Triads And Other Three Note Chords

author: PJVILL date: 03/30/2009 category: for beginners
rating: 10 / votes: 6 
Triads are three note chords: They are formed by a Root (Tonic), a 3rd (Major or minor) and a 5th (perfect, diminished or augmented). Any chord may sound slightly different according to the position of the Root and yet have the same structure. This is mostly true with triads. When the Root is played at the bottom the triad is said to be in Root position. When the Root is played in the highest position after 3rd and 5th it is said to be the 1st inversion and when it's played in between 5th and 3rd it's called 2nd inversion. Any of these forms may fit better other preceding or following chords and sound more musical because of the better connection of the relative moving chord voicings. But let's see first some Major triads and their inversions. D Major triads and inversions:
  Triad               1st inversion       2nd inversion   
e|----------------------------------------2-#F-(3rd)------|
B|--------------------3--D--(Root)--------3--D-(Root)-----|
G|2--A--(5th)---------2--A--(5th)---------2--A-(5th)------|
D|4-#F--(3rd)---------4-#F--(3rd)-------------------------|
A|5--D--(Root)--------------------------------------------|
E|--------------------------------------------------------|

e|5--(5th)------------10--(Root)---------14--(3rd)--------|
B|7--(3rd)------------10--(5th)----------15--(Root)-------|
G|7--(Root)-----------11--(3rd)----------14--(5th)--------|
D|--------------------------------------------------------|
A|--------------------------------------------------------|
E|--------------------------------------------------------|
A Major triads and inversions:
  Triad               1st inversion       2nd inversion
e|--------------------------------------------------------|
B|---------------------------------------2--(3rd)---------|      
G|--------------------2--(Root)----------2--(Root)--------|
D|2--(5th)------------2--(5th)-----------2--(5th)---------|                   
A|4--(3rd)------------4--(3rd)----------------------------|
E|5--(Root)-----------------------------------------------|

e|--------------------5--(Root)----------9--(3rd)---------|
B|5--(5th)------------5--(5th)----------10--(Root)--------|      
G|6--(3rd)------------6--(3rd)-----------9--(5th)---------|  
D|7--(Root)-----------------------------------------------|                   
A|--------------------------------------------------------|
E|--------------------------------------------------------|
The following are the four triad forms: Major, minor, diminished and augmented. We'll now take a look at C triads to have some clear visual examples. C Major
  Triad             1st inversion     2nd inversion 
e|------------------------------------0--E--(3rd)------|
B|------------------1--C--(Root)------1--C--(Root)-(5)-|
G|0--G--(5th)-------0--G--(5th)-------0--G--(5th)--(5)-|
D|2--E--(3rd)-------2--E--(3rd)--------------------(5)-|
A|3--C--(Root)-----------------------------------------|
E|-----------------------------------------------------|

e|3--G--------------8--C-------------12--E-------------|
B|5--E--------------8--G-------------13--C-------------|
G|5--C--------------9--E-------------12--G-------------|
D|-----------------------------------------------------|
A|-----------------------------------------------------|
E|-----------------------------------------------------|
C minor
  Triad             1st inversion     2nd inversion 
e|-----------------------------------------------------|
B|------------------1--C--(Root)------4-bE--(b3rd)-----|
G|0--G--(5th)-------0--G--(5th)-------5--C--(Root)-----|
D|1-bE--(b3rd)------1-bE--(b3rd)------5--G--(5th)------|
A|3--C--(Root)-----------------------------------------|
E|-----------------------------------------------------|

e|3--G--------------8--C-------------11-bE-------------|
B|4-bE--------------8--G-------------13--C-------------|
G|5--C--------------8-bE-------------12--G-------------|
D|-----------------------------------------------------|
A|-----------------------------------------------------|
E|-----------------------------------------------------|
Cdim
  Triad             1st inversion     2nd inversion 
e|-----------------------------------------------------|
B|------------------------------------4--bE--(b3rd)----|
G|------------------5---C--(Root)-----5---C--(Root)----|
D|4--bG--(b5th)-----4--bG--(b5th)-----4--bG--(b5th)----|
A|6--bE--(b3rd)-----6--bE--(b3rd)----------------------|
E|8---C--(Root)----------------------------------------|

e|2--bG-------------8---C-------------11--bE-----------|
B|4--bE-------------7--bG-------------13---C-----------|
G|5---C-------------8--bE-------------11--bG-----------|
D|-----------------------------------------------------|
A|-----------------------------------------------------|
E|-----------------------------------------------------|
Caug
  Triad             1st inversion     2nd inversion 
e|------------------------------------0--E--(3rd)------|          
B|------------------1--C--(Root)------1--C--(Root)-----|
G|1-#G--(#5th)------1-#G--(#5th)------1-#G--(#5th)-----|
D|2--E--(3rd)-------2--E--(3rd)------------------------|
A|3--C--(Root)-----------------------------------------|
E|-----------------------------------------------------|

e|4-#G--------------8--C--------------12--E------------|
B|5--E--------------9-#G--------------13--C------------|
G|5--C--------------9--E--------------13-#G------------|
D|-----------------------------------------------------|
A|-----------------------------------------------------|
E|-----------------------------------------------------|
These following are 3 C Major diatonic triad scales in Root position:
  C      Dm     Em     F      G      Am     Bdim   C
e|-----------------------------------0-E----1-F----3-G----|      
B|--------------0-B----1-C----3-D----1-C----3-D----5-E----| 
G|0-G----2-A----0-G----2-A----4-B----2-A----4-B----5-C----|
D|2-E----3-F----2-E----3-F----5-G-------------------------|
A|3-C----5-D----------------------------------------------|
E|--------------------------------------------------------|

  C      Dm     Em     F      G      Am     Bdim   C
e|--------------------------------------------------------|
B|--------------------------------------------------------|
G|0------2------4------5------7------9-----10-----12------|
D|2------3------5------7------9-----10-----12-----14------|
A|3------5------7------8-----10-----12-----14-----15------|
E|--------------------------------------------------------|

  C      Dm     Em     F      G      Am     Bdim   C
e|--------------------------------------------------------|
B|-----------------------------------5------6------8------|
G|-------2------4------5------7------5------7------9------|
D|5------3------5------7------9------7------9-----10------|
A|7------5------7------8-----10---------------------------|
E|8-------------------------------------------------------|
Finding all the other ( D, E, F, G, A and B ) diatonic triad scales is very easy with the same preceeding chord shapes. Now let's play some triads in this simple but good sounding chord sequence in which I have put Roots in round brackets:
  3/4 time       
  *
  A                             Dbm
e|--------- ---------(5)-------|--------- --------- 4--------|
B|----------5---------5--------|----------5---------5--------|
G|6---------6---------6--------(6)-------(6)-------(6)-------|
D(7)-------(7)-----------------|6---------6------------------|
A|7----------------------------|7----------------------------|
E|-----------------------------|-----------------------------|
  2nd inv.  Root pos. 1st inv.  1st inv.  2nd inv.  Root pos.

  F#m                           F
e|--------- ---------(2)-------|--------- ---------(1)-------|
B|----------2---------2--------|----------1---------1--------|
G|2---------2---------2--------|2---------2---------2--------|
D(4)-------(4)-----------------(3)-------(3)-----------------|
A|4----------------------------|3----------------------------|
E|-----------------------------|-----------------------------|
  2nd inv.  Root pos. 1st inv.  2nd inv.  Root pos. 1st inv.

  A                             E
e|--------- ---------(5)-------|--------- --------- 4--------|
B|----------5---------5--------|---------(5)-------(5)-------|
G|6---------6---------6--------|4---------4---------4--------|
D(7)-------(7)-----------------|6---------6------------------|
A|7----------------------------(7)---------------------------|
E|-----------------------------|-----------------------------|
      2nd inv.  Root pos. 1st inv.  Root pos. 1st inv.  2nd inv.
1st time
 A                              E                   
e|--------- ---------(5)-------|--------- --------- 4--------|
B|----------5---------5--------|---------(5)-------(5)-------|
G|6---------6---------6--------|4---------4---------4--------|
D(7)-------(7)-----------------|6---------6------------------|
A|7----------------------------(7)---------------------------|
E|-----------------------------|-----------------------------|  
  2nd inv.  Root pos. 1st inv.  Root pos. 1st inv.  2nd inv.   
                                                       Repeat  *
2nd time
  A
e(5)------- --------- ---------|--------- --------- ---------|
B|5---------5------------------|-----------------------------|
G|6---------6---------6--------(2)---------------------------|
D|---------(7)-------(7)-------|2----------------------------|
A|--------------------7--------|4----------------------------|
E|-----------------------------|-----------------------------|
  1st inv.  Root pos. 2nd inv.  1st inv.
Try the preceding technique with some chord lines that you like or some of you own. Now we'll see some more 3 note "C" chords. Mind that these are not triads. They are derived from 4 note chords omitting their Root or 5th. I think knowing them at east in the keys you like best (if not all the keys) may be very useful.
  Cmaj7       C7          C6          Cm7         Cm6    
e|------------------------------------------------3(5)----| No 
B|5(3)--------5(3)--------5(3)--------4(b3)-------4(b3)-8-| Root
G|4(M7)--9----3(b7)--9----2(6)---9----3(b7)--8----2(6)--8-|
D|5(5)---9----5(5)---8----5(5)---7----5(5)---8----------7-|
A|------10----------10----------10----------10------------|
E|--------------------------------------------------------|

  Cmaj7       C7          C6          Cm7         Cm6
e|7(7)--------6(b7)-------5(6)--------6(b7)-------5(6)----| No 
B|5(3)--------5(3)--------5(3)--------4(b3)-------4(b3)---| 5th
G|5(R)--9-----5(R)--9-----5(R)--------5(R)--------5(R)----|
D|------9-----------8-----------7-----------8-----------7-|
A|------------------------------7-----------6-----------6-|
E|------8-----------8-----------8-----------8-----------8-|

  Cmaj7        C7         Cm7         C           Cm6
e|-----12-------------------------------------------------| 
B|5(3)-12-----------------4(b3)-------8(5)----------------|      
G|4(b7)--------3(b7)------3(b7)8------5(R)-12-----2(6)----|  
D|-----10------2(3)-8----------8-----------10-----1(b3)7--|                 
A|3(R)---------3(R)-7-----3(R)--------7(3)--------3(R)-6--|
E|------------------8----------8-----------12----------8--|
It is also very easy finding these chords in any of the other tonalities (D, E, F, G, A and B) with the same chord structures. But please remember that these aren't triads any more.
  Emaj7        E7         Em7         E           Em6
e|-----------------------------------------7--------------|
B|9-----------------------8----------12----5(R)--------2--|      
G|8----13------7----------7----12-----9(R)--------6----0--|
D|-----13------6----12---------12----------6------5----2(R)                   
A|7(R)---------7(R)-11----7(R)-------11-----------7(R)----|
E|-----12(R)--------12(R)------12(R)----------------------|

  Gmaj7        G7         Gm7         G           Gm6
e|-----------------------------------------10-------------|
B|12----------------------11----------15----8-----------5-|      
G|11----4------10---------10----3-----12-----------9----3-|
D|------4-------9---15----------3-----------9------8----5-|                   
A|10-----------10---14----10----------14----------10------|
E|------3-----------15----------3-------------------------|

  Amaj7        A7         Am7         A           Am6
e|-----------------------------------------12-------------|
B|2-----------------------1-----------5----10-----------7-|
G|1----6-------12---------0-----5-----2-----------11----5-|
D|-----6-------11----5----------5----------11-----10----7-|
A|0------------12----4----0-----------4-----------12------|
E|-----5-------------5----------5-------------------------| 
Now we're going to play some 3 note chord lines to give the thing a little more movement. Sure you can play them pretty fast in no time at all.
4/4 time
                                                  (.
  Amaj7  Bm     Dbm    F#7    Bm     E7     Amaj7  A6
e|-------------|-------------|-------------|-------------|
B|-------------|-------------|-------------|-------------|
G|6--6---7--7--|9--9---9--9--|7--7---7--7--|6--6---6-----|
D|6--6---7--7--|9--9---8--8--|7--7---6--6--|6--6---4-----|
A|-------------|-------------|-------------|-------------|
E|5--5---7--7--|9--9---9--9--|7--7---7--7--|5--5---5-----|

                                                   (.
  G7     Am     A7b9   G      Cmaj7  Bm7    Am7    G7
e|-------------|-------------|-------------|-------------|
B|-------------|-------------|5--5---3--3--|1--1---------|
G|4--4---5--5--|6--6---7--7--|4--4---2--2--|0--0---4-----|
D|3--3---5--5--|5--5---5--5--|-------------|-------3-----|
A|-------------|-------------|3--3---2--2--|0--0---------|
E|3--3---5--5--|6--6---7--7--|-------------|-------3-----|

  Em7    C      Dm7    Dm6    Dbm7   Dbm6   Cm7    Cm6
e|-------------|-------------|-------------|-------------|
B|-------------|-------------|-------------|-------------|
G|12-12--12-12-|10-10--10-10-|9--9---9--9--|8--8---8--8--|
D|12-12--10-10-|10-10---9--9-|9--9---8--8--|8--8---7--7--|
A|-------------|-------------|-------------|-------------|
E|12-12--12-12-|10-10--10-10-|9--9---9--9--|8--8---8--8--|

                                                     (.
  Dm7    G      Am7    Am6    Abm7   E      Gm7    C7
e|-------------|-------------|-------------|-------------|
B|-------------|-------------|-------------|-------------|
G|7--7---7--7--|5--5---5--5--|4--4---4--4--|3--3---3--3--|
D|7--7---5--5--|5--5---4--4--|4--4---2--2--|3--3---2--2--|
A|-------------|-------------|-------------|-------3--3--|
E|7--7---7--7--|5--5---5--5--|4--4---4--4--|3--3---------|

  *
  Gmaj7  Abm6   Am7    Bm6    Bm7    Cm6    Cmaj7  Dbm6
e|-------------|-------------|-------------|-------------|
B|-------------|-------------|-------------|-------------|
G|4--4---4--4--|5--5---6--6--|7--7---8--8--|9--9---9--9--|
D|4--4---3--3--|5--5---5--5--|7--7---7--7--|9--9---8--8--|
A|-------------|-------------|-------------|-------------|
E|3--3---4--4--|5--5---6--6--|7--7---8--8--|8--8---9--9--|

                                                     (.
  Bm7    E7     Am7    D7     Gmaj7  Abm6   Am7    D7 Ab7
e|-------------|-------------|-------------|-------------|
B|-------------|-------------|-------------|-------------|
G|7--7---7--7--|5--5---5--5--|4--4---4--4--|5--5---5--5--|
D|7--7---6--6--|5--5---4--4--|4--4---3--3--|5--5---4--4--|
A|-------7--7--|-------5--5--|-------------|-------5-----|
E|7--7---------|5--5---------|3--3---4--4--|5--5------4--| 
                                                   Repeat  *
Try always fixing visually all these chord shapes and keep with the drilling for some days until you feel comfortable. And finally a 3 note chord little blues:
  12/8 time
  *
  C7                              F7 
e|------- ------- ------- -------|------- ------- ------- -------|
B|-------------------------------|-------------------------------|
G|9-------9-------9-------9------|8-------8-------8-------8------|
D|8-------8-------8-------8------|7-------7-------7-------7------|
A|-------------------------------|8-------8-------8-------8------|
E|8-------8-------8-------8------|-------------------------------|

  C7                              C7/6            C7
e|------- ------- ------- -------|------- ------- ------- -------|
B|-------------------------------|-------------------------------|
G|9-------9-------9-------9------|14------14------12------12-----|
D|8-------8-------8-------8------|12------12------14------14-----|
A|-------------------------------|13------13------13------13-----|
E|8-------8-------8-------8------|-------------------------------|

  F                               Fdim
e|------- ------- ------- -------|------- ------- ------- -------|
B|-------------------------------|-------------------------------|
G|10------10------10------10-----|8-------8-------8-------8------|
D|10------10------10------10-----|7-------7-------7-------7------|
A|12------12------12------12-----|9-------9-------9-------9------|
E|-------------------------------|-------------------------------|

  C7              Dm7             Em7             Eb7
e|------- ------- ------- -------|------- ------- ------- -------|
B|-------------------------------|-------------------------------|
G|9-------9-------10------10-----|12------12------12------12-----|
D|8-------8-------10------10-----|12------12------11------11-----|
A|-------------------------------|-------------------------------|
E|8-------8-------10------10-----|12------12------11------11-----|

  Dm7                             G7
e|------- ------- ------- -------|------- ------- ------- -------|
B|-------------------------------|-------------------------------|
G|10------10------10------10-----|10------10------10------10-----|
D|10------10------10------10-----|-9-------9-------9-------9-----|
A|-------------------------------|10------10------10------10-----|
E|10------10------10------10-----|-------------------------------|

  C7              A7              D7              G7               
e|------- ------- ------- -------|------- ------- ------- -------|  
B|-------------------------------|-------------------------------|
G|9-------9-------12------12-----|11------11------10------10-----|
D|8-------8-------11------11-----|10------10-------9-------9-----|
A|----------------12------12-----|----------------10------10-----|
E|8-------8----------------------|10------10---------------------| 
               (.                                          Repeat  *

  C7      C7/6
e|------- -----10 ------- -------|------- ------- ------- -------|
B|--------10---------------------|-------------------------------|
G|9--------9---------------------|-------------------------------|
D|8--------8---------------------|-------------------------------|
A|-------------------------------|-------------------------------|
E|8------------------------------|-------------------------------|
  Ending
You can try searching for other 3 note chord forms omitting the Root or 5th and make your own lines very easily. Triads and other 3 note chords may be a very good tool mostly playing uptempos, where it may prove a little harder fingering 4 note chords, or simply playing nice chord sequences. Of course, you can also make 4 note chords from triads adding another root, 3rd or 5th or other chord extensions such as b7, 7, b9, 9, #9, 11 or 13. 4 note chords will let us add a bass note to a triad or any other 3 note chord and so we'll be able to play some interesting walking bass lines. But we'll talk about that next time.
        B  Bend
        b  Flat
        #  Sharp
        R  Release
       (R) Root
        3  Third
        5  Fifth
        /  slide up
        \  slide down
        H  hammer-on
        P  pull-off
        ~  vibrato
        +  harmonic
        x  Mute note
        . - play note like a dot in standard notation
        ^ - ties two notes together
       (.  Pause
More PJVILL lessons:
+ Natural And Harp Harmonics For Beginners 12/15/2010
+ Fingerpicking Twelve Bar Blues Music Styles 11/24/2003
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