4. Introduction To Triads


Triads are 3 note chords.  They are differentiated from guitar chords that may have only 3 notes, but double or even triple one or more of the notes (a simple E chord in open position is an example: 6 strings played, but only 3 different notes; the root note E appears 3 times and the fifth, B, is doubled)  They can be in root position (root is the bass note), but the most popular ones are inversions, meaning the bass is in one of the other 2 notes of the chord.

1.  Begin with I IV V triads. Refer to the I IV V triads in C pages in appendix A.  Work them up and down the neck until they are comfortable:

I IV V triads in C (strings 1,2,3)


I IV V triads in C (strings 2,3,4)


2.  Use this practice track of a slow I IV V in C  (C  F  G) to gain confidence. Don’t be too ambitious at first, just try to hit the changes on time. As you get used to it, try to mix the 1,2,3 and 2,3,4 positions if you can.

3. Play through as many songs as you can in the key of C that use  C  F and G  at slow to mid tempo. Even if the songs uses other chords, just concentrate on the C  F  G sections for now. ‘Gone for Good’ by The Shins is a good example, but there are literally thousands.

4. See if you can find positions of these I IV V triads in the other common guitar keys of A, G, E and D.


Eventually, you can expand your use of triads to minor chords, suspended chords, even diminished and augmented chords. Chords with more than 3 notes (7th, 9th etc) can be played as triads also, omitting certain notes. It can get very complex, but by building your triad vocabulary slowly over simple progressions you can find some great sounds. In conjunction with good working knowledge of scales, triads really add a lot to lead playing in particular

© 2012 Jim Greenfield