The best way to memorize guitar triads is to first write all of them out in 1st and 2nd inversions in a Guitar Pro file, but be sure to only start with the top 3 strings first, ie, E, B, G. You then must practice them every single day while paying attention to where the root is each time.
It took me over 15 years to finally start learning the triads all over the guitar neck and it’s definitely something I regret because I can already see the difference it’s having in my guitar playing. Not only does it help you internalize the fundamentals of music theory, but you memorize the fretboard in the process.
I could go on and on about the benefits of learning the triads of the major scale all over the guitar neck, but if you’re already here, you probably know why they’re important. In this article, I’m going to walk you through all of the tips that I use when practicing triads.
In my view, learning to play the triads every single day is something that you should always be doing. Triads are the building blocks of the Western Major Scale and all of its chords. A firm understanding and memorization of them will help you in ways that are hard to even put into words. Let’s get into it down below.
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9 Tips for Memorizing Guitar Triads
I was first instructed to learn triads about a year ago by the former Daath guitarist, Emil Werstler. He told me to start learning them through JamPlay’s online learning platform which you can access here.
I would also recommend getting a copy of Guitar Pro. I recently purchased it and it’s also one of the best investments I’ve ever made. It’s incredibly useful and valuable if you’re a guitarist who’s serious about practicing and learning (on Plugin Fox).
If you want to access the file I’ve created, go to this link here and click on the download icon on the top-right of the page otherwise you won’t be able to download it because it’ll just send you to a bunch of other useless folders.
Also, if you want to learn more about the fundamentals of music theory, I’d recommend getting Mark Sarnecki’s Complete Elementary Rudiments like what I have in the image down below.
1) Write Them All Down First in Guitar Pro
You don’t have to use Guitar Pro to write down all of the triads but I would strongly recommend using it. Initially, I just had them written down on a piece of paper which you can see down here.
It’s just so much easier to use because you can slow things down, make additional changes, label things properly, and you can transfer it to students and other people who may want to access the file.
I’m always making little changes to my triads document because there are so many useful exercises and things you can add to it for a better understanding of the principles. It’s an evolving document because I know useful it is to know them inside and out.
2) Practice All 3 Inversions Every Single Day
I don’t actually pay attention to what the inversion name is for the triad. I just practice them and always pay attention to where the root is. The reason is that you just figure it out in your mind after.
For example, the first triad with the open G and open E string and the C in the middle is a 2nd inversion triad, because it starts on the final note of the triad, G. If you start on the 2nd note of the C Major triad, E, then you’re in 1st inversion.
Focus on this later if you really care what inversion of the triad you’re playing. But ultimately, you want to make things easy on yourself because learning the triads all over the fretboard is a pretty big task.
3) Always Know Where The Root Is In Each Triad
Whenever I practice the triads, I always make sure to play the root note of each inversion twice, and I make a mental note to myself to remember each one. Otherwise, you miss out on great fretboard memorization potential.
Do yourself a favour and even say it out loud to yourself that way you can really internalize where all the notes are on the fretboard. This tactic will do a fantastic job of really unlocking the mystery of the instrument, for lack of a better explanation.
In other words, if you know what key you’re in and you know what chords the other musicians are using, it’ll be so much easier to come up with some ideas for improvisation because you can just play the same chords much higher and in a slightly different fashion.
4) Stick To Just Major and Minor Triads Initially
As I said earlier, make it easy on yourself by not biting off more than you can chew. If you start learning the augmented and diminished triads as well all at the same time, it’s going to be SO MUCH at once.
You want to take it easy and just memorize the major and minor triads because once you’ve done that, you can move on to the other strings, and you’ll have a good starting point for altering the triads to actually create the augmented/diminished triads.
In other words, if you know C Major and C Minor triads like the back of your hand all over the neck, it’ll be super easy to make an augmented C triad.
All you have to do is raise the 5th (the G) by a semi-tone in each triad that you’ve already memorized. This brings me to my next point which is to stick to the top 3 strings first.
5) Start With Only The 1st 3-String Triads (E, B, G)
Because of the way the guitar is tuned, ie, in perfect 4ths and in one instance, a major 3rd, you get this dynamic where the shape of the triads actually changes once you switch to different sets of strings.
For example, the shape of the triads is different on the top 3 strings compared to the next 3 strings, D, G, and B, and those are different from the bottom 3 strings, E, A, D. Again, don’t bite off more than you can chew. Stick to the first 3 strings and only do Major/Minor.
6) Move On To The Following Strings After
Trust me, you’ll thank me once you’re doing this. There is so much to memorize and learn but as you fully master each section before moving on to the next, what you initially learned plays right into the next section.
It’s kind of like how you start out with simple mathematics before you eventually move on to calculus (although, triads are much simpler than this). Because you’ve already memorized the top 3 strings, moving on to the next section will be much easier.
7) Jam With Triads Over Backing Tracks In Different Keys
There are a ton of great YouTube channels with all kinds of backing tracks and other useful stuff. Quist is probably the best, however, if you plan on uploading videos. of yourself practicing or jamming along, know that it is copyrighted material.
Either way, you can find all kinds of free backing tracks online, and if you’re willing to pay for them, you can find even more. For example, JamPlay – which I mentioned earlier – has its own section packed with backing tracks.
8) Come Up With New Exercises And Ways to Practice The Triads
Jens Larsen has a great video where he teaches how to memorize and learn the triads. If you want to take your learning to the next level, apply what he has reached in this video which is to attack each triad in single-note fashion all over the fretboard.
Personally, I haven’t used his approach yet because I’m still going through mine. Remember, just stick to the easiest approach first and keep with it and be consistent.
Practicing an easy routine every single day for a year is much better than practicing a lot for 2 weeks and then never trying again.
9) Practice The Triads On Other Instruments
I think it’s useful to also learn how the triads look on other instruments as well because it’ll really solidify these principles in your mind. The nice thing about music theory is that it’s completely transferable.
If you memorize the triads on the guitar, all you have to do is know where the notes are on the piano and you can easily figure out how to play similar-sounding stuff on the piano or on other instruments.
Other Articles You May Be Interested In
- How to Strum Triads on Guitar (A Step-By-Step Guide)
- Why Triads Are Important To Learn on Guitar [ANSWERED]
- How to Harmonize in 3rds (Major and Minor) on Guitar [EASY]
- What Guitar Chords Are Sad? [With Examples & Explanation]
- What Are the Most Beautiful Guitar Chords? [ANSWERED]
- Why Is It Important To Learn Chords on Guitar? [SIMPLE]
Important Things to Note About Memorizing Guitar Triads
1) The Most Important Thing Is To Practice Every Day
Learning the triads is one of those things where you should be practicing them every single day because of how important they are in the context of Western Music Theory.
The more you memorize them, the better off you are because it gives you so many different benefits including fretboard memorization, better songwriting, a better understanding of key signatures and scales, better improvisation, and the list goes on.
Take time every single day to practice the triads carefully, rather than just going through the motions, and it will pay off very quickly.
2) This Is Going To Take A Lot Of Time So Be Patient
Learning the triads all over the neck is honestly a massive task that should be taken quite seriously. I would treat it as a number one goal and really work on it every single day before all else.
As I’ve said a million times though including in my guide on why they’re important, it’s such a useful thing to know that it’s totally worth it. It’ll improve your skillset on the instrument so fundamentally that it’ll feel like it changed your life.
1) JamPlay (on their website)
2) Guitar Pro (on Plugin Fox)