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How To Play 7alt Triad Pairs For Guitar

One of the toughest progressions we face when learning how to play jazz guitar, is the minor-key ii V I, which also contains one of the trickiest chords to solo over, the 7alt.

While many of us have explored the Altered Scale over the 7alt chord, we tend to stop there most of the time when it comes to building lines over this tricky, yet common jazz chord.

In this installment of my series on triad pairs for jazz guitar, we’ll be taking a look at how you can use major and minor sounds to build 7alt triad pairs on the guitar.

This will expand your ability to solo over this common, yet tough, chord, without having to learn anything new beyond major and minor triads.

So, grab your guitar and let’s dig in to 7alt triad pairs, how to build them, how to play them and sample some licks using these ideas in a real-life situation.


Read more about applying different triad pairs to chords in my “Triad Pairs for Jazz Guitar Series”



7alt Triad Pairs 1


The first set of 7alt triad pairs that we’ll look at involves playing major triads from the b5 and #5 of the chord that you are on.

You can see an example of this here, as I lay out a Gb and Ab(G#) triad over a C7alt chord for comparison.


7alt Triad Pairs 1 JPG


As you can see, these two triads provide all of the juicy notes that you need to properly outline any Altered Chord in your jazz-guitar solo, these are the b5, b9, #5 and #9.

Now that you’ve seen the theoretical side of these triads, let’s take them to the guitar with an exercise that can help you work out and memorize these 7alt triad pairs across the neck in all 12 keys.

Here is an example of that exercise written out over a C7alt chord, using the triads Gb and Ab. Make sure to take this exercise to multiple tempos and keys as you continue to work through it in the woodshed.


7alt Triad Pairs 2 JPG


To finish this section off, I’ve written out a sample lick over a Minor ii V I chord progression that uses the b5 and #5 triad pair over the V7alt chord, Gb and Ab over C7alt in this key.

Check this lick out, work it in 12 keys, and then bring it to tunes you know or are working on in the practice room.

I also threw in one of my favorite tension devices over a Im chord, the #4 (Blues Note) in bar 3 of the line. This note isn’t for everyone, it’s pretty tense, but check it out if it catches your ear and then take it further in your practice routine.

When you’re comfortable with this lick, start writing out licks of your own that use this 7alt triad pair to build your vocabulary over this common, yet tricky, jazz chord.


Click to hear the audio for this 7alt triad pairs lick.


7alt Triad Pairs 3 JPG


Now that we have explored major triad pairs over 7alt chords, let’s move on and explore minor triad pairs over 7alt chords in a similar context.


7alt Triad Pairs 2


The second set of 7alt triad pairs that we’ll look at use two minor triads, from the b9 and #9 of the underlying 7alt chord.

Here is how those chords would look like compared to a C7alt chord, using Dbm and Ebm at the 7alt triad pairs.


7alt Triad Pairs 4 JPG



Again, you can see all those funky sounding alterations within those two minor triads, allowing you to properly outline the 7alt chord that you’re soloing over, while keeping a sense of organization in your lines due to the compact and recognizable aspects of the triads themselves.

As well, you can apply the same exercise that we looked at with 7alt triads pairs from a major-triad perspective to these minor triads.

Here is how that would look over a C7alt chord, and again work this exercise in 12 keys and at various tempos over time in order to come up with a complete picture of how these triads sit and sound across the neck.


7alt Triad Pairs 5 JPG


Lastly, here is a sample minor-key ii V I jazz guitar lick that you can practice and bring into your playing, using the b9 and #9 triad pairs as the basis for the lick.

After you’ve learned this phrase in a few keys, and brought it to some of the tunes you’re working out in the woodshed, try and come up with some lines of your own that use these 7alt triad pairs as the basis for your lines.


Click to hear the audio for this 7alt triad pairs lick.


7alt Triad Pairs 6 JPG


After exploring these two triads from a theoretical, technical and lick standpoint, check out the practice tips below to expand on these concepts further in your jazz guitar practice routine.


7alt Triad Pair Practice Tips


To continue working on these fun and fresh-sounding melodic ideas in the woodshed, here are some of my favorite ways to practice 7alt triad pairs in the practice room.


  • Play 7alt triad pairs in inversions in 1 position on the neck ascending, descending and alternating ascending and descending in 1 key.
  • Repeat this exercise in 12 keys across the neck and in different starting positions such as 5th string roots, starting on the 2nd of the two triad-pairs, etc.
  • Play a 7alt chord on the guitar and sing the triad pairs for that chord, both major and then minor. Repeat in all 12 keys.
  • Put on a static 7alt chord vamp and improvise over it using the major triad-pairs, followed by the minor triad-pairs. Repeat in 12 keys.
  • Solo over a minor key ii-V-I chord progression and use the different triad pairs to solo over the V7alt chord. Repeat in 12 keys.
  • Solo over a tune you are working on and use each triad pair to build lines over every 7alt chord in the progression.


What do you think about playing triad pairs over 7alt chords? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

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