The Magic of Triads In Jazz

| Updated on September 20, 2020

My friend and colleague from The Center of Jazz Studies in Tel Aviv asked me to make this video for the community of jazz students and fans to keep them motivated and busy during the COVID-19 period op #stayhome. 

It has got some wider interest so I will definitely make another one in English with even more examples. But for now, I will post it here with subtitles.

Triads in Harmony

Major and minor triad are the basic sounds of tonal music – classical, pop/rock songs, gospel music, and folk song. In jazz and contemporary music, sevenths chords prevail much more.

Here is the concept. Actually,  we can achieve interesting, sophisticated, and pretty sounds by thinking of triads superimposed on top of the other note in the bass. Literally, it is about playing a triad or it’s an inversion in the right hand over the different note in the left hand.

Using this concept we can create simple sevenths chords or more complex extended chords with tensions.

Try to explore the sounds by combining the triad with various bass notes. The second inversion of a major or minor triad has very distinctive and strong sound because of its interval structure

Making sounds of triads over different roots in motion, in the context of a tune will sound very interesting.

In this video, I will show you different ways of using triad chords to create interesting harmonies.

Video Trascript


I wanted to talk with you about triads in jazz. Yes, you may be surprised… We use to think about triads as something that is associated with classical music, pop songs or the sound of the gospel. But I can recall some jazz compositions that use triad chords. Triads have a very strong and distinctive.

In this video, I will also show you some ways of making a song sound fresh and interesting by using simple triads.

So here are a few examples of the jazz standards that use triad chords. One of them is “Whisper Not” by Benny Golson. The tune starts with C minor triad.

Another example is the composition by John Lewis “Django”.

Here is another example – one of my favorite tunes, a beautiful composition by Tom McIntosh “Cup Bearers”. And it goes like this.

Ok, now what I wanted to show to you is how to make interesting and sometimes even sophisticated sounds by using triad chords. Play C triad and combine it with the bass note any other than C in the left hand. I ‘ll play “A” in the left hand, as you can hear it makes it an Am7 chord. A very simple way of doing this is to play the A Min triad in the right hand with the A in the left hand. Then moving the”A” in the chord a whole-step down (instead of doubling the bass).

Let’s try to do it with other chords… Cmaj7 is, in fact, an Em with the”C” in the bass. (Playing the chords up a scale in C major) Try to do it in various keys. Like Bb major It is possible to make a familiar song to sound even more interesting by using triads with different notes in the bass.

Plays “Blue Monk” by Thelonious Monk

Plays “Wave” by A.C. Jobim Same kind of voicing C triad with the “Db” in the bass, A triad with the “Bb” in the bass.

“Stella By Starlight” (V.Young) watch… Ok, I’ll try to explain this:

… now, I play major triads in their 2nd inversion on each note of the melody and it sounds like this together with the bass…

it is possible to play this differently…

Try to use this idea to create interesting sounds of your own I wish you the best, and enjoy it!

Happy practicing!


Alec is a jazz pianist, composer, arranger and educator from Tel Aviv. He loves playing, writing, teaching and learning music. Alec has built his website and he loves sharing his knowledge, experience and musical ideas and content.

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