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Lyle Ronglien >> Fretboard Theory >>

Fretboard Theory

Lesson 3 - Triads

walker: Why are triads useful, do you play them vs. full chords for a different sound?

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 tuned....

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:

ex. 1

Lyle: 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 scale.

Lyle: Find as many places on the neck to play C - E - G, in that order, which is called root position:

ex. 2

Luke: So whenever you play a C, E, and G at the same time it is a C chord?

Lyle: Yes, the very basic C major chord/triad.

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:

ex. 3

Lyle: Look at it again this way:

root pos.       1st inv.
G - 5                C - 1
E - 3                G - 5
C - 1                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 order:

ex. 4

Lyle: In the 2nd inversion, the 5th is in the bass and the root is in the middle, the 3rd is on top.

root pos.       1st inv.     2nd inv.
G - 5               C - 1          E - 3
E - 3               G - 5          C - 1
C - 1               E - 3          G – 5

ex. 5

Lyle: Now find all of these triads in the 2nd inversion.

ex. 6

Lyle: 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 movable.

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 5th.

ex. 7

Luke: I dont really understand why theres only 1 and a half steps between the 3rd and 5th

Luke: Nevermind, I see that's just the way the major scale is constructed!

Lyle: Good!

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.

ex. 8

Lyle: The minor triad in the 1st inversion will have the b3 in the bass, 5th in the middle, and the root on top:

ex. 9

Lyle: The minor triad in the 2nd inversion will have the 5th in the bass, root in the middle, and the b3 on top:

ex. 10

Lyle: 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.

ex. 11

Lyle: Same with the minor triads:

walker: Sounds like space odyssey theme...

ex. 12

Lyle: Exactly, this is how you can orchestrate a piece of music by simply changing the triad inversions.

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:

ex. 13

Luke: How do the different inversions change the chord that they make up?

Lyle: By the sound.

Luke: And does this change the name of the chord as well?

Lyle: No. The root position and the other 2 inversions create a different sound, yet they are the same chord/triad.

jimi: Wouldn't you notate, let's say the 1st inversion, as C/E? (assuming the instrument is playing solo-no bass voice)

Lyle: You could. But if you were playing the 1st inversion on the little strings, there is no bass note present.

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 same thing.)

ex. 14

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 triad inversions.

Lyle: Two other important triads to learn are the suspended triads. There are two different kinds, the Sus2 and the Sus4.

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 position:

ex. 15

Lyle: 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:

ex. 16

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 inversion

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 light.

Lyle: Each of the different triads has a unique formula, distance between intervals, and sound to them.

Major (1, 3, 5)

Minor (1, b3, 5)

Minor b5 (1, b3, b5)

Augmented (1, 3, #5)

Sus2 (1, 2, 5)
Sus4 (1, 4, 5)

Tim: What scales/modes can be played over a sus chord?

Lyle: Depends on what other chords are around that sus chord.

Lyle: Try playing all of these C triads in root position, like this:

ex. 17

Lyle: 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 position:

ex. 18

Lyle: Here are the triads in A, in the 1st inversion:

ex. 19

Lyle: That's about it for this lesson on triads.

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 covered.

Lyle: Well, this is a good time to take a break. Thanks everyone for coming tonight. Have a great week!

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