Fresh New Sounds With Triads

Hello everyone! Happy International Guitar Month! This lesson i'm going to show you how to create fresh new sounds with triads. Most of you know what triads are; they are just 3 note chords. We will arpeggiate Major (1, 3, 5) and Minor (1, b3, 5) in this lesson.

OK, so let's say you are playing over a G chord, or Gmaj7th, for example. Many guitarists would just play a G scale over it. By just playing the scale, you miss out on some cool sounds if you don't know how to bring out the hip notes over the chords you are playing over - for example, the 7th, 9th,and 11th. It is easy to just play a triad with those hip tones in it. Let's take a look at Example 1. Here we have a line with a Dmaj (D, F#, A) triad over a Gmaj7th chord. The D triad contains the 7th (F#) and the 9th (A) of Gmaj7th. This might sound complicated; if it does, all you have to do is play a major triad up a 5th from the root of the major chord you are playing over. For example, an A triad over a D major chord.

MP3 - Example 1

Example 2 features a line using some cool slides with an A major triad (A, C#, E) over a G maj7th chord. The A major triad contains the 9th, #11th and 13th of the Gmaj chord. If you want to achieve that mysterious Lydian flavor, just play a major triad up a whole step from the root of the major chord you are playing over. For example, an F# major triad over an Emaj chord. The #11th gives us that Lydian sound. I mean, you can rip the Lydian scale over the chords but playing the major triad up a whole step will give you those hip scale tones right away.

MP3 - Example 2

This also works great with minor chords. Example 3 demonstrates a G and A major triad over a Emin7th chord. The G triad (G, B, D) has the b7th (D) of the Emin chord, and the A triad contains the 11th and 13th of Emin. The A major triad will give us a Dorian flavor because it contains the 6th (C#). All you have to do is play a major triad up a minor 3rd and up a 4th from the root of the minor chord you are playing over. For example, C and D triads over A minor.

MP3 - Example 3

Example 4 uses an A minor (A, C, E) triad and a D triad (D, F#, A) over an Emin7th. This line uses some wide stretches, so follow the fingerings provided on this one. By playing the A minor triad over the E minor chord you will hear an Aeolian flavor, because it contains the C (b13th) of E minor. The D triad gives us the b7th, 9th and 11th of E minor. All you have to remember is to play a minor triad up a 4th from a minor chord and a major triad down a whole step. For example, G minor and C major triads over a D minor chord.

MP3 - Example 4


This is not rocket science; once you know how to play these triads over the chords you are using you will achieve some fresh new sounds you may not have used before. The most important thing is to get the sounds in your ear, which will happen over time if you experiment with this. These are just some of the possibilities - triads are a technique many fusion players use when they improvise.

OK, this wraps up our lesson! If you have any questions, feel free to email me. Be sure to check out my CDs on this amazing site and check out my new CD release, "Vibe". Visit for more information.

Mike Campese is an all-around music performer, session artist and teacher competent in many musical styles, electric and acoustic. He has studied at G.I.T. (Honors Graduate), and with Paul Gilbert, Norman Brown, Stanley Jordan, Scott Henderson and Keith Wyatt.

Mike Campese: The Fire Within