Ideas to spice up basic major/minor triads?
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Old 15-04-2012, 06:54 AM   #1
RockNRoll
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Ideas to spice up basic major/minor triads?

Greetings all,

I'm a guitarist and I have been trying to search or explore ways to spice up basic major or minor chords. I know in particular, a lot of guitarists like to:
  • Add a 9 to a triad
  • Alter to a sus2 chord
  • Add dissonance by including a 4th to a complete major triad
These are what I generally do from time to time, but I have been trying to explore or find more cool ways to add a little more character to basic major or minor triads. If you have any suggestions, I'll be glad to hear any tips or advice!


Thanks a lot!

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Old 15-04-2012, 07:06 AM   #2
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Re: Ideas to spice up basic major/minor triads?

General extended chords (add9, 7th chords, 9th, 11th, 13th chords), possibly with altered jazz extensions like #11ths, etc.

Suspended chords, as you said - sus2 and sus4 - possibly voiced as quartal harmony (ie. stacked fourths or fifths). And other voicings in general - doubling unusual notes, inversions or just wide voicings are other ways of adding interest.

Other than that, it's as much to do with the context of the chord as it is to do with the chord iteself. Aside from using normal functional harmony, try also using borrowed or altered chords, from a related scale (ie. playing iv instead of IV in a major scale), and not forgetting about the diminished triad!

Also, using secondary dominants, classical chords like the neapolitan or augmented sixth, and using the tritone substitution instead of the dominant.

There are more jazz or classical substitutions, extensions and similar things, I think, that I either haven't remembered or don't know, but I think what I've mentioned is a good start

I've never heard of adding the fourth to a major triad, btw
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Old 15-04-2012, 02:40 PM   #3
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Re: Ideas to spice up basic major/minor triads?

Great tips Feral_P!

Another idea you could try is playing the triad as a chord, then immediately arpeggiating it. Or playing the chord, then sweep pick an arpeggio of the same triad, just an octave higher or a different inversion (but in the same position on the fretboard). Or even playing a quick melody thats located around the triad.

I'm not sure if you were just looking for ideas for just strumming chords. But if not, these are some simple ideas that could provide a lot of variety and depth to the simplest of chord progressions.
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Old 15-04-2012, 02:55 PM   #4
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Re: Ideas to spice up basic major/minor triads?

Thankyou
I completely forgot about arpeggiation, or articulation in general!
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Old 15-04-2012, 08:27 PM   #5
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Re: Ideas to spice up basic major/minor triads?

Just a quick related question because I kinda always get confused.

Adding a 9th, is that the note 14 semi-tones up from the root? Like the way the fifth is exactly 7 st up and the octave is 12?
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Old 15-04-2012, 09:23 PM   #6
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Re: Ideas to spice up basic major/minor triads?

Use sevenths. DONE.

Ap0c: the 8th is the octave, so yes, the 9th is the second but up an octave. 14 semitones.

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Old 16-04-2012, 07:06 PM   #7
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Re: Ideas to spice up basic major/minor triads?

One suggestion I would have would be to re-arrange the notes in your chord. ALOT of beginner composers/writers will stick with closed chords (if you don't know what that is, it's when all the notes in the chord are next to each other in sequential order not spread out over the whole keyboard/fretboard) and this can lead to some somewhat stale and uninspiring chord choices. Try using open chords (which are where the notes are spread out in different octaves or positions)
Also, remember that there are different triads/chords WITHIN harmonically larger chords, so try experimenting that way. For example, if the bass is playing a c, and you want a major 9th sound, try just playing an e minor 7th. You'll end up with a c major 9 chord.
Seeing as you are a guitar player, I would recommend you download the app "chordmaster" if you have an ipod touch or an iphone. very helpful for learning some new chords, or simply using it as a dictionary.
Also, I would suggest that you experiment with open chords. for example... x-0-5-5-0-0 (being an a minor 9th I believe) this will help give you different sounds for different situations in composition and simply playing wise. Let's say that your verse is all palm muted power chords, or chords that aren't really that spread out to emphasize a very rigid and tense feel. For the chorus you probably will want it to be a release, so you can use open chords to further emphasize the tension and release factor to your music.

Any other question that you have for me mate, pm me and I'll help you out the best I can.

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Old 22-04-2012, 10:58 AM   #8
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Re: Ideas to spice up basic major/minor triads?

It's a good thing to play the seventh always (which means find out if it should be minor or major), and *then* decide if you remove it or not. Remember the 5th is not necessary unless it's altered.

Last edited by yan_g; 22-04-2012 at 11:03 AM..

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