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6 Exercises on Triad Pairs/Hexatonics for Jazz Musicians

We’ve all played pentatonics … standard major and minor scales … maybe even modes … but what about hexatonic scales?

As the name implies, hexatonic scales are scales with six notes (instead of pentatonic’s five or the major/minor scales’ seven). There is no one hexatonic scale, but it can refer to any six-note scale. This includes jazz favorites like the whole tone scale, blues scale, and augmented scale, as well as more obscure classical scales like the Prometheus scale and tritone scale.

The question is—how do you use these in a creative way to improve your improvisation? Let’s get playing and find out!


Triad pairs

The easiest way to look at a hexatonic scale is as the sum of two triads that are a whole step apart. For example, if we made a hexatonic scale using the chords of C and D major, we would combine C, E, and G with D, F#, and A to get the hexatonic scale C, D, E, F#, G, A. Compared to a C major pentatonic scale, this scale includes a #4, which can be useful with #11 chords.

A key piece is picking two chords of any quality that do not share any tones—this lets you construct a six-note scale.

We’re going to talk about two things you can do with this—how you can put together triad pairs to match a certain harmony and some exercises to get you comfortable with the concept.

Keep in mind that this is a fairly advanced concept, so don’t be discouraged if you need to take this slow. Something that Chad LB likes to remind students is that he started his first Charlie Parker solo at 10 years old—not because he was an especially gifted 10-year-old, but because he had the patience to take it note by note, measure by measure, until he built up the full solo. Challenging yourself is good as a musician, but it takes discipline and patience to make sure you don’t overwhelm yourself.

Make sure to check out our PDF package 17 Exercises on Triad Pairs and Hexatonics for jazz musicians. This has all that we’re going to talk about and more in PDF form written out ascending and descending. Plus, we’ve got a video that you can follow along with, too!

Triad pair exercises

Exercise 1

We’re going to start with an easy pairing, again, it will be two major triads a whole step apart.

Jazz triad pair f major and e flat major

Let’s look at F and Eb. This makes a hexatonic scale of F, G, A, Bb, C, Eb. Of course you can use this when playing over the chords we built from, but there are more choices, too. Let’s play it over F7 and Cm7.

Often, it works well to play the upper triad (in this case, F) before the second (Eb).