Learning Triads Pt 3 - Diminished Triads, Learn to build, play and expand on Dim triads in the practice room.
The Professor
Feb 23 2013, 03:52 PM
Theory Instructor
Posts: 888
Joined: 8-January 13
From: Manchester UK
In the third installment of our series on triads, we are going to explore the wonderful world of the Diminished triad.

Though it is not as commonly used as the Major and Minor triads that we have already looked at, the Diminished triad is definitely an important sound, and these shapes are well worth working on and getting under your fingers in the practice room.

In this lesson we’ll be looking at how to build Dim triads and their inversions, how to play them in closed and open positions, as well as how to work on them further in your guitar practice routine.

What Is A Diminished Triad?

In order to understand what a Diminished Triad is, it is best to compare it to the Major and Minor triads that we explored in the first two lessons of this series.

In case you haven’t seen those lessons, here are the links so you can brush up on your Major and Minor triad theory and practical application.

What Is A Major Triad?

What Is A Minor Triad?

The Diminished triad is built by taking a Minor triad and then lowering the 5th, producing the intervals 1-b3-b5.

Here is how this would look on the guitar, with the Major triad first, followed by the Minor triad (which is a Major triad with a b3), and finally the Diminished triad, which again is a Minor triad with a b5.

Attached File  Dim_Triad_Ex_1.mp3 ( 318.69K ) Number of downloads: 276

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You can also think of a Diminished triad as a stack of two minor 3rd intervals. If you are playing a Cdim triad, the interval between C and Eb is a minor 3rd, and the interval between Eb and Gb is a minor third. Each interval in the chord is the same, which gives it a distinctive sound and makes it standout against it’s cousins the Major and Minor triads.

What Is An Inversion?

After learning how the root-position Dim triad is built, you are ready to dig into the other two inversions of this cool-sounding chord.

To make things simple, an inversion is a chord shape where the root is not the lowest note of the grip.

As you saw earlier, the Dim triad is spelled as 1-b3-b5, which is the root position of the chord.

To make the first inversion of a Dim triad, you take the root and just pop it up to the top of the chord, so it is now spelled like so, b3-b5-1.

And again, to make the second inversion of a Dim triad you simply raise the b3 to the top of the chord, so you now have a Dim chord that is spelled b5-1-b3.

Here is how those three inversions look for a Cdim chord on the guitar.

Attached File  Dim_Triad_Ex_2.mp3 ( 216.45K ) Number of downloads: 209

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Knowing what inversions are and how to use them will come in handy when learning Diminished, or any other, triads on the guitar, and so make sure you fully understand this concept before moving on to the next section of the lesson where you will apply this knowledge to the guitar itself.

Dim Triads On The Low 3 Strings

Now that you have learned how to build Diminished triads and their inversions from a theoretical standpoint, let’s apply this knowledge to fingerings on the guitar.

The first set of Dim triads that we will look at are found on the bottom three-strings of the fretboard.

Here is how they look for a Cdim triad across the neck.

Attached File  Dim_Triad_Ex_3.mp3 ( 248.9K ) Number of downloads: 236

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Once you have these shapes under your fingers for Cdim, take them to other keys and apply them to progressions or songs you know or are working on in the practice room in order to get the most out of these shapes in your playing.

Dim Triads On Strings 5-3

You can also play these same Dim triads on the 5-4-3 string group.

Here, you will notice that the notes on the staff look the same as the previous example, they are the same notes in the same order, but now you are just applying them to the new string group.

Here is how Dim triads look on the fretboard for a Cdim chord.

Attached File  Dim_Triad_Ex_4.mp3 ( 285.63K ) Number of downloads: 208

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Again, take these shapes to other keys, all 12 if possible, and use them in your song writing and song learning sections during your guitar practice routine.

Dim Triads On Strings 4-2

The next set of Dim triads fall on the 4-3-2 string set, which is one of the most commonly used groups of strings for Dim, or any triad, when taking them up the neck of the guitar.

Because you will see these shapes a lot in songs that you are working on, or using them to play your own material, they are a good place to start when learning Dim triads and inversions across the neck of the guitar.

Here is how they look for a Cdim chord on the 4-3-2 string group.

Attached File  Dim_Triad_Ex_5.mp3 ( 241.55K ) Number of downloads: 228

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As always, learn these shapes for Cdim first, then take the to the other 11 Diminished chords around the neck in order to get a full understanding of how these shapes function in all keys and all areas of the guitar.

Dim Triads On The Top 3 Strings

The last string set that we will explore with Dim triads is the top-3 strings of the guitar.

These shapes are also commonly used, and therefore are must-know dim triads for anyone looking to fully explore these chords in your practice routine.

Here is how they look on the fretboard for a Cdim chord.

Attached File  Dim_Triad_Ex_6.mp3 ( 250.74K ) Number of downloads: 220

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Now that you have all four string-sets down for closed-position Dim triads, try playing through all of them in one key, across all 4 string-sets, to test your memory and ability to recall these shapes on the spot in different keys and areas of the neck.

After you are comfortable with these shapes, venture forward to learn how to make spread Dim triads on the guitar.

Spread Dim Triads On The 6th String

As well as learning to play closed-position triads, where there are no gaps between the notes of the chord, you can also check out spread-voicing Dim triads on the guitar in various positions across the neck.

To help you get started in your exploration of spread triads, in these last three examples I will lay out spread Dim triads where the second note of each chord has been raised up by an octave.

This means that if you have a root position Dim triad, 1-b3-b5, the spread version would be 1-b5-b3, as the b3 has been raised up an octave.

This results in a string skip, as well as some tough stretches between the notes, so if you are having trouble with some of these shapes, take your time and work on them slowly so that you don’t cause any trauma to your hand by over extending on some of these chords.

Here are the three inversions of a Cdim triad on the fretboard in spread position with the lowest note on the 6th string.

Attached File  Dim_Triad_Ex_7.mp3 ( 259.92K ) Number of downloads: 211

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After you have checked these chords out, go back and play the closed-position versions of these chords with the 6th string as the lowest note to have a comparison of how the two shapes differ, and are similar, in sound on the guitar.

Then feel free to move on to the other, higher up, spread voicings for the Dim triad and it’s inversions on the guitar.

Spread Dim Triads On The 5th String

The second set of spread Dim triads that we’ll look has features the lowest note on the 5th string, and lays out the inversions up the neck in that string group.

Again, you are going to find some nasty stretches in these shapes, so go slow and make sure you are warmed up before attempting these chords in your practice routine or take them on a gig.

Attached File  Dim_Triad_Ex_8.mp3 ( 312.57K ) Number of downloads: 210

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A good exercise that you can try out, is to take the 5th-string shapes from the previous section, without the spread, and play them side-by-side with the spread voicings in the above example.

This will give you a nice aural comparison of the difference and similarities between these two, 5-string based Dim triads shapes and their inversions.

Spread Dim Triads On The 4th String

To finish up, here are the spread Dim triads in all inversions with the lowest note on the 4th string.

Again, there are some funky stretches in here, so take your time and if you can’t get some of these shapes down right away, just learn the ones you can and come back to the rest at a later stage in your development on the instrument.

Attached File  Dim_Triad_Ex_9.mp3 ( 283.8K ) Number of downloads: 218

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Though they are not as common as their closed-position cousins, you can hear and see how spread Dim triads can really add a cool new sound to your chord vocabulary, and push you in new directions in your song writing at the same time.

As you can see, there is a lot of ways to think about and apply Diminished Triads to your chord work and song writing on the guitar.

Keep exploring these fingerings and exercises in the practice room, and have fun bringing the Diminished sound into your chords and rhythm playing.

Do you have a question or comment about this lesson?
Post it in the thread below.

Related GMC lessons/materials:
* Diminished 7 Workout Lesson
* Practice backing track (D#dim - F#dim - Adim - B#dim) :
Attached File  Diminished_Workout.mp3 ( 5.24MB ) Number of downloads: 326

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