Diving back to triads in all positions. I don’t naturally grab these triads up the neck, but now is as good a time as any to start.
I didn’t realize just how useful learning all of these triad positions would be until they started clicking, particularly up and down between the three core shapes in a given key (root on string 2, 3, or 4). Beginning with the shape below as the I chord gives you a ton of options nearby. The ii, IV, and vi have multiple options that are easy to grab or switch between.
With a bassline or second harmony covering the low end, you can easily cycle through the upper extensions of the underlying chord (upper structure triads once you’re beyond R,3,5 if I recall correctly). Throw sus2 and sus4 in and your palette extends even further. I should probably record an audio example to demonstrate.
The best thing to me is that you can always map a diatonic mode back to a home Ionean key, so just knowing which I chord you refer back to means you can grab extensions up and down the neck. For instance, A Aeolian is just the sixth mode of C Major, so all of the triads will be the same as those in C. Even grabbing the C Maj triad just gives you an Am7 over an A bass note.
On to strings 2/3/4. No shortage of options here either. For the rootless versions, it’s easiest helpful to think about placing the minor 7th position relative to the target root.
Dominant triads can be put together by dropping the root or the fifth, assuming you have a root from a bassline or keyboard. I don’t use a ton of dominant chords, but I think its another tool I personally need to beef up. Here’s the top three strings:
I recently picked this one up from a book of jazz chords. I love the sound of the 4th/11th versus the 5th with the m7 still in there.
Only recently have I discovered just how many good chordal options there are to add character to improvised guitar work. One of the most useful is the m9 chord. Not only is this a fantastic chord on its own, but the 5th string root shape lives in a number of places in the diatonic scale (in its various flavors) and adds a complex character that varies with the underlying harmony.
Once you know it’s there in the main Dorian/Lydian, Ionian, and Mixolydian shapes, it becomes a very useful resting point, arpeggiated pattern, or transition between scale shapes. As a chord that shows up twice in the diatonic scale, the m9 provides a harmonically interesting way to move up or down the neck, and it only becomes more useful when you’ve mapped out the 5th-string root shapes across the whole scale. These are comfortable shapes to grab with plenty of harmonic depth to keep things interesting.
Try working the m9 options below into an improvisation, and try using the same shape in its alternate location in the scale for an entirely different harmonic relationship.