Beginner Primer Guitar course

Familiarizing triads on the fretboard

In this lesson we are going to look at familiarizing ourselves with the triads on the fretboard and it’s different shapes.

Contents of the lesson Triad shapes on two string Triads on three strings Playing triads up the major scale Activity References
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Triad shapes on two strings

As you have already learnt about different kinds of triads before in like major , minor , diminished , augmented triads. Now we will take a deeper look at how these triads can be played on the fretboard of the guitar in many different ways. First we are going to start with triads on two strings looking at the different kinds of triads.
Major triads
C major triad
Above you can see the two shapes for a major triad using the fifth and fourth strings . The root note C is being played in the fifth string third fret in both the cases. In the first shape you can see that the third E and the fifth G is played on the fourth string, but in the second one the third is being displaced to the fifth string giving us two shapes on two strings on a major triad. Similarly these shapes apply on the sets of two strings except from third to second string because of the standard tuning system of the guitar. If you notice all the strings of the guitar are tuned in fourths E - A , A - D, D - G and B - E . Except from third to second string which is G - B which is a third . Thus we will need to alter the shapes of the two string major triad while playing them on the third to second string. The shapes are given below :
As you can see we similarly have two shapes as well here for the shapes from third to second string. The first shape has the 3rd and 5th on the second and the root is being played on the third. The second shape has the 3rd displaced on the third string 9th fret but the other two notes remain where they were. The most important point while playing these shapes is to be sure to plot them as root , 3rd and 5th all over the neck of the guitar in order to understand the structure of the triads.
Minor triads
Similarly as we plotted the major triad all over the neck now we will try to do the same with the minor triads. To play the minor triad all we need to do is to change on note from the major triad which is the 3rd. We need to flatten the 3rd by a half step to achieve a minor triad. Then we will have Root flat 3rd and 5th to make a minor triad. In the case of a C minor triad the notes will be C - Eb - G. The shapes for the minor triad on two strings will be given below :
Below you will find the minor triad shape for 3rd to 2nd string :
Diminished triads
Now we will be looking at the third quality of the triad which occurs on the 7th degree of the major scale. We know that it is formed by playing a Root - Flat3 - Flat5. Now we will try to plot them on the fretboard on all two pairs of strings the shapes will be given below :
The above shapes apply on all string sets, find the root note C and start plotting them on the other strings except for G to B . The shapes will be given below :
Augmented triads
This is the last triad we will be looking at for now is the augmented triad and we will be looking at the shapes of them for all the 2 string sets the triad is formed by playing Root - 3 - #5 as we have learnt before. The shapes are as follows :
Now the shapes from 3rd to 2nd string :
The important thing to remember while learning these triad shapes is to find them on all the strings in all keys. This builds the core foundation of understanding how triads work and sound and how you can use them while playing. Be sure to locate the Root -3rd - 5th while learning the shapes and will help you understand how certain notes are flattened or sharped to achieve different types of triads all from the basic major triad.


Learn major triads first on all keys you know.
Then learn minor and diminished triads.
The augmented triad should be approached last, once you have a good understanding of maj,min and dim triads.
Learn both the shapes for each of the triads.

Triads on three strings

After you have a good understanding of all the 2 string triad shapes now we will be looking at 3 string shapes of the same triads. Similarly we will be starting off with C major triad three string shapes. Now you will see that the root - 3rd and 5th are being played in 3 different strings.
Major triads
Above you can see all the shapes of 3 string C major triads on all strings. Again try to plot them as root - 3rd and 5th while you are learning them as well as be aware of the name of the notes you are playing. Once you get used to them start playing them with the metronome start at 60 - 120 Bpm quarter notes.

Minor triads
Now we will go forward with learning the minor triad shape as you only have to change once a half step down from the major triad shapes that you already know to achieve a minor triad. The shapes will be given below to help you navigate through the fretboard.
Similarly just by changing the 3rd to flat 3rd we have now the C min 3 string shapes. Go through them once at a time once you get comfortable and start playing them with the metronome at 60 - 120 Bpm.

Diminished triads
Now we take a look at the diminished triad, again you can get this by just altering the minor triad shapes with one note alteration. By only shifting the 5th a half step down for all the shapes. The diminished shapes for c dim are given below to help you navigate through them :
Augmented triads
Now we will learn to play the 3 string shapes for the augmented triad, similar to the other 3 string shapes now it's an alteration of the major triad by just moving the 5th of the major triad a half step up you will achieve all the shapes of the augmented triad. The shapes will be given below to help you navigate through the shapes better :

Playing triads up the major scale

As you start to get an understanding of the 2 and 3 string triad shapes we are now going to use the different shapes that you have learnt to play triads while going up the major scale. This is simply we will be outlining the family chords of the c major scale with its respective triads up the scale. First we will be using the 2 string shapes to go up the scale the example will be given below :

The shapes given above apply for all the string sets as we know from before but except the 3rd to 2nd string scenario. The shapes for them will be given below :
Similarly now we will try to play the triads with the 3 string triad shapes that we had learnt before. Once you start understanding the patterns start working on playing the triads with the metronome. The shapes for the same are given below :
Figure 1 - 60 - 120 Bpm
Figure 2 - 60 - 120 Bpm
Figure 3 - 60 - 120 Bpm


Once you get used to playing the triads in C , then start moving to different keys. ( Circle of 5th )
Be sure use proper finger number while playing the 3 string triad shapes
Work on getting the clarity of the notes while playing in higher tempos
Use alternate picking style for all the above exercises ( down up down up )
Be sure to follow the tempo marking given above each exercise.


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