Triads to Modes Part 1 : Triads

Whether we like to admit it or not, Most of us have got gaps in our playing. We lack the strong base we truly need to understand and explain what we are doing during improvisation and even fills and bass lines. By putting in at least 10 minutes a day of the following exercises into your practice routine you can solidify that knowledge into your fingers and your ears.


The first exercise to get familiar with will become the blueprint for the following 3 parts in this group of lessons Triads to Modes: How to Practice and Apply so I suggest you get this DOWN! We are going back to basics. But that’s the whole point.


Part 1 : Knowing your Intervals and Triads


I hope you all know that there are 8 notes in any major scale including the octave!


In the key of C we have: C D  E  F  G  A  B  C

If we give each note its number in relation to the scale we get:


C = 1   (Root or Tonic)   1st

D = 2nd ( Supertonic)       Major 2nd Dissonant, resolve to Root or 3rd

E = 3rd ( Mediant)           Major 3rd Sweet, Good resolving point

F =  4th (Sub Dominant)  Perfect 4th Sweet. Unresolved. Try resolve to 3rd

G = 5th ( Dominant)          Perfect 5th Strong, Good resolving point

A = 6th (Sub Mediant)       Major 6th Sweet, but unresolved, resolve to 5th

B = 7th (Leading note)      Major 7th Dissonant. resolve to octave


I have added the various names each interval is given as well as how they sound when played against a major triad. I have also mentioned which notes are strong resolving points ie good places to finish a line, lick, fill

And some ideas for resolving notes which may sound dissonant at times.


Now I’m assuming you have played a major scale millions of times but we are just refreshing our memories here.


Now if you’re thinking ‘‘This is easy, I know this’’ then lets see how you do with Exercise 1:

1.Take the numbers 1 – 7. Each number representing a major scale degree.

2.Write them down in random order. Write 4 lines of 7 numbers. Each line represents one of your strings. If you have a 5 or 6 string then you know what to do!


Eg  E string: 7 4 1 3 6 5 2

A string: 6 4 2 7 5 3 1

D string: 3 1 5 7 2 6 4

G string: 4 7 6 1 3 5 2


Now pick a key. Start with a key you’re familiar with to understand the exercise but the goal is to KNOW all keys!


So we have chosen G Major and we have our random numbers representing scale degrees in the major scale.


Set yourself a timer and see how quickly you can find each note on your bass without using open strings and without going past the 12th fret on each string.


Lets do the first two together:

Firstly, on our E string we have 7 .

The 7th in the key of G is F#.

That’s the 2nd fret


Next we have 4.

The 4th of G is C.

C is the 8th fret.


Now this is going to get you thinking and it is going to open up your Fretboard. Knowing how these intervals sound before you play them is important and you should try playing and singing the notes against a G major loop or backing track. You need to hear it before you play it. As soon as you see 4th. You should know how a 4th sounds against a major chord. You should know where the 4th is everywhere on your bass and this goes for every interval, not just major intervals!


If you can do this quickly and in all keys then we can move onto the next   exercise.


Exercise 2: Application of Triads in Practice and Performance

Now we know our Major scale intervals in all keys and where they appear on the fretboard so lets expand our knowledge to knowing which triads go with each scale degree.


((I’m guessing you know what triads are? If not here is a quick recap.

Triads are 3 note chords made up of the Root, the 3rd and 5th. So if we have a D major triad we have the notes 1, 3 and 5 of the D major scale. That would be D, F# and A. When we play those notes together we have a D major chord. When we play those notes separately we have a D major arpeggio. Any questions MAIL ME!))


Back to work !!>>>


Lets deal with something other than C Major to keep things interesting! So in the Key of Bb we have the following triads built off each scale degree:


1-   Bb Major triad                                   2 – C minor triad

3 – D Minor triad                                     4 – Eb Major Triad

5 –  F  Major Triad                                    6-  G Minor Triad

7 – A Half Diminished Triad


Now let’s get a Bb Major loop or backing track going and go back to our Random Interval Exercise.


Using the concept we explored in exercise one, we can now apply this to triads in all keys.


Exercise 2:

You know the deal! Random numbers from 1 – 7. Seven numbers per line. Each line represents a string.


BUT this time you play the triad built off each interval in the major scale.


SO if on your E string you had. 3 2 5 7 1 6 4


The exercise would start with the 3rd degree in Bb which is D. Which we find on the 10th fret on our E String. Its a D minor triad.


Next we have 2. So that’s the 2nd note in our major scale which is a C. That’s the 8th fret of our E string so that’s  a C minor triad.


Got it? Now Shed it! Teach yourself to practice. Get some random numbers from 1 – 7 going. Pick a key and go!  Start to sing the triad before you play it. If you can’t sing it, try and hear it before you play it. Too many people play things just because they know that technically it will work but they aren’t hearing it. They don’t know!


Now you make ask yourself. Where is the music? Well I ask myself that whenever I practice new concepts. These are just exercises and the next step is where the fun starts!


Make a loop or get a backing track in a key of your choice going. Or in a key you are not too familiar with. Lets say Db.

So we have our Db Major loop going and we want to take what we have learnt and make some music with it. That’s the whole point!


So we take our first triad in Db, Db Major triad. Lets jam with that and make some music. We only have 3 notes. Lets listen to each note. Lets try hear , play, sing and make some music with those 3 notes. Once you are familiar with that get your random numbers going and try going from one triad to the next. Say from the 2nd triad ( Eb minor) to the 5th triad (Ab major) Try make that sound musical. How does each triad sound different to the others? What moods are created when using different triads?

Try taking a rhythmic motif and moving it from one triad to the other as I have done in the video. Being able to hear, sing and create music with these triads is a great basis for improvisation in any music that calls for it.

Below is the Video to give you an idea of what the exercises look and sound like

Triads lesson video

In our next lesson we will be moving on to 7th note chords and eventually on to modes so get this stuff down!

Any questions please feel free to e mail me :

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