Whether you’re playing a tune with a ton of changes like “Giant Steps”, or a modal tune with just one chord like “Passion Dance”, triad pairs are a super-handy sound to have available. They help define the harmonic structure through the melodic line and can be made into all kinds of cool melodic patterns. Every chord presents us with several options. I’m including a few of my favorites here but I strongly recommend that you find your own pairs and patterns that sound good to you.
It’s a simple concept: combine two diatonic triads and play them and their inversions in succession.
Let’s jump in:
In Example 1B, we’re going for a Lydian sound by combining an E minor with a D major. I’ve written the triads as an 8th-note pattern:
The Dorian mode gives us some rich opportunities for triad pairs. Example 2A is a basic sound of Bb major and C minor with a new pattern – triplets:
Example 2B is a super-hip sound using Eb major and F major. Check it out:
The Dominant 7 sound is so flexible that I could make a whole blog post of triads for this sound alone. I’ll share three essentials here. First, the basic Bb major and C major:
In Example 3B, we have a Lydian Dominant sound. C major and D major accomplish this:
There are several options for an Altered Dominant sound. One of my favorites is the C augmented and Gb major combination. Check it out:
That sounds so good!
Half-diminished and Diminished
I like to play a Locrian (with the natural 2) sound over the half-diminished chord. For this, I use Bb major and C diminished triads:
The Diminished 7 chord can produce gorgeous triad pairs. I can’t recommend exploring this one on your own enough. To get started check out this sound of Ab major and D augmented:
There are seemingly endless combinations to be discovered with this concept so take your time getting the sounds that resonate with you. For some triad pair inspiration check out Chick Corea’s early masterpiece, Now He Sings, Now He Sobs.