Octatonic Triad Pairs? And Why Bruce Lee Wants You To Stop Kicking So Much

May 27, 2019


Look! Up in the sky!
It's an octatonic scale!
It's a dyad run!
It's triad pairs!


Melodic Triads.

Yep, this whole run started with one simple major triad. But like a seed planted in the ground, watered, and tended to... it's bound to grow into something else.

Here's the basic theory going on that turned a simple A major triad into... that ^^^^

Actually first, let's talk about Bruce Lee for a second. Bruce once said that he's not afraid of a person who's practiced 10,000 different kicks once. He's afraid of a person who's practiced one kick 10,000 times. We'll come back to that in a minute. Let's pick up from the A major triad.

I'm using an A major triad over a C7 chord. There's a lot to cover, so I'm not going to explain too much about that.

I like to add a single note to that triad to create a 4 note structure that I call a quadratonic. That 4th note behaves like a melodic tension, causing friction and drama against the triad and therefore... movement. That note in this case is a Bb note. Again, not going too deep why right now. So now I'm using A major with an added Bb note. I notate that (A)/b2 - because it's an A triad, with the tension b2 added... the b2 of A is Bb.

Then I used a serious of melodic triad based steps to choose Eb as the triad to combine with A for my triad pair. Against the Eb, I added an F# note as my 4th "tension note". This gives us (Eb)/#2.

Now we've taken our triad pair (A and Eb) and turned it into a quadratonic pair.

(A)/b2 - (Eb)/#2

Don't let all of this theory overwhelm you. This is an advanced application of a simple idea, and it took me a long time of focusing on the basics and learning to apply them to playing real music before I was able to keep all of these plates spinning.

These quadratonic pairs include the notes:

C#/Db - D#/Eb - E - F#/Gb - G - A - Bb

This gives us 7 of the 8 notes of an octatonic scale. If we add a C note, we would have the C half-whole diminished scale, a very common scale to use over C7.

Then I started on the 1st string, 12th fret E note and descended this pattern, rotating back and forth between each triad/quadratonic... and harmonizing each lead note with a 2nd note from the respective group. So sort of an octatonic scale or half-whole diminished scale run, sort of dyads, sort of triad pairs... but all Melodic Triads.

Unless you've been studying Melodic Triads with me privately or in our online Melodic Triad Study Group, I wouldn't expect you to fully understand all the theory laid out here just from reading over this once. My main goals sharing this was to give you a hip sounding dyad run that you can use for your own playing and then to show you that often times, the way to find the really cool stuff is not by leaving behind the simple fundamentals and chasing after complicated ideas... instead, it's to get to know the fundamentals so well, and to be able to control them so masterfully, that you can begin adding additional layers of complexity directly onto them.

Which brings us back to Bruce Lee. Why did he say that he didn't fear a person who practiced 10,000 kicks once, but he did fear a person who practice one kick 10,000 times? What's the difference? Each person has performed 10,000 kicks and has likely spent the exact same amount of time kicking. So shouldn't he be equally afraid of both?

Well no.

When we perform the same simple task that many times, we can become masterful at it. We find all of the tiny nuances to it. We grow. We develop discipline. Our character evolves. We actually learn to think, behave, and live differently. Learning to exist and work within limitation forces us to discover things we otherwise would never have found. Whereas someone who only practices each kick once, even if it's 10,000 different kicks... they have no mental clarity, no focus, no persistence, no deep internal understanding of all the different ways one single kick can be taken advantage of. Not to mention, their neuromuscular system has not been given the change to master the movement or adapt to it to be performed flawlessly and instinctively.

I wanted this very short video, and this absurdly long description, to remind you of just how much potential is hiding inside of the fundamentals of music... right there in plain sight. A musician who didn't know the octatonic scale and who didn't know how to develop contrary and oblique motion inside of a 2-voice counterpoint idea could STILL accomplish those sounds if they fully understood the potential of triads and some very basic theory. 

This, to me, is what sets apart the legends of the music from the great players, and the great players from the talented hobbyists. It's willingness to get in and do the dirty work. For me, that's triads. 

And don't forget to have a go at that dyad run!

Happy Practicing!




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