Gypsy Jazz Guitar – The Magic of Triads

The Magic of Triads


I remember myself struggling with jazz improvisation. It was so complicated! My teachers demanded that I played tensions, substitutes, superimposed chords, while I was having a hard time just keeping the form…

During my travels in Europe, I played with gypsy guitarists and learned from them. One of the most important things I learned was that making music can be simple. There are a few chords, three shapes to remember, and that’s all! Well, it’s not all, but all the rest is the interesting stuff – embellishments, trills, sound, feel, rhythm… MUSIC!

This method of improvisation became the core of my playing. Playing music became simple: connecting all the arpeggios, tensions and substitutes I knew to one easy formula.

Let’s begin this lesson by learning all the basic triad shapes and inversions…



Major Triads & Inversions [1:00 in the video]

Here are the major triads and inversions you need to learn:


Major triads


Minor Triads & Inversions [6:17 in the video]

These are the minor triads and inversions you need to learn:


Minor triads


Fast Enclosure Exercise [3:54 in the video]

This is an enclosure exercise for the second inversion of C (C/G). You start with a diatonic note above the chord tone, then play the chord tone, then a half step below the chord tone and then the chord tone again. You do this for all notes of the triad.


Triads enclosure exercise


Improvising over All of Me

Step 1 [6:55 in the video]: play an accompaniment using only triad shapes (play a triad for each chord). During chord changes, use chord voicings that are close to each other so that you’ll play all the chords in the same area on the fingerboard.

Here are the chord changes of the A part of All of Me:


All of Me chord changes


And here is an example of triad voicings you can use over All of Me:


Triads over All of Me

Step 2 [7:55 in the video]: improvise over the All of Me chord progression using these triad shapes. At first, try to stay in the same area on your fingerboard as shown above. Then start improvising all over the fret board using only these shapes. Play simple – even one or two notes per chord. Just to make sure you keep the form.

Step 3 [9:32 in the video]: add the half tone approach. For each note of the chord, use a half-step approach: play a chromatic note half a tone below to lead into the target chord note. Improvise using this idea. You can play the chromatic note either on the beat or off the beat. Playing the chromatic approach off the beat gives more tension to the music. Django uses this idea a lot.

Step 4 [9:55 in the video]: add enclosures by playing a diatonic note over the chord note and a chromatic note below. Listen to Django’s Minor Swing solo for an example. In his first phrase, he uses the diatonic (of the scale) approach above the target note and a chromatic approach below the target note. In Django’s solo, the target note is A, which is the root for Am and the 5th for Dm, which is the next chord.

Step 5: Connect all the other skills you have (arpeggios, licks…) to those simple shapes. See the melody within those simple shapes so you can always get back to it in the middle of your improvisation.

This method can become the core of your visualization of the fingerboard…

Do you use triads in your solos? Let us know how in the comments below…


If you want to learn how to use triads in gypsy jazz, click here for Yaakov Hoter’s video course The Magic of Triads…


The Magic of Triads

  1. TadeuszOct 26, 2016 at 8:35 pm

    Great lesson. Thank you very much. I will try this approach for a while and see if my fingers can follow.

    • Yaakov HoterOct 28, 2016 at 7:52 am

      Enjoy! The best thing with this concept is that you can create beautiful solos fast, only with the skills you already have now.

  2. Sal HambyOct 27, 2016 at 3:11 am

    Thanks… very insightful

  3. EddieOct 27, 2016 at 5:07 am

    Nice. Great lesson.

  4. Larry FeldmanOct 27, 2016 at 6:14 am

    Great lesson. I use a lot of your concepts. Been interested in Gypsy Jazz guitar since I realized that Wes Montgomery used some of those techniques too. Thank you very much.

    • Yaakov HoterOct 28, 2016 at 7:56 am

      Django had influenced all the major jazz guitarists. From Wes to Joe Pass to McLaughlin, just name it. It is because Django was a jazz guitarist. A genius one. In his eyes he played jazz and not gypsy jazz. This term was created only years after his death- based on his own way of playing.

  5. Chris ChiaOct 27, 2016 at 11:33 am

    Cool stuffs. Practical and fun. I will definitely explore further. Thanks a lot

    • Yaakov HoterOct 28, 2016 at 7:57 am

      Your’e welcome!

  6. adrianOct 27, 2016 at 11:38 am


  7. Chris JonesOct 27, 2016 at 2:23 pm

    What a great snippet of a lesson. Great clear explanations. Keep up the great work!

    • Yaakov HoterOct 28, 2016 at 7:58 am

      Thanks Chris. Enjoy!

  8. fidanza maxOct 27, 2016 at 2:40 pm

    Une des plus grandes et rares vidéos à retenir
    Un grand merci à l’auteur pour ce partage … magique!

  9. Guitar HackOct 27, 2016 at 9:35 pm

    Lol. I was just getting ready to comment that your are essentially arpeggiating around the triads. Then you actually said it in the video.

    I’ll be trying this tonight.

    • Yaakov HoterOct 28, 2016 at 7:58 am

      Great. Share with us how it went..

  10. Paulette harronOct 28, 2016 at 1:23 am

    This is what I’ve been searching for! Thank you!! Great lesson.

  11. Rodrigao GuitarOct 28, 2016 at 2:06 am

    Great lesson, thanks a lot for share with us, I’m from Brazil.

  12. BGJOct 28, 2016 at 2:20 am

    Always back to the triads, ex. CM13b9#5 = C+

  13. Steve GrayOct 28, 2016 at 6:17 am


    • Dirk LaukensOct 28, 2016 at 8:58 am

      Hey Steve, that’s a matter of habit. I choose to display them horizontally because that’s also the way you hold your guitar…

    • JohannesOct 29, 2016 at 7:56 am

      Using only upper case is considered SCREAMING AT THE READER!!!….
      Not so polite. Dirk and Yaakov make a huge effort and create wonderful lessons. We should be thanking them, not scream at them.

      @Yaakov & Dirk: thanks for this great lesson.

      • Donna RadinOct 29, 2016 at 1:52 pm

        Laughing at your comment, Johannes. I had assumed Steve had his caps lock on by mistake!
        Great lesson and great graphic presentation too!

    • Jason TussleDec 30, 2016 at 4:32 am



  14. YariOct 30, 2016 at 12:45 pm

    Great lesson…

  15. krenwinOct 31, 2016 at 6:42 pm

    Very intersting….Thank you all

  16. PierreNov 1, 2016 at 12:52 pm

    Thanks Yaakov for this great lesson

    Question : if you want to highlight a C7 chord (with Bb) how do you use the triad concept ? maybe using a E-7(b5) ?


    • JohannesNov 1, 2016 at 5:37 pm

      Maybe E diminished E-G-Bb?

  17. Michael MarcusNov 2, 2016 at 3:53 pm

    Thank you Yaakov for the great lesson. Have been playing now for 50 plus years (blues), now learning jazz.

  18. JochenNov 2, 2016 at 10:39 pm

    Thank you for this real cool stuff.
    May we get also an enclosure exercise for minor triad? That would help me to understand it even better

  19. janDec 4, 2016 at 11:37 am

    Thanks alot for your inspiration, great tutorial!

  20. StevenJan 2, 2017 at 1:08 pm

    This is such a good lesson at all levels. What I found helpful was how it provides a simple “map” or path back to the melody.

  21. TripFeb 21, 2017 at 6:57 pm

    Thank you for sharing this Great lesson. For years I have been studying all the scales and altered scales and trying to “apply” them over chord changes… Not really getting anywhere. This Triad concept makes it fun and much more simplified to begin improvising. A Musicians goal is to create music and improvise spontaneously, not to apply complex mathematical formulas like a scientist. Excellent lesson indeed. Thanks!

  22. Chris BeatriceMar 18, 2017 at 8:05 pm

    Yaakov, thank you so much for the great lesson(s). As someone who understands these concepts but has a hard time putting them into practice in ‘real time’, this particular video was a big help. I have a question though, maybe I misunderstood something. You talked about adding tones a half step below, and a full step above the chord tones: but how does that work with, for example, the 7th chords in ‘All of Me’? (minor 7th and dominant 7th) You’d be playing a major 7th in the solo while the rhythm was playing minor 7ths. I know you don’t want to get into the theory too much, but I just wanted to make sure I understood what you were saying correctly.

  23. Brenton ReeceMar 26, 2017 at 6:03 pm

    Thanks for sharing your story and showing and showing the way to a complete simplified method of progressivly applying the triads in all its inversions and how to apply it to improvise thrugh chord changes.

    Great lesson

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