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> Learning Triads Pt 1 - Major Triads, Learn to build, play and expand on major triads in the practice room.
The Professor
post Feb 4 2013, 06:37 PM
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C, D, Em, F, Am, Bdim. Triads such as these are all over the music that we play on a daily basis. They are the foundation of many of our favorite songs, and are some of the most important chord shapes to have under your fingers no matter what genre or style of music you prefer to play.

But, while we know how to play a number of triads on the guitar, many of us have yet to explore the theory behind these commonly used chord shapes.

To help bring a better understanding to the chords that we are playing on a daily basis, I will be writing a four-part series on the triad, how to build them, how to play them on the guitar, and how to expand them beyond the common closed-position fingerings.

In today’s lesson we’ll be looking at one of the most common triad constructions and shapes, the major triad.



What is a Major Triad?



First, we should look at what the word triad means for those that are new to this subject.

Simply put, a triad is a 3-note chord, and in the case of a major triad, one that has a major 3rd and perfect 5th in it’s construction.

So what does that last part mean?

If you look at the notes of the C major scale for example, you will see that there are 7 different notes, the C repeats itself at the top of the scale as such.

C D E F G A B C

As well as giving a letter name to each note in the scale, we can also give it a number to help keep track of each note in the scale.


C D E F G A B C
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 1

So, to build a major triad, you take the 1 3 5 of a major scale and you have the notes you need.

C E G
1 3 5

Here is how this formula looks like on paper, and how the scale and triad sound when played back to back on the guitar.


Attached File  Triad_Ex_1.mp3 ( 388.49K ) Number of downloads: 765



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You can see that the major triad is a fairly simple device, using three notes and all taken from the major scale.

But, there is more to the major triad than is visible at first glance. Once you understand how to build a major triad, head to the next section to learn about inversions and then how to apply this knowledge to your guitar playing.




What is an Inversion?



Once you have an understanding of how to build a major triad, in C or any other key, you are ready to check out the different inversions of this common chord type.

An inversion is simply the same notes of the major triad, but in a different ordering.

As you saw, the root position of the major triad is spelled R-3-5. To make the first inversion, you take the lowest notes, the root, and pop it to the top of the chord. This leaves you with a 3-5-R spelling.

As well, you can then take the 3rd of the chord, pop it to the top of the spelling and you get, 5-R-3, a second inversion of the major triad.

Here is a chart to help you remember each inversion of the major triad.

Root Position - R 3 5
First Inversion - 3 5 R
Second Inversion - 5 R 3

And here is the C major triad from the previous section laid out on the fretboard in each inversion for you to check out.


Attached File  Triad_Ex_2.mp3 ( 216.45K ) Number of downloads: 534



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Understanding inversions will not only help your theory chops, but it will help open up your fretboard as you begin to see these shapes in different areas of the neck.

Which brings us to the next section of this lesson, apply major triads and inversions to the fingerboard.




Major Triads on the Low 3 Strings



As well as understanding what a major triad is, and how to derive it’s inversions, it’s also very important to learn how to play these shapes on the guitar.

Here are the fingerings for all the inversions of a C major-triad on the low three-strings.

Once you can play these shapes over a C chord, practice playing them in all 12 keys to get a well-rounded understanding of these shapes in any key on the neck.


Attached File  Triad_Ex_3.mp3 ( 264.82K ) Number of downloads: 484



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Major Triads on the 5-3 Strings



Here are the same C major-triads, but this time on the 5-3 string set. Again, once you have learned them in this key, you can practice them in other keys in order to get them down in all keys across the fretboard.


Attached File  Triad_Ex_4.mp3 ( 297.88K ) Number of downloads: 306


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Major Triads on the 4-2 Strings



As well, you can play these triad shapes on the 4-2 string set. And, you can work them in 12 keys across the fretboard as you work these shapes out in the practice room.


Attached File  Triad_Ex_5.mp3 ( 289.92K ) Number of downloads: 274



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Major Triads on the Top 3 Strings



The last string set covers major triads on the top 3 strings. Once you have this set down, and can play them over a number of keys, try picking one chord, say C, and playing all the inversions of that chord across all string sets.

If you can do this from memory, or working some shapes out on the spot, you will have a deep understanding of how triads sit on the fretboard and how each inversion relates to the others as you play them across the neck in different positions.


Attached File  Triad_Ex_6.mp3 ( 255.02K ) Number of downloads: 312



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Spread Major Triads on the 6th String



While we normally play major triads on the guitar, we tend to use the fingerings written out in the previous examples, with all the notes on adjacent strings.

But, one way that you can use major triads in your playing, without sounding like everyone else, is to use spread-voicing major triads.

This is where you take the second note of any inversion and raise it up an octave to “spread out” the voicing across a wider span than in the previous examples.

For example, normally the root-position major triad is spelled R-3-5. But, in a spread voicing you can take the 3rd and raise it an octave to produce R-5-3 as the new spelling.

You then repeat this process for first inversion, which was 3-5-R and becomes 3-R-5. As well as second inversion major triads, which were 5-R-3 and are now 5-3-R.

Here are these spread major-triads written out with the 6th-string as the lowest note in each inversion.

Learn these triads in the key of C, as written, then take them to other keys around the neck as well as apply them to songs you know, are writing or working on in the practice room.


Attached File  Triad_Ex_7.mp3 ( 284.41K ) Number of downloads: 358



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Spread Major Triads on the 5th String



You can also play spread major-triads with the 5th-string as the lowest note. All of the intervals remain the same as the previous example, but they are now played on a different string group.

Again, once you learn these shapes in C, take them to other keys and apply them to songs you know or are working on in the woodshed.


Attached File  Triad_Ex_8.mp3 ( 264.2K ) Number of downloads: 270


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Spread Major Triads on the 4th String



Lastly, you can play spread major-triads with this interval combination with the 4th-string as the lowest note.

Once you have worked out each string set for spread major-triads, practice playing all 9 different shapes, 3 on each string, in one key. Then repeat that exercise in all keys so that you can easily and quickly apply any spread voicing, on any string set, and in any key as you are playing or writing a new song.


Attached File  Triad_Ex_9.mp3 ( 283.8K ) Number of downloads: 270


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As you can see, learning what a major triad is, how it is built, and how to play it on the guitar can take some work in the practice room.

But, as this chord is heard countless times in any give rock, pop, blues, classical or funk song, having an understanding of these 3-note chords is an essential tool for any guitarist to have under their fingers, in their ears and in their heads.

Related GMC lessons/materials :

* Major Triads Lesson

Practice track: Attached File  E_Major_Backing_Track.mp3 ( 1001.96K ) Number of downloads: 1075


What do you think of these triads and exercises?
Share your thoughts in the thread below.


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Dieterle
post Feb 4 2013, 10:08 PM
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Thank You !
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The Professor
post Feb 4 2013, 10:50 PM
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No problem, thanks for checking out the lesson!


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PosterBoy
post Feb 5 2013, 11:24 AM
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Some of those spread triads are a hell of a stretch!


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The Professor
post Feb 5 2013, 12:30 PM
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For sure, but they sound great once you get them down! smile.gif


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Bogdan Radovic
post Feb 7 2013, 11:28 PM
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Thanks - great lesson! smile.gif

Not only this theory helps us learn how to build major chords and which notes are in them but also triads are so practical for coming up with guitar fills and overdubs when recording songs.


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The Professor
post Feb 8 2013, 08:42 AM
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Thanks! Glad you dug the lesson. Triads are often overlooked as being "simple" once we get passed the basics of the instrument. But there is a goldmine of information there if we try and explore triads from different angles and perspetives in our lead and rhythm playing. Lots to practice!


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