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Triad Chord Grips

The Intermediate Method

Triads are a very useful little trick, fantastic as a second guitar part, but also for creating riffs too. To hear some great 'real world' examples check out "Brown Eyed Girl" (Van Morrison) for some cool use as a second guitar part, "So Far Away" (Dire Straights) uses a whole heap of shapes for the main riff or "Substitute" (The Who) that uses the very shapes shown in the lesson to make the main riff. Maybe you should try and work them out?? hint hint...

I break learning these into three parts, get good at each part before moving on or it will most likely get too difficult!


Part 1 - Learning the Triad Chord Grips

This first step is to learn the three shapes of triads on strings 1,2 and 3. The shapes are shown below. Make sure that MEMORISE the shape and the ROOT NOTE. Without this knowledge you will never use them well. The shapes are shown below. Learn them well.

Note that these triad shapes can be called Major (ie. G Maj), or just the note name (ie. G) or sometimes using the term triad (ie. G Maj Triad). Doesn't really matter, they are but simple major chords!

Triad 1
Triad 2
Triad 3


Part 2 - Learning the Triad Chord Root Notes

Now that you know the shapes you need to learn to move them around to make any chord you want. For the whole demo in this lesson I am using the chord sequence: G . . . C . . . G . . . D . . .

Now it is important that you know the root notes because knowing the root notes tells you where to place the triad shape. All you have to do is place the root note on the note that you want and it will be the correct shape.

For example:
Triad shape 1 - root note is on thinnest string. The note G is at the 3rd fret. So place the root note from the shape at the 3rd fret. To make it a C Chord, find the note C on the thinnest string... at the 8th fret. And put the chord shape down. Got it. Easy peasy!


Part 3 - Using Triads in One Position

Now the fun begins ;) You have to now be able to find all three shapes in one area! This means you REALLY have to know your root notes and shapes. This will probably take you a little while and some practice.

In area 1 use G (shape 1), C (shape 3) and D (shape 2)

In area 2 use G (shape 2), C (shape 1) and D (shape 3)

In area 3 use G (shape 3), C (shape 2) and D (shape 1)

It is also good to just play around and use whichever one falls under your fingers. You should be able to move between them quite freely, but this will requite you to know the notes on the fingerboard very well.


When you are playing triads on the thinnest three strings it's very important that you keep the thickest rings muted. You would normally do this with the inside palm of your strumming hand. Sometimes, you might mute the fourth string with the tip of whichever finger is fretting a note on the third string, but this would be supplemental, and you should be aiming to mute the thickest 3 strings with your strumming hand palm.


I often hear of people explaining triads as inversions, which technically they are I guess, but usually in versions imply a base note that is different to the cord. For example G chord should have a G based note. If the G chord has a busy-based note then it's referred to as a first inversion chord. If the G chord has a D bass note it would be referred to as a second inversion chord.

usually when you are playing triads, the bass player is playing a consistent bass note, so it doesn't really matter what the lowest note is of your triad shape, it's not really the bass note. So I don't recommend that you think of these triad shapes as being inversions. Technically they are, but it's too complicated, and you're better off thinking of them as just different ways of playing the chord.


Now you know your major shapes, you have some homework to do!!!

Make sure you know these major ones well first... then YOU have to work out the minor shapes. Find the 3rd of each shape (that will be the note B in a G triad) and flatten it by one semitone (fret). This will give you the three minor shapes on strings 1 to 3.

If you are struggling with this then you might want to check out Practical Music Theory, that will help with finding the notes, and understanding the chords!

You should then be able to play pretty much any song using your triads. Try it. Be able to find any major or minor chord in and area of the neck and find the next chord nice and close!

HOMEWORK 2 - String Group 2/3/4

Then once you have that down you should try and find the major triad shapes that live on strings 2,3 and 4... then find the minor shapes of those!

That is a big project, so don't be aiming to get all that done right away - but be know it is there and is very useful, so it's nice to know if you get bored one day you can work out all your triad shapes all over the neck!

Further across the neck...

You might want to find then on strings 3,4,5 and 4,5,6 - although you probably won't use those ones as much, you still should learn them if you are an advanced player! but we'll save that for later eh!! ;)

Eventually you will find that there are three triad shapes on each set of strings, and there are four sets of strings: 123, 234, 345, 456. That gives a total of 12 triad shapes to learn. The most important thing of course is that you make sure you learn which note in each shape is the root note.

And even more advanced trick you might like to try is looking for the triad shapes on split string groups for instance looking on strings 124. These give some very interesting chord grips. But don't let that distract you makes sure that you get the basics down first before thinking of any of this advanced stuff!!


Justin's Intermediate Guitar Method - Foundation Stages 1-5 DVD

Intermediate DVD

The 5 x DVD set for the Intermediate Foundation series comes with all the free Intermediate Foundation lessons found on the web site PLUS 3 DVD ONLY lessons for each stage, nearly 2.5 hours of extra material to help you to be as good as you can be, as fast as possible. Check out the main Intermediate Foundation page for the list of bonus lessons on each stage!

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Lesson ID: IM-151