Major triad sequence 1 5 3

Triad arpeggios - Guitar lesson for beguinners

Major triad sequence 1 5 3Arpeggios are surely the most important devices to master when you want to start improvising. Every jazz players use arpeggios in their improvisations. Great guitarists, all kinds of styles use arpeggios : John Scofield, Kurt Rosewinkel, Birelli Lagrene, Django Reinhardt, and many more. Arpeggios are played extensively because they use only the notes found in a single chord, therefore they create a more harmonized sound when played with their corresponding chord. Arpeggios are very helpful to easily outline the chord changes. This lesson is focused on the most basic form of arpeggios made out of three notes called "triad arpeggios"


Triad arpeggios - Guitar diagrams

The most basic arpeggio (and chords) forms are called triads. They consists of three notes from a scale: the root note (R), the third note (major or minor), and the fifth (perfect, diminished or augmented). The four main triad arpeggio types are minor (1, b3, 5), major (1, 3, 5), diminished (1, b3, b5) and augmented (1, 3, #5) respectively relevant to minor, major, augmented and diminished chords. They are three-note chords where the notes are played one by one. It’s very important to know these basic triads, they are the foundation for all chords. 

Keep the following in mind. As it is explained in the chart below, a major triad is built with a root, a major third and a perfect fifth. A minor triad is built with a a root, a minor third and a perfect fifth. An augmented triad is built with a root, a major third and an augmented fifth. A diminished triad is built with a root, a minor third and a diminished fifth.

Major triad 1 3 5
Minor triad 1 b3 b5
Augmented triad 1 3 #5
Diminished triad 1 b3 b5


You will find below 20 triad arpeggio shapes divided into 4 groups : minor, major, diminished and augmented. The root note (R) is in red in the diagram.

Major triad arpeggios shapes

Major triad arpeggio shape 1

Major triad arpeggio shape 2

Major triad arpeggio shape 3

Major triad arpeggio shape 4

Major triad arpeggio shape 5

Minor triad arpeggios shapes

Minor triad arpeggio shape 1

Minor triad arpeggio shape 2

Minor triad arpeggio shape 3

Minor triad arpeggio shape 4

Minor triad arpeggio shape 5

Augmented triad arpeggios shapes

Augmented triad arpeggio shape 1

Augmented triad arpeggio shape 2

Augmented triad arpeggio shape 3

Augmented triad arpeggio shape 4

Augmented triad arpeggio shape 5

Diminished triad arpeggios shapes

Diminished triad arpeggio shape 1

Diminished triad arpeggio shape 2

Diminished triad arpeggio shape 3

Diminished triad arpeggio shape 4

Diminished triad arpeggio shape 5

Triad arpeggios in diatonic major scale

Let's take a look at the harmonized major scale (in the key of C) played in triad arpeggios. You surely know when harmonizing a major scale in thirds (you can also harmonize a scale in fourths) we obtain 7 triad chords grouped into 3 different types (major, minor and diminished). It is important to memorize the order of the triads  that is : major, minor, min, maj, maj, min and diminished.  Please note that are no augmented arpeggios in the diatonic major scale. You will find them in the melodic minor and harmonic minor scales.

Harmonized C major scale in thirds

By stacking thirds on each note of the major scale, we obtain seven chords. A third is the second note from the note you are on so for C the third is E, for D it is F, For E it is G. In the key of C we get a C major chord (C,E,G), a D minor chord (D, F, A), Em (E, G, B), F major (F, A, C), G major (G, B, D), A minor ( A, C, E,) and then B diminished (B, D, F). Try to find these seven chords in twelve keys and play them on the guitar. 

Harmonisation of the major scale in triads

Major scale in triad arpeggios

Here is the same C major scale played in triad arpeggio (one octave). As previously discussed in this lesson, triad arpeggios are made up of the same notes as triad chords. Now try to play triad arpeggios in twelve keys on the guitar.

Major scale in triads

How to work on and develop triad arpeggios

After having identified triad arpeggios on the guitar neck and played them in twelve keys, here are some efficient exercises and ideas to develop them.

4 directions - Ascending and descending triads

The "4 direction" concept is to play ascending and descending triads and mixing these two directions together. The first direction is to play the triads up & up (ascending movement) . The second direction is to play the triads down and down. The two other directions are a mix of the up & up and down & down movements giving up & down and of course down and up.

Up & up

Triads up up

Up & down

Triads up down

Down & up

Triads down up

Down & down

Triads down down

Triad arpeggio sequences 

What are triad arpeggio sequences ? The principle is to mix the notes of the triads whatever they are minor, major, diminished or augmented. Take, for example, a major triad. This triad is built with a root (1), a major third (3) and a fifth (5). Beguinners have a tendency to play these notes is the order, from the lowest to highest, in other words, the root, then the third and finally the fifth. This gives with a C major triad, C, E and A. But it's important to work on theses triads on mixing the notes, this gives six different sequences :

  • 1-3-5 (the basis)
  • 1-5-3
  • 3-5-1
  • 3-1-5
  • 5-1-3
  • 5-3-1

Here is how a 1-5-3 triad arpeggio sequence in C major looks like on the guitar. With major chords play the root (1), the fifth (5) then the major third. Applying the same sequence to minor chords gives root (1), the fifth (5) and the minor third (b3) . With the diminished chord you have to play the root, the  diminished fifth and the minor third.

Major triad sequence 1 5 3

Try to apply the six previous sequences to the four triad arpeggio types (major, minor, diminished and augmented) following the diatonic major scale. The triads in the harmonic minor scale and the melodic minor scale will discuss later in another topic.

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triads arpeggios major triads minor triads augmented triads diminished triads

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