Major Triad - Two Strings (plus an explanation of inversions)

We start our journey into the wild world of arpeggios with this Major Triad Arpeggio exercise, which will help build the needed foundation to move on to the more advanced guitar lessons.
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Major Triad - Two Strings (plus an explanation of inversions) fretboard diagram

In the fretboard diagram, you see how the Major Triad and its first and second inversion appear. Of course, some of these patterns are easier to play than others, but variety on the guitar is a great thing because it is what makes the guitar such an insanely articulate instrument! You should also note that you can use these shapes on any consecutive two strings except G and B. I'll leave it to you to work out the fingerings for G and B. The important thing is to understand how to play two string triads anywhere on the fretboard. Also of note, for those of you familiar with Pentatonic Scales, do you notice how the First Inversion 2nd Fingering resembles the Pentatonic Minor pattern that most guitarists are familiar with? I think it is always good when one sees how a given concept relates to things you are already familiar with.

So how we can play a C Major Triad and its inversions on two strings? Take the root position C Major Triad for instance. We can start on the B string, play a C, then play E and G on the E string. Or, we can play theC and E both on the B string then play the G on the E string. Similar deal with the inversions - there are two fingerings for a triad in root position, as well as two fingerings for each of the inversions. In the exercise you will practice playing all of these variations. By appreciating what these triad shapes bring to the table, you will be able to expand your phrasing ability yet another step further - so experiment with your own riffs and see how this simple concept can really help you take a giant step!

Tablature for this exercise:

Major Triad - Two Strings (plus an explanation of inversions) Guitar Pro tablature
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Guitar Lesson Exercise Performance Tips

Performance Tips

In the tablature, you will see there is a lot of position shifting involved. I indicate fingerings that I think make this easier to play. Also, feel free to play using alternate picking, legato, some combination. This exercise is less about technique and more about getting triads embedded in the mind!

In the exercise video I play a slow and fast version. Same exact exercise, just different tempos. Just take a look at the video to see both the slow and fast execution.

Criteria for Mastery: Smooth execution of the exercise as 16th notes at 90 BPM or faster (better yet, with eyes closed!) and an understanding of how to play Major triad and inversions throughout the fretboard


The Major Triad is simply defined as a Major Third interval (2 whole steps) followed by a Minor Third interval (1 and a half steps). So let's look at an F Major Triad. (ok, in the video I use C Major...) We start from F, go up a Major Third interval (two whole steps) to A, then up a Minor Third (one and a half steps) interval to C. This amounts to taking the root, 3rd, and 5th of the Major Scale (or any mode associated with a Major Triad). That gives us F, A, C as our F Major Triad in root position.

Before continuing I want to talk about inversions. An inversion is simply a re-ordering of the notes of a Chord/Arpeggio. Considering our F Major Triad, the First Inversion would be starting from the second note  - A - then moving to the C, then the F at the end: A, C, F. Referring back to the scale the inverted triad came from, we say this first inversion triad has its notes ordered as the 3rd, 5th, and root. Likewise, the Second Inversion of the F Major Triad would be starting from the third note of the triad - C - then moving to the F, then A, giving us C, F, A as the F Major Triad Second Inversion, where the note ordering is the 5th, root, 3rd.

Once we get to the second inversion, if we were to try and construct another inversion, we would see that we end up back at the F, which means we are back in root position. Below you can also see what I just described above depicted on a staff.

F Major Triad and Inversions
Triad   Notes
F Major (root position)    F, A, C (root, 3rd, 5th)  
F Major (1st inversion)   A, C, F (3rd, 5th, root)
F Major (2nd inversion)    C, F, A (5th, root, 3rd)


One of the most important things to take away from this guitar lesson is that what I describe above is true for every Major Triad. You could pick, say Bb. Since you know a Major Triad is formed by a Major Third plus Minor Third interval, you would first go up a Major Third from Bb (two whole steps) coming to D. Then from D you would go up a Minor Third (one and a half steps) to F. So a Bb Major Triad is Bb, D, F. From there, the inversions are D, F, Bb (first inversion), F, Bb, D (second inversion). 

I encourage you to pay close attention to the theoretical sidebars in my guitar lessons. The more you know about theory, the less you need to worry about chord dictionaries, etc. Theory empowers you to come up with your own approaches to fretboard visualization, be it scales, chords, arpeggios, etc. Ok, so now that we talked about some basic theory, let's play some arpeggios and not just talk about them!