Shaun Baxter continues his recent series on using triads to create lines with a cool, fusion-like sophistication. This month: working in pairs.
Part three of Shaun Baxter’s Mixolydian triad series. In this instalment: triad pairs.
In this series, we’ve looked at ways of deriving triads from A Mixolydian mode (A-B-C#-D-E-F#-G) in order to use them as the basis for creating new and more interesting musical lines. This is because triads can help to introduce harmonic propulsion into your single-note lines by implying chord motion, thereby creating results that sound both ear-catching and powerful, and really pull the listener in. In the previous lesson, we took all of the triads that exist within Mixolydian to play lines that shift laterally along the guitar neck. In this one, we’re going to get a bit more precise by focusing on two specific triads from within the scale.
A ‘triad pair’ is a couple of triads that can be found within a common scale but do not share any notes. In the case of A Mixolydian, we have several choices. These include: G Major (G-B-D) A Major (A-C#-E) E Minor (E-G-B) F# Minor (F#-A-C#) In this article, we’re going to focus solely on G and A as our triad pairs. Note that, relative to each other in terms of sound, the G triad will provide a suspended form of tension, whereas the A triad will sound resolved as it relates more closely to the underlying chord.
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 different triads that exist within the scale, this is the strongest, and many of your lines should hinge on these notes in particular, since they provide a sound that feels like ‘home’.
Diagram 2 shows how all the CAGED shapes link together along the neck, so that you can see how everything is connected. It’s important to note that many ideas, especially lateral ones, will straddle two or more different CAGED shapes at the same time, and it’s important to be able to visualise this, as not only will it prevent you from getting lost, it will also help you reapply the ideas to different keys.
Remember, your aim through formal experimentation with triad pairs is to establish a series of friendly flexible shapes (rather than theoretical concepts) that exist within each particular scale pattern; allowing you to use the information in an instinctive and intuitive way.
Initially, you should aim to establish some G and A-based vocabulary in each of the five CAGED shapes of A Mixolydian. You should then work at using Em and F#m as an alternative triad pair. Next, try taking the triad pair-based vocabulary that you’ve learned and transfer it to the other scales that you know by looking for a workable triad pair from within each one.
Finally, when experimenting, remember to work at creating ideas that have some form of rhythmic interest, as this is a great way to help to make triads sound more musical, integrated and less mechanical.
work at creating ideas with rhythmic interest as this helps to make triads sound less mechanical
Triads will sound good either clean or distorted; however, as this is Creative Rock, all the examples were recorded using a standard blues-rock sound: a Fender Strat through a distortion pedal (Zendrive) into a (Cornford) head. For any given line, one just needs to consider which pickup to use (I used the bridge pickup throughout) and where to apply a slight amount of palm muting in order to clean things up in places. Add reverb to taste.