Creating great riffs + melodies using triads

21 May

Hi There,

Thanks for reading my blogs so far.

In this blog we’ll be looking at how to add some variety to your songwriting + improvisation skills by exploring triads.

Triads are chords made up of 3 notes from a harmonized scale.

To keep things simple we’ll focus on triads from the major scale.

Let’s take a straightforward key of C major.

Using the formula TTSTTTS that gives us the notes C,D,E,F,G,A,B

Using the harmonization formula to produce triads/chords that gives us C, Dm, Em, F, G, Am, Bdim

The intervals that make up these chords are:

Major – Root (1), Major 3rd (3) and Perfect 5th (5)

Minor – Root (1), Minor 3rd (b3) and Perfect 5th (5)

Minor 3rd = 1 1/2 tones, Major 3rd = 2 tones, Diminished 5th = 3 tones, Perfect 5th = 3 1/2 tones.

So your triads will be:

C = C, E, G

Dm = D, F, A

Em = E, G, B

F = F, A, C

G = G, B, D

Am = A, C, E

Bdim = B, D, F

If we just take the G, B and E strings we can come up with loads of combinations for these triads.

Here’s some examples:

triads Pic 1 Triads pic 2 triads pic 3

So have a go at playing around with these and see what you can come up with. For writing songs, knowledge of triads are great as they give you lots of different options, for example:

  • For creating single note melodies over chord progressions
  • For adding depth to a chord progression i.e. one guitarist can play a barre chord C major while another plays a triad somewhere else on the neck
  • Once you extend the triads to 7th chords that opens up more possibilities on top

Hope you’ve found this blog useful – feel free to ask any questions

You can find other great tips via the Js Music School twitter feed

@jsmusicschool @harvey_jsmusic @annie_jsmusic

Many thanks


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Posted by on May 21, 2013 in Improvisation


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