Alright everyone, this is going to be a very quick JTJ because the concept is very simple, but the applications are many.

So let's dive right in.

The Magic of Triads

In tonal music, major and minor triads are the backbone of what we do. They are the building blocks of chords and keys and the basis for thousands of melodies.

We are all very familiar with how triads work. Lets to a quick inventory of the 4 "main" triads in music.

Major = 1 3 5

Minor = 1 b3 5

Aug = 1 3 #5

Diminished = 1 b3 b5

Now OBVIOUSLY there are more 3 note sonorities we can craft, but these 4 tertian triads are our basis here. Out of these, two (aug & dim) are unstable, so we are going to stick to stable triads for now.

What Is Superimposition?

The main concept we are exploring here is the concept of triadic superimposition; using a triad over a different chord. For example.

I play a G triad arpeggio over Cmaj7. This creates a Cmaj9 sound as I bring out (5 7 9) over the chord.

This is a similar concept to hybrid voicing and polychords, but not the same.

Hybrid voicings are a chord over a bass note that is not 1 3 5 or 7. Ex: G/A

Polychords are literally two chords at once Ex: Bm7/Cmaj7

What we are doing is either melodically or harmonically using a triad in place of or on top of a chord being played by the band to create a new sound.

Here's another example. Let's say the band is playing Cm7. I could play a Cm arpeggio, but instead, I will play notes around the Bb triad. This creates a Cm11 sound, because a Bb triad is (7 9 11) over Cm.

The reason this works is because, like pentatonic scales from last time, the triads are extremely stable and powerful sounds. They still have unity, even when played over another chord. You hear the created unstable extensions over the chord, the 9s 11s and 13s, but you also hear the "simple" major or minor triad, so your ears have something strong to lock into.

So How Does it Work?

The trick here is to use the triads in a way so that they create new extended chords over the chord in question.

I'm going to give a bunch of examples, and we can deal with principles after.

We'll use this format for clarity: Triad/chord = new chord - (notes the triad makes)

Maj7 chords

G/Cmaj7 = Cmaj9 - (5 7 9 )

D/Cmaj7 = Cmaj13(#11) - (9 #11 13)

E/Cmaj7 = Cmaj7#5 - (3 #5 7) (This MM sound kicks ass BTW)

B/Cmaj7 = Cmaj7 (#9 #11) - (7 #9 #11) - OOOOOOOOO dimninshed scale FTW

Min7 chords

F/Cm7 = Cm13 - (11 13 1)

Gm/Cm7 = Cm9 - (5 7 9)

Bb/Cm7 = Cm11 - (7 9 11)

Dom7 chords

D/C7 = C9(#11 13) - (9 #11 13)

Eb/C7 = C7#9 - (#9 5 7)

A/C7 = C13(b9) - (13 b9 3)

C#m/C7 = C7(b9 b13) - (b9 3 b13)

F#m/C7 = C13 (b9 #11) - (#11 13 b9)

m7b5 chords

Bb/Cm7b5 = Cm7b5(#2 (nat.9) 11) = (7 nat.9 11)

Diminished chord

D, F, Ab, or B / Cdim7 = C dim7 with Upper tones(experiment with it, endless possibility....)

That's It?

No! The possibilities are more or less endless. But keep these things in mind while you experiment.

1. On Maj7 chords, you want to avoid triads that give you a 4 (the dreaded avoid note)

2. On min7 chords, avoid triads that give you a major 3rd (aka no C# over A minor)

3. On dom7 chords, avoid triads that give you a Maj7 (see the huge execpetion below)

Huge Exception: Remember, a maj7 and a leading tone are NOT the same. It's in how you use it. I play F# over G7 all the time.

4. You can use multiple triads over the same chord.

5. You can use the same triad over multiple chords.

6. Using a triad does not just mean do the arpeggio (although it can for those of you who sweep a lot). You can encircle the triad notes chromatically (see JTJ #2), connect them with passing tones (1235 anyone) or even...dare I say it....generalize each triad with a pentatonic scale.

7. You can also use the triads as chord voicings. If you suddenly blank on a voicing for C13b9, just play an A triad. Use this concept to expand your harmonic vocabulary.

8. Stick with major and minor triads for now. Augmented and diminished triads are difficult to work in in a way that superimposes. The use of aug and dim triads is a concept more along the lines of shading (Aug = MM, Dim = Dim scale) than superimposition.

And Finally:

What I have listed up there is nowhere near a comprehensive list of possible triads. Experiment and come up with cool sounds that you like.

A great way to practice this is to try to use a triad over every chord in a progression. Like this:

Gm - C7 - F

I could use:

F - C#m - C

Thus creating:

Gm9(11) - C7 (b9 b13) - Fmaj9

You don't have to superimpose every chord either. This is a trick you can use on a chord-by-chord basis.

Anyway. That's all there is to this. Try coming up with your own examples over II-V's or other progressions, and post them so we can discuss.


If people really want a table of all possibilities, I can maybe do that, but you all having your own quest for self improvement and finding your own triads you like is half the battle.

I can also potentially post a GP5 file, but I dunno how much good it would do, seeing as everyone here probably knows how to play a triad.

I will leave you with this, however. Johnny Smith was a man who loved his triads, and uses them (along with some tricky 4 note voicings!) on this track. Check out how he uses an E triad over G7, and F# and Ab triads over the C7 in the bridge.


Also note the superhuman 3 octave Cmaj7 arpeggio in the solo. Johnny Smith was playing things considered modern by today's standards in the 50s.
"There are two styles of music. Good music and bad music." -Duke Ellington

"If you really think about it, the guitar is a pointless instrument." - Robert Fripp
good stuff jet..(as usual) ill add...the use of "open chord" voicing on the triads will add still another dimension to all the chords you stated..and arpeggios of the open voicing..

and you are correct with the nearly endless possibilities of all the material you have given..

play well

Absolutely. I assume you mean "open" as in Eric Johnson style "spread" voicing, not "open position" cowboy chords.

Another trick I like is to use alternating pairs of triad patterns. Example:

Over G7, alternating between E and C# major triads and resultant licks.
"There are two styles of music. Good music and bad music." -Duke Ellington

"If you really think about it, the guitar is a pointless instrument." - Robert Fripp
I just "came up with" the m7 a half step up from a dom thing today. I was thinking about F7#5 and then decided to add the b9. Then I decided that sounded neat. F#m

I have an aug one that I've been messing around with as well. You play an aug chord built on the b5 and add the "m7". So Gb, Bb, D, E over C7. I usually just think of it as a C9 arp with a b5.

I'll have to mess around with the rest of this thread.

You can expand on the "m7 up a 1/2 step" thing by using the OTHER chord from MM.

Check it.

F7 = F Alt = F#MM

F#MM: I - F#m & V - C#


F#m AND C#/F7 = (b9 3 b13) (b13 b9 #9)

ANNNNND The C# resolves to the F#m. How convenient.
"There are two styles of music. Good music and bad music." -Duke Ellington

"If you really think about it, the guitar is a pointless instrument." - Robert Fripp
I use the C7 + Dmaj triad chord whenever possible! I also like the C Alt chord made by superimposing Ab over C7(C7#9 b13).

I noticed something funny when I was playing this Chick Corea tune, Mirror, Mirror.

The chords go
Cmaj7 - E7#9 - Fmaj7 - A7#9
Dmaj7 - F#7#9 - Gmaj7 - B7#9

This can be played:
C - C/E7 - F - F/A7
D - D/F#7 - G - G/B7

Slowing down the harmonic rhythm from 1 chord per bar to 1 chord every 2 bars - great for such a fast waltz piece!

Looking over your post again, I could try superimposing G over the first C chord and continue from there:

G/Cmaj - G/E7 - C/Fmaj - C/A7 etc.
(Cmaj9 - E7#9 - Fmaj9 - A7#9)

Or even:
Cmaj - C/E7 - C/Fmaj - C/A7
(Cmaj - E7#9 b13 - Fmaj9 - A7#9)

Reducing the whole first line to one chord..?
Yep. Herb Ellis often does that; finding a triad that will work over a whole line.

This is a great survival tool for those times when you get a new tune to read, and the singer goes,

"Can we play this in Gb at 300 BPM?"

Remember, you can also do the reverse and use multiple triads per chord. You can also use them do imply radically different harmonies; the triad unity will keep the progression together, especially if both the original chords AND the triads each are a strong progression.

Cmaj7 - E7#9 - Fmaj7 - A7#9 +

E - Fm - E - F =

Cmaj7#5 - E7(b9b13) - Fmaj7(#9 #11) - A7 (#9 b13)

Try that one. That's a Jet Penguin approved level of dissonance, right there, if anyone is wondering.

Or, If you really want my approval , use Fm both times and turn the A7 into:

A(sp.7)(#9 b13)

Which, if you don't like split-seventh chords, is equivalent to this EXTREME sub for A7#9:

C#maj7(#9 #11 #5)
"There are two styles of music. Good music and bad music." -Duke Ellington

"If you really think about it, the guitar is a pointless instrument." - Robert Fripp