Triad Pairs

Or, as the Peter likes to call them “Double Mambo!” but I think he got that from someone else. Triad pairs are a technique for improvising that have recently gotten a lot of attention. I had not really focused on them in the past. Here’s my notes.

We’re working on a tune with a long section of E-7 alternating with shorter sections of A-7. Not a lot of chordal variety. The tune is fairly unforgiving, too, if you go outside. This was kindof frustrating me as I was working through a solo, and Peter’s advice was to use a G Maj and A Maj Triad pair on the E-7, then a C maj D maj triad pair on the A min 7.

The notes of E Minor 7 are E G B D. Thus, the G triad are the 3 5 and 7 of the chord, and thus solid tones, avoiding the root, but not going to clash at all.

The notes of the A major Triad are A C# and E. The E is the root, of the E minor, so it “resolves” pretty thoroughly if you sit on it. The A is the 4th, OK to play in a Minor setting, although an Avoid tone for a Major scale and my ear often hears that even in minor. But it is a fairly strong modulation from the G due to the Fourth and the lack of shared tones. That is the basis of the sound; two distinct modalities that work over the chord tones.

If we were to line up all the notes of the E minor chord and add in the the additional notes from the A, we get

E G B D A C#. This shows, first off, that the Chord can be thought of as either the Dorian or Aeolean mode of some other scale. The C# means we are only as far as the D tonic on the Circle of fifths. The G Major means we are not as far as the A tonic. But, if we interpret the E minor as relative to the G, the C# is a non scale tone, a #4, or the tritone. Contrast this with it being the major 7th of the D tonic. Still a scale tone, but still a half step from the tonic, and thus the most dissonant of the scale tones. So the C# is the color tone, that conflicts the most with the other notes of the scale. From the E minor, it is less in conflict, though, a very resonant minor third from the root.

If we were to play a Blues scale over the E minor, we have a couple choices. The E minor Blues is E G A A# B D E. The only non-triad pair note is the A# blues tritone. We also lose the C#. If We were to form triad pairs based on this set of notes, we’d have to make some compromises: We could keep the G maj triad, but the A and E would would be matched with the A#.

Thus, we could, instead of playing triad pairs, play a bi-modal approach, G B D against A A# C# E. What is he trade off? Probably the biggest loss is the Major Third; we lose the sense of distance and difference that we get from larger intervals. The A # C# run is very scalar, less arpeggio.

The intervalic jumps are the biggest advantage of the triad pairs. You spread out on the horn with notes that are inside. Staying on a single triad, you are forced to play jumps of a third or a fourth. You can jump an octave or larger, but those are effects, and you are going to color a solo with them, not have them as the basis. The timbre of the horn from low to high is so different that you really start doing call-and-response when you jump between registers, and the lines are not cohesive as a single voice. But a third, a fourth or a fifth are solid foundations for melody.

The chromaticism then comes from switching between triad pairs. Now, notes that are near each other sound more interesting, more jarring. An example that came up as we were playing is the main melody line to the tune Tequila. I’ve noted it below, but with even quarter notes.

The A to D Jump can be thought of as from the D major triad. The C and E from the C major triad. Thus, this modulates between each of the triads D to C back to D.

There are three notes, and the measure is broken up into 8 eighth notes. So, if you stick to a single triad, you start repeatting notes (maybe at different octaves). Where as if you alternate between triads, you naturally get a 6 over 8 pattern. For example

You can double up notes to get groups of four:

And so on. These are trivial examples, I know. Here’s one way to put them together to get something more interesting.

If you want to cover distance, and not repeat notes, you have to figure out where to transition from one triad to another. Lets try to avoid starting on the E, as that is the Root tone, but any other note is an option.

This example has an obvious whole step at the transition:

If we want to keep the transition to larger intervals, this one covers a lot of distance pretty quickly.:

From bottom to altissimo you can run

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