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Add Biads to Your Harmonic Toolkit

In the quest for ever expanding our harmonic toolkit we often deep dive triads, 4 note chords, inversions, and other ideas to better comp in a variety of scenarios. An often overlooked concept is that of biads, or two notes paired together (not quite a chord yet), and this is unfortunate because biads lend themselves to well to a melodic style of comping, and are extremely versatile. In this article we’ll explore a few examples of how you can use biads to improve your comping in a variety of ways.

So where do we begin with Biads? How do we employ them? I’ll use one example to demonstrate the methodology that you can use to integrate them into your playing. Because biads are only two notes, they are easiest to define by their interval, for the sake of this article we will use a major 3rd interval because it is common and can be employed in a variety of ways. Let’s first look at a simple harmonic analysis to see how a major 3rd biad stacks up against every potential root note:

Here we see a lot of potential for harmonic implications against different root notes. Let’s look at how a guitar player might use this major third interval to comp through a set of changes:

A little jarring at first. But now let’s combine those ideas with some fuller chords to anchor the harmonics and use the biads to create some movement:

Now we have something much more musical with some interesting voice leading. With even more attention to phrasing this idea could sound much more interesting.

Let’s look at another interesting method using biads in an arpeggio like fashion over a major 7 chord. We’ll start with a biad of a major 7th interval on the root, then move the biads up in a parallel fashion through the arpeggio. Here’s an example of a Gmaj7 treated this way:

A pretty sound, and any chord can be treated in this way, with varying starting biads and their inversions. For the sake of keeping this article a short read, let’s stick to this starting biad pair and move this idea through a ii-V-I progression:

This sounds great, preserves a defined a chordal harmony, and provides a lot of options for movement and variation. And this is just one example of how this idea can be used extensively, even for much more complicated chord changes. I hope you take the opportunity to work through many intervals and discover how you can turn these biadic ideas into great music.

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