Exploring triad pairs

Well, I’m having a lot of fun playing with triad pairs, so I thought I’d share some insights. I’ve been spending some time with the 4th harmonic environment, and enjoying the characteristic note 7. But note 7 does not appear in the 4 chord, so I’ve been alternating between a 4 chord triad (notes 4 6 1) and a 5 triad (5 7 2). This is a lot more satisfying, to make use of the note 7.

Then I moved on to the 5th HE, and found some nice sounds with the same two triads. I’m sure there’s lots more combinations, and mixing major and minor triads, to be found, in other HEs as well.

It’ll be fun trying this over chord progressions as well, but I’m not there yet. Anyone else tried playing with triad pairs? I think it’s best if they are close (a whole tone or semitone apart) and so don’t share any notes. There’s probably some complex music theory to explain why they work, but it’s a simple idea, and fun to play with.


That could almost be a mission statement for IFR; take a fresh, uncluttered, look at things, discover the basic elements, then play with them. :wink:

I have found triads tricky as they sound completely different with a bass or 4th note. The first one you mention could either be a 4 major chord or a 2 minor chord. Likewise the 2nd triad could also be a 5 dominant or 3 minor chord. I don’t think I’m up to dealing with that ambiguity yet🤔.

Any chance you could post a short video or audio of your triad pair practice?

Not sure I’m ready to ‘go public’ with my practicing, yet! But you can find lots of videos on YouTube demonstrating using triad pairs over simple chord progressions. I especially like those posted by JazzDuets.

I’m also playing with simplifying even more, and just using dyads (2 note chords). Again trying to bring out the flavour/feeling of the background chord or harmonic environment.

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I hear you😁. Me too, although I might post something soon just for the experience of creating a video.

Diads are great fun. A shell chord is just a diad of the 3 and 7 of the 4 note arpeggio. In IFR that means one below and two above the root number. So a 5 shell is 4 and 7; a 3 shell is 2 and 5; a 3D is 2 and #5 etc. You can play a whole progression with just shell chords.

You’re reading my mind! That is exactly what I’ve been playing with, over the Autumn Leaves progression. Just playing the root note, 3rd and 7th for each chord. It’s really nice how, when you keep swapping the 3rd and 7th on each change, there is gradual stepping down happening. Very satisfying to play.

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@mem, thanks for sharing! Do you think what you’re describing is along the same lines of this?

@Dave, yes very similar, only I’ve been limiting myself to just the triad chord notes (so not using the 7th), really trying to get familiar with playing the notes in different orders (inversions), using adjacent strings and skipping strings (helping with my fretboard navigation). Also, I’ve been focusing of specific harmonic environments during my practice, so trying to hear how the triad pairs sound against a specific tonal centre. This is helping with my Seven Worlds exploration.

Thanks for posting the link, I must have missed this one on my video search!

Hi @mem, this is a great exercise. And it only gets better and more interesting as you continue down this road. After exploring what you’re calling “triad pairs”, you could certainly explore four-note chords or any other voicing that you imagine. And this chordal improvisation doesn’t have to be limited to pairs. You can improvise freely with all seven chords of the tonality in any harmonic environment, and this will lead to many interesting sounds which can be quite surprising but they still retain the purity of never stepping outside the key of the music.

(And I don’t need to tell you that when you DO begin stepping outside the key of the music, then the possibilities are truly endless.)

In terms of theory, the nice discovery here is just that you can use what you already know about the seven chords of the major scale to instantly visualize all of the diatonic chords of any harmonic environment. And you don’t even need to worry about changing the tonal numbers of all of these chords to find them in different harmonic environments. Because of the way we think about the tonal map in IFR, you always have all of the sounds available to you with no translation required.

In other words, what are the diatonic chords in the first harmonic environment? The answer is the 1 chord, the 2- chord, the 3- chord, etc.

And what are the diatonic chords in the second harmonic environment? Again it’s the same answer of the 1 chord, the 2- chord, the 3- chord, etc.

So beyond just improvising with the seven notes of the major scale in any harmonic environment, you can also improvise freely with the seven chords of the major scale in that same harmonic environment. This may seem obvious but many people don’t take advantage of this at first because it doesn’t occur to them.

Where this really helps is when you’re comping over chord progressions. For example if you’re playing the 6- chord, it’s really nice to be able to drop down to the 5D chord and then come back to your 6- chord, using what you know about the seven chords of the major scale to visualize all of this parallel diatonic movement very easily. I don’t know if that example is easy to picture from my text, but this is something we’ll be exploring much more in future courses about comping and improvising with chords.

But you’re already hot on the trail of these ideas! I encourage you to just keep going and to please continue to share your ideas and discoveries with the group.


Thanks David. Well I seem to have simplified my way right back to Exercise 2 Melody, and will return to chords and triads once I think I’m really familiar, and feel at home with, the seven harmonic environments.