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Learn Triads to Connect Chords and Become a Better Rhythm Player

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When I started using triads in my rhythm playing I was finally able to musically connect open chords and bar chords. I sounded like a real rhythm guitar player with more new ideas than I knew what to do with. I have no doubt that you too can benefit by knowing triads and getting to them quickly. In this week's blog post I present a quick guide to get started with learning triads accross your fretboard. 

What Are Triads

s the name implies, Triads are chords that have 3 notes. For instance, a G Major triad has a G,B and D, whereas a G minor triad has a G, Bb and D. An easy way to know the notes in a major triad is to take the first note (root), the third note (3rd) and the fifth note (5th) of a major scale. (R,3,5) The minor version of that would be identical with the exception of a lowered, or flat 3. (R,b3,5). There are 3 types of Triads, Major (R-3-5), Minor (R-b3-5), Diminished (R-b3-b5) and Augmented (R-3-#5). Below is an example of all Triad types with G as the root. 

Triads in a Key

Triads can be found naturally in a major key and can be built from a major scale. There are seven notes in a major scale and each note can be used as a root of a triad. From this, we find the basic chords that make up a key. Three of the triads are Major (the triads built off of the 1st, 4th, and 5th notes), 3 are minor (the triads built off of the 2nd, 3rd, and 6th notes), and a Diminished triad built off of the 7th degree. The chords in a key are represented with roman numerals as shown below. 

Triad Inversions

Notes of a triad can occur in any order and are named based on which note (Root, 3rd, or 5th) is the lowest note of the chord. If the Root is the lowest note the chord is in Root Position, if the 3rd is the lowest note the triad is in 1st inversion, and finally, if the 5th of the chord is the lowest note the triad is in 2nd inversion. You will see 1st and 2nd inversions of a chord in slash notation. ie. D/F#. That is a D Major triad with an F# in the bass note.  

Getting Started On The Guitar

The fastest way to get started with triads is to learn the major triad on a set of 3 adjacent strings. Let's start with the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th strings. Notice the shapes below. There is a different shape depending on what inversion the triad is. Another important thing to notice is what string the root note is on, which can be used as a reference to quickly find any major triad. 

Learn the shapes and practice playing a G-C-D-G chord progression using all the inversions. Next week I will dig deeper into triads, chord changes, and voice leading. 

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