Creating Very Cool Harmonies Using Simple Triads | Russell Ferrante

It never ceases to amaze me how many combinations of harmony you can build from just 12 notes in a chromatic scale. I think alot of us (myself included) get caught up complex upper extensions in chords when we want to get a very modern sound for our voicings within our arrangements – whether they be for small group or big band.

This video lesson by Yellow Jacket’s keyboard player Russell Ferrante illustrates how you can take simple triads and by combining them come up with very lush harmonies and sounds.

You guys are going to love this one! Pay special attention at about 3:15 in the video where he talks about making every note count. This would certainly apply to voicings within sections as well. Oftentimes I see arrangers doubling notes in sections for no reason. Never waste any notes!

You will want to view this lesson more than once and practice these at the piano, and then begin applying them to your arranging for horns.

Enjoy! (For best viewing, open this up in full screen mode by clicking on the lower right corner of the player)

22 Replies to “Creating Very Cool Harmonies Using Simple Triads | Russell Ferrante”

  1. Howard Wrightson

    Jim, thanks so much. Great ideas. I’ve never tried to experiment that way. WOW!
    Loved his “Stella By Starlight” example with augmented chords.


  2. Jerry

    Jim, thanks, I have tried that also but I didn’t know what it was called, polychords, great color and sound. Now to make the horns sound the same way.

  3. Eric Schultz

    Hey Jim how are you doing? It’s been awhile.
    Great Russell Ferrante video. Also thanks for the Dick Grove videos from last year.

  4. Ed

    Thank you Jim. Your willingness to share this information open’s up one’s mind and ear to so many different chordal possibilites. I have used a CM7(root position) with a D triad on top (root position) for endings on more than one song. Very interesting sound.

  5. Jim Martin

    Thanks for the comments you guys. Just an FYI. I think these voicings would work really well with some woodwinds, like flute in the lead, and maybe muted tpts as well. In the case of the suspended sound you could have trombones laying down the main notes in the lower to middle register, then have the woodwinds moving around above that. So many things you can do with this stuff.

  6. Len Phillips


    Excellent , and thank you for sharing this info.
    I’ts great that we still have a circle of enthusiasts to keep our music alive.

  7. steve smitha

    WOW! What a great concept for younger students to show how math can be applied to music. Am going to use this idea in my high school jazz band class.
    Where could I find more of his workshop ideas to pass on to my students?
    Thanks again in making these kind of ideas available.

  8. Jim Martin

    Steve: I’m not sure if Russell has more stuff like this in written form. I just happened to stumble across this on Youtube. A quick search on Google would turn it up though. He seems like a real down to earth guy so you could probably find an email for him as well and ask him directly.

  9. David Cannaday


    Thanks that’s cool stuff. Good ideas the skys the limit of what one can do with chords.Thanks again

  10. curt streuli

    Thanks Jim. I particular I liked the comment about how to use these in context of a band, as opposed to a piano. Flute with muted trumpets and so on.

    They are beautiful chords. Perhaps another topic could be when to use them. I did a chart recently that was filled with lot of beautiful extended chords. The band leader (who does most of our arranging) said they were excellent voicings. But when we played it, as pretty as all the chords were, on a song that really seemed to call for them, the whole thing came out way too dense, and I was left with the architectural truism that sometimes less is more. Likewise he talks here about don’t waste notes by doubling them, but when I do that and ask for feedback I’m invariably told that doubling certain notes adds strenght and resonance. So I get very confused by this.

  11. Jim Martin

    Curt: thanks for the comments. These voicings would lend themselves to certain styles. I wouldn’t be using them in a straight ahead Basie tune for example. I can’t really comment on your chart unless I looked at it. Could have been a number of things that made it sound so too dense to your ear.

    For the doubling of notes, I was referring to sections. Strength and resonance comes not from doubling notes, but making each section (or combination of players) sound good by themselves. Then when mixed together, there will be doublings of notes for sure, but if each section doesn’t sound complete by itself, just doubling lots of notes is not going to bring about strength and resonance.

  12. curt streuli

    Thanks Jim. The comment about this perhaps not being appropriate for a straight ahead Basie tune in particular was very helpful.

    They say challenging your mind can help prevent alzheimers. I guess if I keep writing I will not have to worry about Alzheimers……..

  13. David Mendez

    Thanks for the Farrante video. Never thought simple triads could be voiced to create such interesting and beautiful LH/RH harmonies.

    Cmaj9 – Em/C2(1st inv) – Gsus/Em(2nd inv)
    Maj chord, minor chord, 2 chord, sus chord – Nice!

    Can’t wait to continue exploring. Any chance Russell can follow up with a video on minors,dominants,etc.?

  14. Jim Martin

    David: Russell did not do that video for, but down the road maybe I could get him to do more. I’ll check youtube to see if he has any more like this.

  15. Victor A. Divinagracia

    Hi sir Jim, I’m back. What a very nice demonstration of Mr. Russell’s idea about his triads chords. Thanks for sharing his video demo and theory. A very simple and ordinary triad chords that produces an extra-ordinary voice sounds. Thanks always.

  16. Michael Warren

    I only get black screen for media. I’m using W7 Prof. and IE9. What type of media player or codec does your examples require.

  17. Jim Martin

    Michael, many of the videos on the site use vimeo embeds, but on this page its just a youtube video. I haven’t heard anyone having this trouble though. Maybe upgrade your flash player and see if that helps.

  18. Jack

    please tell me how come there are guitarist who can play with any group in most any venue of music style and they do not nesacserily read music nor have they claimed to have even studied music nor have they taken lessons, but are able to jam at an instant with anybody and fly off the seat of their pants and sound fantastic, what is that all about and how can I do that as well, as nobody seems to be able to show me how that happens and why, nor is willing to share with me their secrets. I do not want to spend a lifetime to do what they accomplished so quickly, i am 59 years old and i want to play like them now, not tomorrow, you must have the secrets, quick and simple, right. well tell me and show me how it is done. Thanks, Daniel

  19. Jim Martin

    Daniel, some guys can play by ear really well, and some not so much. “Ear” players are generally not good readers, but many ear players are good readers first and they develop their ears later.

    There is no secret really, you just have to practice. If playing by ear is what you want to be able to do, just do it every day for years. There is no secret to sounding great. Unless you have the talent of a Clifford Brown or Charlie Parker, its going to take alot of time to develop your skills. And even those two practiced their asses off while they were living.

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