Major Triad Positions: One Way to Learn the Guitar Fretboard

Are you up for a challenge?

In a recent previous post, “Guitar Lessons: Scales & Learning the Guitar Fretboard,” I mentioned a few things you can put into practice to master the guitar fretboard. One of these suggestions was to learn your triads over the fretboard. Triads can help “connect the dots” for how individual notes across the fretboard interact and relate to one other.

Just a forewarning, this discussion needs some understanding of how guitar scales work. This might make more sense to more intermediate players. If you are just beginning, you will want to check out guitar scales explained.

What are triads?

A triad is a group of three notes played simultaneously. Triads are made up of one note with a major third and a perfect fifth above it. In plain speak, a triad is just a three note chord. There are different types of triads: major, minor, augmented, and diminished.

For now, we just want to talk about and focus on major triads. If we understand major triads, we can understand the other ones better.

Major Triad Positions

There are different positions for triads: root, 1st inversion, and 2nd inversion. Say we have a C major triad (C – E – G). Root position triads have the lowest note in the triad as the tonic or the first note. In this example, that would be C. In 1st inversion triads, the lowest note is the third (E). In 2nd inversion triads, the lowest note is the fifth (G).

Common Root Position Major Triads

Cmaj   Dmaj   Emaj   Fmaj   Gmaj    Gmaj   Amaj   Bmaj   Cmaj
-----  -----  -----  -----  ------  -----  -----  -----  -----
-----  -----  -----  -----  ------  -----  -----  -----  -----
--0--  --2--  --4--  --5--  --7---  -----  -----  -----  -----
--2--  --4--  --6--  --7--  --9---  --0--  --2--  --4--  --5--
--3--  --5--  --7--  --8--  --10--  --2--  --4--  --6--  --7--
-----  -----  -----  -----  ------  --3--  --5--  --7--  --8--

Common 1st Inversion Major Triads

Cmaj   Dmaj   Emaj   Fmaj   Gmaj   Gmaj   Amaj   Bmaj   Cmaj   Dmaj   Emaj
-----  -----  -----  -----  -----  -----  -----  -----  -----  -----  -----
--1--  --3--  --5--  --6--  --8--  -----  -----  -----  -----  -----  -----
--0--  --2--  --4--  --5--  --7--  --0--  --2--  --4--  --5--  --7--  --9--
--2--  --4--  --6--  --7--  --9--  --0--  --2--  --4--  --5--  --7--  --9--
-----  -----  -----  -----  -----  --2--  --4--  --6--  --7--  --9--  --11-
-----  -----  -----  -----  -----  -----  -----  -----  -----  -----  -----

Common 2nd Inversion Major Triads

Cmaj   Dmaj   Emaj   Fmaj   Gmaj   Gmaj   Amaj   Bmaj   Cmaj   Dmaj   Emaj
--0--  --2--  --4--  --5--  --7--  -----  -----  -----  -----  -----  -----
--1--  --3--  --5--  --6--  --8--  --0--  --2--  --4--  --5--  --7--  --9--
--0--  --2--  --4--  --5--  --7--  --0--  --2--  --4--  --5--  --7--  --9--
-----  -----  -----  -----  -----  --0--  --2--  --4--  --5--  --7--  --9--
-----  -----  -----  -----  -----  -----  -----  -----  -----  -----  -----
-----  -----  -----  -----  -----  -----  -----  -----  -----  -----  -----

This is just a start of some of the most common major triad positions. You can arrange the notes in a triad to be played in a variety of different ways all across the guitar fretboard.

How do triads help me learn the guitar fretboard?

If you’re goal is to learn the guitar fretboard, it’s best to learn these triad positions in conjunction with your guitar scales. So when you’re learning a G major scale up and down the neck, learning the triad positions found in a G major scale (e.g. Cmaj & Dmaj) will allow you to see how the individual notes within the scale interact and relate with one another.

Triads are also very helpful for soloing. When you improvise a guitar solo, you’re playing over a chord progression. Say that in the chord progression there is a C major chord. If you’re soloing, you can identify all the different triad positions for a C major chord and use those as a kind of “launch pad” for your solo.

Further Learning

Craig Basset’s Guitar Scale Mastery System does a great job of teaching the guitar fretboard and making sense of how all of the different notes on the fretboard fit together.

If you have any questions about any of this, be sure to post a comment!

About Brett McQueen

Brett McQueen is a musician, songwriter, and the founder and editor of Guitar Friendly and Ukulele Tricks. Learn more about him here and follow him on Twitter at @GuitarFriendly.

Comments

  1. Your links in this are wonderful I went through all this and I really appreciate it thanks for your blog. Learning guitar is not a fun exercise to do, but with your help I have done it. Really thanks for your support.

  2. David, I’m glad you found this information helpful! It definitely takes hard work and practice.

  3. It’s great to constantly come back to the basics, no matter how good you think you are. Besides triads are the root of so many advanced techniques and sounds

  4. Thank you very much for sharing. Your information always proves to be useful. I think your post is suitable for everyne, who is interested in valuable resources. I will keep following your posts.

  5. Ok, so the next step, after learning block voicings for triads, would be learning open voicings that allow for more interesting voice leading… my 2 cents

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