Improvising With Triad Pairs on Guitar

Improvising With Triad Pairs.

This is a really fun, cool improvisation technique, not enough guitar players use or even know about.

The idea is this:
The band or rhythm section is jamming over a given 1-chord groove, and you improvise over the groove, using the notes of 2 different chords.

For example:
The band is grooving on a G7 chord.
You solo using Dm and Em chords.

The notes in a Dm chord: D F A
The notes in an Em chord: G B D

When you analyze the relationship of these notes against the G chord the rhythm section is grooving on:

The Dm triad creates a G9 sound: D is the 5th, F is the b7th and A is the 9.
The Em chord creates a G13 sound: E is the 13th, G is the root and B is the 3rd

When you put the notes of a Dm chord and an Em chord in alphabetical order, you get: D E F G A B
This spells out as an almost complete C major scale. The only note missing is C.

Yet, when you think of the notes as a Dm chord and an Em chord, rather than thinking of it as a partial C major scale, you create a very different sound and texture with the notes.
The reason for this is that you work with 2 groupings of 3 notes, organized within known chord shapes, which leads you to use the 6 notes differently.
The result is a unique sound, which you could never get if you just thought of the notes as 1 grouping of 6 notes, or in other words “as a scale”.

That is the beauty of triad pairs.

These triad pairs could be played as actual triad chord shapes, or as triad arpeggio fingerings. Both approaches will be showcased in videos later on.

Using Triad Shapes

  1. Harmonically, As Block chords.

    You hit all 3 notes in the chords at the same time: alternating between the different inversions of the Dm chord, or the different inversions of the Em chord, or alternating between Dm and Em chords, as you see fit.

    All this is easiest if you stick to 1 string set of 3 strings and move horizontally, linearly through the inversions.

  2. Arpeggiating the notes in the chords

    With this approach, you don’t hit the chords as vertical blocks, but you separate the notes in the chord shapes, to create single-note melody lines.
    Ideally: you would not want to play all 3 notes that make up the chord in order from low to high or from high to low, not to make it predictable.

    You don’t even necessarily always want to play all 3 notes in the shape before you move on to another inversion. You could play one note in the Dm root shape, following by for example 2 notes in the 1st inversion Em shape, followed by 3 notes in a Dm 2nd inversion shape, etc.

    The more random you get, the cooler it sounds.
    The below video will clarify this really well.

  3. Abridging the Notes of the 2 Triads horizontally.

    With this approach, you play linear and vertical at the same time.
    Here’s how this works:

    Let’s use the Dm and Em 2nd inversion (5th in the bass) shapes on the top 3 strings as an example.


    The lowest fingered note in that Dm chord, on the G string, is A, the 5th of the Dm chord.
    When you move that shape up 2 frets, you get an Em chord.

    So the way this works:

    you would play from the 5th of the Dm chord to the 5th of the Em chord,
    then on the next string from the root of the Dm chord to the root of the Em chord
    and on the high E string from the b3rd of the Dm chord to the b3rd of the Em chord.

    You’re basically alternating between a note of a Dm chord followed by a note of an Em chord.

    In the above description, I went from Dm note to Em note, ascending in other words, and from G string up to high E string, but you could make any combination.

    You could go ascending, or descending from an Em note to a Dm note, changing the order of the strings, from E string to B string to G string or skip strings, move horizontally all across the neck through all inversions of the 2 chords.

  4. All The Above with Chromatic passing notes.

    Here you’re doing all of the above, but moving from Dm to Em and vice versa via the in-between fret D#m/Ebm.
    This creates yet another unique improvisation sound that is different from the sound of the aforementioned approaches.

This will all make a lot of sense after you’ve seen the following video

Using Arpeggio Fingerings

Here’s an incredibly fun triad pair you will want to try out:

Over A G7 chord, solo alternating between G and Db triad arpeggios.

The G arpeggio of course makes sense over a G7 chord, but the Db triad, which is up a tritone from G, at first might seem like a very odd choice.
Here’s why this works:

The notes in a Db triad are: Db F Ab
The Db triad notes in relationship to a G chord are: the b5, the b7th and the b9.
This creates a G7b5b9 chord, which is also called a G altered chord, or altered dominant chord.
The scale of choice over such dominant chords is the altered scale.

You could get the G altered scale sound, by combining G and Db triads.

Following video shows how you apply this:

Practice these really cool improvisation concepts over the G7 chord.
Once you get comfortable on the G7 chord, practice this in all 12 keys, up the circle of 4ths.

Hit me up anytime at if you would like me to send you backing tracks for any of the above chord progressions, if you have any questions, or if you would like to book a lesson.
You’re on your way to becoming a great guitar player.
Have fun! 🙂


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