How To Practice Upper Structures
Learning and memorising the upper structure triads is a daunting task. This lesson introduces the upper structure cheat sheet which we can use to speed up the memorisation process.
We discuss the best way to practise and familiarise yourself with upper structure triads. We start by talking about the different inversions and variations that you have available to you and we then use the cheat sheet to work out upper structure voicings for our favourite tunes.
Whilst it can be useful exercise to drill USTs through all 12 keys, it’s always important apply the theory in context of jazz standards.
Using The Cheat Sheet
Once you understand the basic construction of upper structures and have taken them around a few keys, start applying them to tunes.
That’s the whole point of the cheat sheet… when you come across a dominant chord on a lead sheet, look what is in the melody and then match it to a chord tone in the third column.
Do this for the entire song that you are working from. It isn’t a quick process but you will learn a lot from it and actually retain the information because you are applying it in context and taking the time to work it out manually.
You will find that many upper structure combinations don’t sound too good. In which case try a different one or move onto the next dominant chord.
Lesson Notation With Notes File Type: pdf
Work through your favourite jazz standards with the upper structure cheat sheet.
For eahh dominant chord, experiment with the 4 common upper structures and try to find interesting and creative ways to apply the voicings.
Remember that variety is key when choosing our chord voicings.
- Upper structure triads are dense, tense, and often quite jarring chords. They sound fantastic in places but make sure to use them appropriately.