds, let’s take a look at a simple way to map out triad pairs.


These fretboard diagrams use three strings at a time to locate C Major (black markers) and D Major triads (white markers). You can find various triad shapes in these fretboard diagrams by approaching the three-string groups from all angles using different combinations of one note and two notes per string.





When playing triad pairs over rhythm parts, pay attention to the notes that don’t belong to each underlying chord because these are the colour tones that determine how well a triad pair suits the chord underneath.


Over a C chord in the key of G, the C/D triad pair creates a Lydian sound since the combined notes spell out the 1, 2, 3, #4, 5, 6 degrees of C Lydian. From another angle, the D triad represents the 9th, augmented 11th and 13th extensions of the C chord.


In the context of a D chord, it’s now the C triad that implies a modal sound - D Mixolydian, with six of the mode’s degrees accounted for (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7). The 4th (11th) is said to clash with the 3rd of the D triad but weaving in and out of triad pairs doesn’t create the dissonance that a long melody note might.


Over an A Minor chord, the C/D triad pair spells out the Dorian tonality with degrees 1, b3, 4, 5, 6, b7 of A Dorian represented. II, IV and V chords are the most common chords to use the IV/V triad pair over.

Licks from Chapter One of "Advanced Arpeggio Soloing for Guitar" 




Example 1a


Example 1b


Example 1c



Example 1d


Comments Section

Got my copy last week, awesome info, and fairly easy to grasp.
Great info! I started on the book this morning! Milt

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