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How To Play m7 Triad Pairs For Guitar

Learning how to play jazz guitar, means learning how to comfortably and authentically solo over m7 chords in both a modal and tonal context.

While many of us have checked out the Dorian mode as an option to solo over this commonly used jazz chord, we often stop there in our exploration of the m7 sound, or are stuck as to where to turn next in our m7 soloing practice routine.

One of the easiest, and coolest-sounding, ways to expand your m7 soloing repertoire is the use of m7 triad pairs.

By breaking up the Dorian mode into two different m7 triad pairs, one major pair and one minor, you are outlining the sound of the mode and m7 chord, but doing so in a way that doesn’t sound like you are running up and down scale fingerings on the guitar.

In this lesson, we will be looking at two different m7 triad pairs that you can use to expand your soloing vocabulary, how they are built, why they work and how to practice them further in your jazz guitar practice routine.


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


m7 Triad Pairs 1


The first m7 triad pair that we will explore involves playing a major triad from the b3 and 4 of the underlying chord, such as the Eb and F triads over the Cm7 chord in the example below.


m7 Triad Pairs 1 JPG


You will notice that the Eb triad produces the intervals b3-5-b7, and the F triad produces the intervals 4-6-R, leaving out only the 2nd note from the Dorian mode that we often use over m7 chords in our jazz guitar solos.

Though there is only one note difference between the m7 triad pair and the Dorian mode, it is the organization of those 6 notes into triads that makes them sound fresh and unique, compared to the mode when played as a complete scale.

To demonstrate this, here is an exercise you can do in order to get these triads under your fingers and into your solos.

The exercise runs through the different inversions of the Eb and F triads across the strings, with each triad ascending on the way up and down the neck.

Work on this exercise over Cm7 at various tempos, and then try taking it to other keys across the neck in order to get a deep understanding of how these triads sit together across the fretboard.


m7 Triad Pairs 2 JPG


To finish off our intro to major triads over m7 chords let’s check out a sample ii V I Jazz Guitar Lick with these two triads in action.

Here you can see and hear the Eb and F triad being used over the Cm7 chord in a ii V I progression in the key of Bb.

After you have worked this lick in a number of tempos, and across different keys on the guitar, try coming up with your own ii V I licks using m7 triad pairs, then bringing those into your m7 soloing as well.


Click to hear the audio for this m7 triad pairs lick.


m7 Triad Pairs 3 JPG


Now that we have explored major triad pairs over m7 chords, let’s move on and explore minor triad pairs over m7 chords in a similar context.


m7 Triad Pairs 2


The second m7 triad pairs that we will explore in this lesson features two minor triads from the root and 2nd note of the underlying m7 chord.

As you can see from the example below, when playing these triads you produce the root-b3-5 from the C minor triad, and the intervals 2-4-6 from the D minor triad.

Again, you are playing 6 of the 7 Dorian mode notes, leaving out the b7 in this case, which sounds fresh and hip due to the new way of organizing things into triads.


m7 Triad Pairs 4 JPG


Here is a variation of the previous exercise that you can explore in the practice room, this time descending each inversion of the triad pair as you move up the neck.

Try working this exercise in various tempos and keys around the neck, and then take these triads to a vamp or tune you are working on and use them as the basis for your jazz guitar soloing ideas.


m7 Triad Pairs 5 JPG


To finish this section off, here is another sample lick over a ii V I in Bb major to work on in the woodshed, and then take to different keys and tunes you are working on in the practice room.

And just like the previous lick, feel free to write out your own ii V I ideas using these m7 triad pairs as the basis of your phrases and melodic ideas.


Click to hear the audio for this m7 triad pairs lick.


m7 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.


m7 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 m7 triad pairs in the practice room.


  • Play 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 m7 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 m7 chord vamp and improvise over it using the major triad-pairs, followed by the minor triad-pairs. Repeat in 12 keys.
  • Solo over a major key ii-V-I chord progression and use the different triad pairs to solo over the iim7 chord. Repeat in 12 keys.
  • Solo over a tune you are working on and use each triad pair to build lines over every m7 chord in the progression.


m7 chords are some of the most commonly used harmonic devices in jazz music, and therefore are worth spending the time on in the practice room to feel comfortable navigating them from a soloing and comping standpoint.

By using triad pairs to solo over m7 chords in a jazz context, you will be able to comfortably outline these important chords, while avoiding running up and down the scale as your only improvisational option.

What do you think about playing triad pairs over m7 chords? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

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