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Lesson #23: Chord Construction: Triads 1

by Tyler de Witt posted on 1999-10-17
Topic: Fretboard Subtopic: General
Level: Intermediate Number of Readers: 73475

Chord Construction: Triads 1

In this lesson we're going to look at some practical chord construction using the interval shapes that we learned in the last few lessons. I'll have to assume you have at least some knowledge of chord theory, if you don't you should consider reading some of the lessons in the Theory category.

The first thing we're going to do is construct some triads, because these are the foundation of most other chords.

For a working example, we're going to construct a major triad in the key of A. To do this, first we have to find our root note, which is A. You can play this in a number of places, but we'll choose the 6th string, 5th fret. So what we have so far is this:

E----------
B----------
G----------
D----------
A----------
E----5-----

We know that the interval structure of a major triad is a major third above the root, and a perfect fifth above the root. In this case, the major third above the root is a C#, and the perfect fifth above the root is an E. If we already know where these notes are on the fretboard, then that's great, we can play them. But the purpose of learning the interval shapes is to that we can _find_ these notes very quickly without actually hunting around for them.

We want the C# to be on the 5th string, because we're playing a chord. So we're going to use the interval shapes that we learned between adjacent strings. We want to build a major third, and this is accomplished by moving up one string, and back 1 fret. That will give us this:

E----------
B----------
G----------
D----------
A----4-----
E----5-----

We've just used a shape that we've learned to locate a major third above the note on the 6th string, 5th fret. If we analyse this, we'll find that the note name of the 4th fret, 5th string is in fact a C#, which is what we wanted to play. We've used shapes to help us find this C#. Just remember to keep in mind what notes you are playing, because remember, we using these shapes to help us find the note names.

We have our first half of the triad done, now we have to add the fifth. We can do this in one of two ways. We can use our skipped string interval shapes to find a fifth above the 5th fret, 6th string. To do this, we move up 2 strings, and back 4 frets. We'll end up with this:

E----------
B----------
G----------
D----2-----
A----4-----
E----5-----

What we also could have done is find a minor third shape above the 4th fret 5th string. This would have gives us the same note. You can use whatever way you think is easiest.

Anways, now we have our fifth, which is an E. We've used shapes to help us find this E. Our major triad is now complete, consisting of an A, a C# and an E.

Now that you've built this triad once, you probably won't ever have to actually 'build' it again. By using interval shapes, you've created a larger shape, and now you can just move this shape around. To play a major triad starting on B, all we would have to do is this:

E----------
B----------
G----------
D----4----
A----6-----
E----7-----

Just slide the shape up. Remember though, that the notes in this triad are B, D# and F#, and we've used a shape to find them very quickly.

This pattern will also work if you have the root on the fifth string:

E----------
B----------
G----4-----
D----6-----
A----7-----
E----------

But if we move higher, we have to remember that the 2nd and 3rd string tunings will ruin our pattern. Therefore, we'll just have to change our interval shapes by 1 fret to account for this change. Our major triad built on the 4th string will look like this:

E----------
B----5-----
G----6-----
D----7-----
A----------
E----------

Notice that the 5th is still a perfect fifth, the shape has just changed so that it will remain a perfect fifth. The shape between the root and the third has not changed however, because it hasn't crossed the 2nd and 3rd strings. Now consider this example:

E--5-------
B----7-----
G----7-----
D----------
A----------
E----------

This is still a major triad. The interval between the root and third is still a major third, but the pattern has had to change to accomodate for the 2nd and 3rd strings. The interval shape between the 3rd and the 5th has returned to normal, because it does not cross the 2nd and 3rd strings. The interval shape between the root and the 5th crosses the 2nd and third string, so it is one fret smaller.

If you can build a major triad, you can build any triad, just as long as you know the interval structure of the triad. Using chord theory and interval shapes, you can build any triad(or any chord) you want. Remember though, that is even though you can do this now, it is still of great use to know the note names of the triads you are building. Use these shapes as tools to remember and find the note names.

This lesson was just to get you started, in the next lesson, we will breeze quickly through how to build the other triads, because it is basically the same as this. Then we'll look at building some bigger or more complex chords.

Things to remember from this lesson:

1. Using a knowledge of chord theory and practical interval shapes on the guitar, any triad or chord can be built.
2. Once you've used the interval shapes to build your triad or chord, you will have before you a bigger shape. This new shape can be remembered completely and moved around as a whole.
3. The only thing to watch for is when you are crossing the 2nd and 3rd strings, because the interval shapes will change because of the different tunings. You will have to accomodate for these by changing your interval shapes by 1 fret.


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