Triune System of Composition

Dear Inda-beings,

I want to talk a little bit about a
system of composition which I have been developing for many years now, which
has helped me and many other people to reach breakthroughs and understandings
about music – harmony, improvisation, and all areas of playing and writing
music. It’s called the Triune System of Composition.

I think of the most important parts
of music as being divided into three’s. For example: rhythm, melody and harmony
are the three essential elements that make music. In fact the word triune in
music means music that has a threefold function.

All music that is played in keys is
called key center, diatonic, or tonal music. The definition of music in keys
is: Major-Minor-Triadic Modality. That means that all music played in keys can
have only two harmonic functions: Major or Minor. This is the basis of
harmonization in key centered music.

Because Dominant chords are so
distinct in their sound, I think of them as a third harmonic function. So when
we play music in keys, which is the majority of the music we play, everything
we play must function as a Major, Minor, or Dominant harmony.

The secret, however, is that they
are all interchangeable. One may use a Major chord for a Minor or a Dominant
chord, or a Minor for a Major or a Dominant chord, or vice versa. You just have
to know which ones to use.

Well here’s the trick: when I play
a Dominant chord, which Major or Minor chord can I substitute for it? Or, in
other words, what Major and Minor chord are the equivalents of that Dominant

Here it is:

C Major is equivalent to A Minor
and D Dominant. Try playing any kind of A Minor or C Major chord or lick
against a D Dominant chord.

Try these variations and play, for
example, a blues scale in A Minor over a D 7th chord or a C Major 7th arpeggio, which is C, E, G, B over a D 7th chord.

So let me know if you have
questions, and some of the things you come up with and I’ll continue next week.

See you soon,


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5 Responses to Triune System of Composition

  1. Kenny Salter says:

    Hi Jackie, I’ve been intrigued by your Triune System since the first time I heard it taught on your Hotlicks guitar instruction video. Can’t wait to learn more about it in this series.

  2. Robert Scott says:

    hey Jackie:
    Just stumbled on to this site and there you are as artist in residence. Cool lesson, I am doing it on piano right now.
    lets play soon..

  3. Aiden A. says:

    Hey Jackie, I’ve been playing guitar and other instruments for a few years, but I must confess I play by ear and I don’t really now any technical terms for music..What are Dominant chords??

  4. Hey Jackie,
    It is great seeing you pop up here on the Indaba community. Jack Dorsey and Martin always spoke so highly of you and I have been a fan for a number of years. I am thinking of doing a blog through Indaba and have been talking to Seth Boehn about it. Your teaching is very cool.Thanks so much.STEVEmitchell drummer.

  5. Tim OLeary says:

    Great to see you here, Jackie! I have a question about triunes. When I play a D major triad above a C7 chord (C13#11), I think of the D chord as an upper structure. Would you consider that a triune?

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