Shaun Baxter shows how to use triads that exist within the Mixolydian mode in order to create lines that shift laterally along the neck.
Shaun Baxter explores more ideas around the Mixolydian – this month, diatonic shapes.
Recently, we’ve looked at ways of deriving triads from A Mixolydian in order to use them as the basis for new musical lines. Triads can help to introduce harmonic propulsion into your single-note lines by implying chord motion, creating results that sound both ear-catching and powerful. In the previous lesson, we looked at creating Mixolydian lines by taking the scale’s parental triad (the one starting from the root) and shifting it laterally along the neck. In this lesson, we’re going to expand on that by looking at how all of the triads within the Mixolydian mode can be used in this manner; however, first, we should start by revising the concept of triads and how to derive them from any given scale.
Triads are considered to be the primary colours of Western music. Developing the ability to extract them from a scale and play each note individually as part of a single-note line will help to give your playing a fusion-like sophistication. When improvising, many self-taught players use a ‘linear’ approach comprising ‘steps’ (intervals of a tone or less), whereas triads are composed of bigger intervals, called ‘leaps’ b3rd (intervals of a or greater). This ‘vertical’ approach increases the harmonic content to each musical idea, helping it to sound both stronger and fresher. Triads comprise three successive scale ‘3rds’. Here are the ones from within A Mixolydian (A-B-C#-D-E-F#-G): A triad: A C# E 1 3 5 Bm triad: B D F# 1 b3 5 C#dim triad: C# E G 1 b3 b5 D triad: D F# A 1 3 5 Em triad: E G B 1 b3 5 F#m triad: F# A C# 1 b3 5 G triad: G B D 1 3 5 Because they are extracted from the scale, the above triads are known as being ‘diatonic’ to A Mixolydian. Despite the list, it’s not always important to think of the name of each triad as you extract it from a scale when you improvise. Instead, it’s possible to merely recognise triad ‘shapes’ within each scale. All the above triads are created by taking notes of A Mixolydian (A-B-C#-D-E-F#-G) and playing every other note from that point (A-C#-E then B-D-F# then C#-E-G etc). Your aim, through formal experimentation, is to establish a series of friendly shapes (rather than theoretical concepts) that exist within each particular scale pattern; allowing you to use the information in a much more intuitive way.
Diagram 1 shows the various CAGED shapes of A Mixolydian and the dark notes represent the parental A triad notes that exist within each shape. Of all the triads in the scale, this is the strongest, and many of your lines should hinge on these notes.
Diagram 2 shows how all the CAGED shapes link together along the neck, so that you can see how everything is connected. Note that many ideas will straddle two different CAGED shapes at the same time. It’s important to be able to visualise this or you’ll get lost. Because of their vertical nature (often featuring just one note per string), sweep picking is a recommended approach if you want to play triads (especially large ones) at speed.
Finally, when experimenting, you should work at establishing vocabulary that stems from each of the five CAGED shapes of every scale that you know: not just Mixolydian. Also, remember to work at creating ideas that have some form of rhythmic interest too, as this is a great way help to make triads less mechanical – after all, we’re playing music, not exercises. Have fun!
JOHN SCOFIELD SCO USES TRIADS TO SOUND BOLD AND SOPHISTICATED
triads can help to introduce harmonic propulsion to your single-note lines by implying motion