Advance Your Playing with Triad Arpeggios

What are triads? If you don't know, it's time to find out. Triads are not just fantastic sounding, but they're essential soloing tools and will help you develop all kinds of great licks and runs...

Time to look at some very useful ways of playing triad arpeggios on the guitar. The fingerings we’ll cover in this lesson are essential, and they will help you to build a strong foundation that will enable you to learn and master more advanced arpeggios. But before we look at the arpeggio fingerings, we should quickly cover some important theory.

Triad Theory:
If you haven’t heard of the term arpeggio before, then you’ll be pleased to know that all it means is the notes of a chord played one at a time (a broken chord).

The term "triad" is another name for chords that contain three notes. A triad is constructed from three different notes of a scale traveling through the scale by way of every second tone. There are four main types of triads, they are divided into two categories, "Consonant and Dissonant."

The Consonant (stable) triads are "Major and Minor." The Dissonant (unstable) triads are "Diminished and Augmented).

Triad Construction from the Major Scale:
We will begin by working out how the triads relate to the Major Scale. Using "C" as the root note for each chord, start by learning the notes of the "C Major" scale in a position of the neck. In example one (below) we are working through this scale in the 2nd position.

Example One: The "C Major" Scale (2nd position)

The first thing you need to do after analyzing the scale on the neck, is understand how to work out any triad from it. Starting with the scale tones, begin off of the major scale tonic (C) that has the same root note as the triad you want to construct.

For our example, that means being clear of the analysis on the neck of the C Major scale. Play through example one above several times to become clear on how this scale sits on the fingerboard, (say each note aloud).

Consonant Triads - Type One: C Major triad
The chord tone spelling for a major triad is 1 3 5, (the first, third and fifth tones of the major scale). This means that to construct a "C Major" triad, we would take the 1, 3 and 5 from the C Major scale. This gives us the following notes (C, E, G).

 Example Two: "C Major" Triad Arpeggio:

Altering the C Major Triad:
By changing one or more of the notes of the C Major triad we can create the other triad types. The most common triad type after the major triad is the minor.

Consonant Triad - Type Two: C Minor triad
Minor Triad: Lower the 3rd

The chord tone spelling of a minor triad is 1, b3 and 5. The notes of the C Minor triad are, "C, Eb and G." Play through the "C Minor" triad arpeggio in example three below.

Example Three: "C Minor" Arpeggio

Dissonant Triads - Type One: C Diminished triad
Diminished Triad: Lower the 3 and 5

To create the diminished triad we need to flatten both the 3 and the 5. This means that the notes of the C Diminished triad are, "C, Eb and Gb."  Play through the "C Diminished" triad arpeggio in example four below.

Example Four: "C Diminished" Arpeggio

Dissonant Triads - Type Two: C Augmented triad
Augmented Triad: Raise the 5th

The final triad (Augmented) can be constructed by raising (augmenting) the 5th of the C Major triad. This would mean that the C Augmented triad has these notes of "C, E, and G#."

Example Five: "C Augmented" Arpeggio

Triad Exercise:
What we’re going to look at now is a good exercise for memorizing the fingerings. It will help you to internalize the following four things.

The overall shape of each arpeggio fingering.
The musical spelling of each triad type.
The sound of each triad.
The location of each chord tone within the fingering.

Although the exercise is really simple to do, and you might be tempted to skip it, please don’t underestimate the value of doing it. This exercise will help your fretboard knowledge.

It’s also worth mentioning that the same practicing process we’ll use now can be used to memorize ANY arpeggio fingering. Becoming comfortable with the process now will help with your arpeggio studies in the future.

Triad Memorization Exercise:

Before you play each triad, say the name of the triad out aloud. For Example: Before you play the very first note of the exercise you should say “C Major” out aloud.

As you play each note, say the chord tone degree out aloud. For Example: When you play the first note of the exercise, you would say “One” out aloud. When you play the second note of the exercise, you would need to say “Three” out aloud.

The exercise is meant to be practiced very slowly, and it’s not meant to be played in time. Take as long as you need to play each note of the exercise. It’s a fretboard knowledge exercise—not a technical drill.

Practice the exercise for 2-3 minutes at least three times a week. Continue doing this every week until you think there’s no way you could ever forget the fingerings. If you practice them, only to forget them later on, then you have truly wasted your time. So stick with the exercise until you know the fingerings inside out.

In Conclusion:
Because arpeggios are so useful to have in your guitar soloing toolbox, make the time to work on the exercise. For extra development, you could also work out how to move the arpeggio fingerings to other string sets.



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