For anyone learning how to play jazz guitar, you will undoubtably understand the importance of being able to solo over unaltered 7th chords with fluidity and authenticity.
While you may know how to use the Mixolydian mode and the 7th arpeggio to build lines over this common chord, many of us get stuck using these two melodic devices in our solos and don’t know where to turn next in order to take our m7 soloing chops to the next level.
In today’s lesson, we’ll be looking at apply 7th triad pairs to your playing, in order to outline unaltered 7th chords in a convincing fashion, but do so without relying on the Mixolydian mode or 1357 arpeggio in a strict fashion.
By learning how to apply 7th triad pairs to your lines and phrases, you will add a fun and easy-to-play melodic device to your soloing repertoire, taking your playing to the next level without learning any new and complex modes or extended jazz guitar arpeggios.
Do you have a comment or question about this lesson? Visit the 7th Triad Pairs thread in the MWG Forum.
Read more about applying different triad pairs to chords in my “Triad Pairs for Jazz Guitar Series”
The first 7th triad pair that we’ll be looking out uses major triads played from the b7 and Root of the underlying unaltered 7th chord that you are soloing over.
This means that if you are blowing over a C7 chord, then you could build your lines using both the Bb and C major triads as a pair.
Here is how that looks on paper.
As you can see, the Bb triad gives you the intervals b7-9-11 over C7, and the C triad is of course the Root-3-5 of the underlying chord.
When added together, you are playing 6 out of the 7 notes in the C Mixolydian scale, leaving out the 6th, A in this key, as it isn’t a part of either triad.
Though you are using a lot of the notes in the Mixolydian scale, it is the reorganization into triads that masks this scale, and brings new life to your lines while outlining the changes at the same time.
To help you work these triads out on the guitar as you take them into the woodshed, here is an example exercise where you run through each inversion of the two triads, playing up the first triad, Bb, and down the second, C, in order to build your chops and gain improvisational material at the same time.
As well as practicing this 7th triad pair from a technical standpoint, you can also put them into your lines as you work on bringing this sound to your soloing lines and phrases.
Here is an example lick over a ii V I in the key of F major, where I used the Bb and C triads to outline the C7 in bar 2 of the line.
Click to hear audio for this lick.
After you have worked on this lick in different tempos, and taken it to different keys, try coming up with your own ii V I licks that use triads from the b7 and Root to outline the V7 chord in bar 2 of the progression.
If you need a refresher or are looking for new fingerings for these triads, check out my “Major Triads for Jazz Guitar Page.”
As well as working out major triad pairs over 7th chords, you can also build cool-sounding 7th chord lines by playing minor triads from the 5th and 6th of the underlying dominant chord.
Here is how that would look like on paper.
As you can see, the minor triad from the 5th produces the intervals 5-7-9, while the minor triad from the 6th produces the intervals 6-R-3.
Again, you are playing 6 of the 7 notes from the related Mixolydian mode, leaving out the 11(4) in this case.
But, it is the organization of your lines into triads that helps break away from running modes over 7th chords, breathing new life into your lines while properly outlining the chord changes at the same time.
Here is a variation of the previous technical exercise for you to check out in the practice room, only this time we descend the first triad and ascend the second triad as you work through each inversion up the neck.
As well, you can work on bringing these minor triad pairs into your soloing practice by applying them to the V7 chord in a ii V I chord progression.
Here is an example of just such as line where I use the Gm and Am triads to build a line over the G7 chord in the second bar of the progression.
Click to hear audio for this lick.
Once you have this lick under your fingers, at various tempos and in a number of keys around the neck, practice coming up with your own lines using the minor triad pairs to solo over the V7 chord in a ii V I progression.
If you need a refresher, or are looking for new fingerings for these triads, check out my “Minor Triads for Jazz Guitar Page.”
After you’ve checked out each triad pair, and worked out the examples written above, you can explore these important melodic devices further in your practice routine.
Here are a few of my favorite ways to practice 7th triad pairs from both a technical and improvisational standpoint.
As you can see, using triad pairs to solo over 7th chords allows you to outline the harmony, you are playing 6 of the 7 notes of the Mixolydian mode, but organizing your lines in a different way to avoid sounding like you are running up and down scales during your solo.
Triad pairs can be an easy to play and effective tool when working on your 7th-chord soloing chops, so they are definitely worth spending some time on in the woodshed to work out and get under your fingers, into your ears and into your solos.
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