Everything You Need To Know About Triads On Guitar

Everything You Need To Know About Triads On Guitar

In today's lesson, we're going to talk about a very beautiful and interesting topic, which is chords in general, more specifically everything you need to know about triads on guitar.

Finally, you're going to understand why we have major chords, minor chords, augmented chords, diminished chords, suspended chords, and what's the difference between them.

You probably already know how to play most of these chords:
-In open position.
-As barre chords.
-You might even know how to play seventh chords.

But we're going to dive more into the theory of things.

It's going to be a long lesson, and you have to really take your time and practice every shape as we go. 

Do not worry at all because I'll be giving you all the diagrams you need with this lesson.

What's a Triad?

In today's lesson we're mainly focusing on triads, which means a chord that is constituted by three unique notes.

So when I play that G chord, for instance, it's a triad, right? Yes we're playing six strings but  some of these notes are doubled.

Disclaimer: It's still a triad because we only have three unique notes.

In this case, the three unique notes forming the G Major triad are G, B, and D.

A Major Scale on the Guitar

The Major Triad + Triad Rules

Triad Rule #1: We always refer ourselves to that major scale whenever we try to figure out the formula of a certain triad and  what are the notes that form a certain chord.

We're going to play that major scale in G, as an example but obviously you can do this in any key.
A Major Scale on the Guitar
Disclaimer: You can do this on any major scale shape you know.
What we need in order to form the major triad is to take:
-The first note of the scale.
-The third note of the scale.
-The fifth note of the scale.

Major Triad Formula: 1-3-5

Playing them together gives us a major chord or a major triad.

So in the case of G major: 
-1: G Note.
-3: B Note.
-5: D Note.

Three unique notes are, G-B-D (1-3-5).

Triad Rule #2:
No matter what order these notes are in as long as these three unique notes are played together, it's still a triad, meaning:
-G B D
-G D B
-B G D
-B D G

It doesn't matter what note comes first, it's still a G Major chord/triad.

Here are 2 examples of the G Major Chord where the different notes forming the chord are in a different order.
A Major Scale on the Guitar
We call these inversions, because they are made up of the same notes but the notes are inverted.

The Minor Triad

To form a minor triad, you need to take a look at the corresponding Major scale and identify:
-The first note.
-The flat three.
-The fifth note.

The flat three means you need to lower the third note of the major scale by one fret.
A Major Scale on the Guitar
Or you could just play the first, third and fifth note of the corresponding MINOR SCALE.

Therefore the formula for a minor triad: 1-b3- 5

For example, in the key of G, the notes for a G minor triad are:
-1: G note.
-b3: Bb note.
-5: D note.

Three unique notes: G-Bb-D (1-b3-5).

Check out min @8:01 for a demo of the minor triad all over the fretboard.

The Augmented Triad

For the augmented triad, the formula is 1-3-#5

So we are basically moving the fifth note of the scale up a fret.

We end up with this chord shape.

A Major Scale on the Guitar

You might not have stumbled upon this chord yet, because it's not in the natural Minor or Major keys. But remember everything is possible in songwriting that's why we're going to make sure we cover all of our bases.

Another cool thing about the augmented triad is that it's symmetrical.

Meaning the same distance between:
-The 1 3
-The 3 #5
-The #5 1

Which means every time I move this shape a major third (4 frets up), I get:
-The same shape
-The same chord
-A different note order (Different inversion)
A Major Scale on the Guitar
Check out min @12:19 for a quick demonstration.

The Diminished Triad

For this triad the chord formula is very easy: 1-b3-b5
An easy way to think about is we're taking the minor triad (1-b3-5) and flattening the fifth note.

And that's how we get this shape.
A Major Scale on the Guitar

The Suspended Triads

There are 2 types of suspended chords that we are going to cover in today's lesson.

Suspended 2 and suspended 4 triads or sus2 and sus4 triads.

The idea is very simple take the major triad (1-3-5) and replace the third degree with the 2nd and 4th degrees respectively.

Therefore the Suspended triads are:
-Sus2: 1-2-5
-Sus4: 1-4-5

We can start from the Major or minor triads it doesn't matter since we are placing the third degree altogether.

And we get the following shapes.
A Major Scale on the Guitar

This is totally different from the Add9 and Add11 Chords, where instead of replacing the third we are adding the 2nd and 4th degrees to the major triad.

Ex: Sus2 (1-2-5) Vs Add9 (1-3-5-9)

The 9 represents the 2nd degree of the scale just played an octave higher.

Triads On 3 Strings

Now that we've covered the theory behind all the basic triads on guitar, it's time to start using them in your playing, a good way to visualize triads on guitar is seeing them on different groups of 3 string.

So far I've been showing you the triads on the highest 3 strings (The High e, B, and G strings)

Exhibit A: the diagrams below.
A Major Scale on the Guitar
But you can also, do this on other pairs of strings, like the D, G and B strings.

Pro Tip: Start with the first shapes, and all you have to do is remove the note on the highest string and add it to the string on top.

Here's an example.
A Major Scale on the Guitar
Check out min @18:26 for a quick demonstration.
Final Words:
Remember, work on the first couple of shapes in isolation first, also try applying those new shapes you learned to any chord progression you know, or try using them to play your favorite songs.

The possibilities are endless, try to figure out the all the other shapes on different groups of strings, for all the triads we covered and use them to absolutely dominate the guitar fretboard.

Want to take your soloing to the next level? Learn to improvise like the greats? Do you want to master the guitar fretboard??

If any of those things are true, then you need to check out our premium guitar training program, "guitar elevation'', it might be just the thing you've been missing!
Author: Jack Haddad
Jack Haddad is an expert Guitar educator and teacher and has been helping guitarists, through his innovative methods, get incredible results on the guitar, whether they want to jam with friends or rock out on the big stage.

You can find out more about Jack Haddad's teaching here: https://www.jhguitarschool.com
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