Lesson 3 - Triads
walker: Why are triads useful, do you play them vs. full chords for a
Lyle: Triads are
the basic building blocks for chords. All chords use triads, then tone
extentions after that. Chords will be covered in the next lesson....stay
Lyle: Chords are made from at least
three different notes, which are called triads. The major triad
is made from the 1 - 3 - 5 degrees of the major scale:
That is the C major scale and the C major triad. The notes C - E - G are the 1 -
3 - 5 degrees/tones of the C major
Lyle: Find as many places on the neck to play C -
E - G, in that order, which is called root position:
whenever you play a C, E, and G at the same time it is a C
Lyle: Yes, the very basic C major
Lyle: When you have the triad being played with
the root note in the bass, the 3rd degree in the middle, and the 5th degree on
top, this is called root position, as shown above.
Lyle: The major triad can be switched around so
that it is in what's called the 1st inversion. Take the root and put it on top.
The 3rd becomes the bass, and the 5th is in the middle:
Look at it again this way:
pos. 1st inv.
5 C -
E - 3
G - 5
E – 3
Lyle: Find as many
of the 1st inversions in C that you can. You need to have E, G, and C in that
the 2nd inversion, the 5th is in the bass and the root is in the middle, the 3rd
is on top.
pos. 1st inv. 2nd
G - 5
1 E - 3
G - 5 C -
C - 1
E - 3
G – 5
Now find all of these triads in the 2nd inversion.
These example are all for the C major triads and their inversions. Now you
should practice transposing them to different keys. Like anything on the guitar
that doesn't involve open strings, these shapes and patterns are all
Lyle: With the major triad, notice there is two
whole steps between the root and the 3rd, and 1 ½ steps between the 3rd and the
Luke: I dont
really understand why theres only 1 and a half steps between the 3rd and
Nevermind, I see that's just the way the major scale is
Lyle: To make a minor triad, flat/lower the 3rd
degree a half step. Now the distance between the root and b3 is 1 ½ steps, and
between the b3 and 5th is 2 whole steps, the opposite of the major triad. Here
are Cm triads in the root position, C - Eb - G.
The minor triad in the 1st inversion will have the b3 in the bass, 5th in the
middle, and the root on top:
Lyle: The minor triad in the 2nd inversion will
have the 5th in the bass, root in the middle, and the b3 on
Being able to recognize and play different triad inversions helps you with your
ear training and composition. Listen to this example of the C major triads in
the 3 different positions. Even though they use the same notes, the different
inversions make them sound different from each other.
Same with the minor triads:
walker: Sounds like space odyssey
Exactly, this is how you can orchestrate a piece of music by simply changing the
Lyle: Other triads to be aware of are the minor
b5, also known as a diminished triad, made from the root, b3, b5. Here it is in
the root position:
Luke: How do
the different inversions change the chord that they make
By the sound.
Luke: And does this change the name of the chord as
Lyle: No. The root position and the
other 2 inversions create a different sound, yet they are the same
jimi: Wouldn't you notate,
let's say the 1st inversion, as C/E? (assuming the instrument is playing solo-no
Lyle: You could. But if you were playing the 1st
inversion on the little strings, there is no bass note
Lyle: Another type of triad is the augmented 5th
triad, made from the 1 - 3 - #5 degrees of the major scale. Here it is in the
root position. (The software notates the #5 on the neck as a b6, which is the
walker: I guess
triads make the upstroke of a chord sound so cool, since it is an inverted
version of the of the downstroke?
Lyle: In some cases, yes.
Lyle: All triads can be played in the 1st and 2nd
inversions. Just follow the examples above when you learned the major and minor
Lyle: Two other important triads to learn are the
suspended triads. There are two different kinds, the Sus2 and the
Lyle: The sus2 triad is made from the 1 - 2 - 5.
You don't use a 3rd degree making this triad neither major or minor, it's sound
is “suspended”. Here are the sus2 triads in root
The sus4 triads are made from the 1 - 4 - 5. Just like the sus2, these are not
major or minor and can be used in almost any situation. Here are the sus4 triads
in root position:
jimi: I just
noticed that the inversions change the chord, because they have the same notes-
for example, Csus2 (C D G) is the same as Gsus4 (G C D) in its 2nd
Lyle: Many chords can have several names. Good
that you are looking close at what you have. That is the point to learning, to
be able to explore on your own and see things in a new
Lyle: Each of the different triads has a unique
formula, distance between intervals, and sound to them.
Major (1, 3,
Minor (1, b3,
Minor b5 (1, b3,
Augmented (1, 3,
Sus2 (1, 2,
Sus4 (1, 4, 5)
Tim: What scales/modes can be played over a sus chord?
Depends on what other chords are around that sus chord.
Lyle: Try playing all of these C triads in root
position, like this:
Practice playing these in other keys up and down the neck. Get familiar with the
shapes and sounds. Here are the triads in A, root
Here are the triads in A, in the 1st inversion:
That's about it for this lesson on
Lyle: Next lesson is about chord formulas and the
basic chord families.
Lyle: The main thing to understand in this lesson
on triads is the names and formulas for each triad
Lyle: Well, this is a good time to take a break.
Thanks everyone for coming tonight. Have a great week!