Triads Over Minor Blues
BY TOMO FUJITA
Tomo Fujita has served on the faculty of
the Berklee College of Music since 1993
and has mentored students such as John
Mayer and Eric Krasno. His latest album,
Pure, features Steve Gadd, Will Lee, Steve
Jordan, and Bernard Purdie. For more
information about his best-selling books
and DVDs, visit tomofujita.com.
I’m a huge fan of many different types of blues guitarists—everyone from SRV to
B.B. King. I’m also a real sucker for jazz gui-
tarists like Joe Pass and Wes Montgomery.
One of my favorite things is to play blues
that’s mixed with the essence of jazz. In
order to mix both styles, you need to think
about harmony and chord changes more
than just burning through scale patterns.
I focus on simple ideas and hate to think
too much when I am playing. Triads have
become a really cool tool for me because
they provide the harmonic colors I’m look-
ing for, yet don’t require a lot of over-think-
ing. In this lesson, we’re going to look at
creative ways to use triads in a minor blues.
The basic blues progression uses only
three chords (I, IV, and V). Blues music
has very simple chord changes, yet is very
deep. The goal is to hear the chord movement rather than just thinking about the
shape of the various pentatonic scales. Let’s
get a handle on this technique by playing over minor-blues chord changes. For
starters, we’ll use the progression in Fig. 1.
Make sure to check out the %VI to V chord
movement in measures 9-10. This gives the
minor-blues progression a “jazzier” feel.
Triads consist of only three notes—the
root, 3rd, and 5th. Simple, right? Since
there are only three combinations of the
notes, you can play three different inversions (or shapes). In Fig. 2, you can see
the inversions of an A major triad on the
top three strings. The first chord is in root
position, since the root is the lowest note in
the chord. Moving up the neck we have the
1st inversion with the 3rd as the low note,
and finally we end with the 2nd inversion
with the 5th in the bass. This 2nd inversion is sometimes referred to as the “triangle