Triad arpeggios - Guitar lesson

Triad Arpeggios - Guitar Lesson For Beginners

Arpeggios are surely the most important tools to master when you want to start improvising. They create a more harmonized sound when played with their corresponding chord. They are very helpful to easily outline the chord changes in solos and improvisations. This guitar lesson focuses on the most basic forms of arpeggios made out of three notes called "triad arpeggios". 

Guitar Diagrams

What Is A Triad?

The most basic arpeggio (and chords) forms are called triads. They consist 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 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 5
Augmented triad 1 3 #5
Diminished triad 1 b3 b5


Basic Shapes

You will find below 20 triad arpeggio shapes classified in four groups : minor, major, diminished and augmented. It is important to locate the root note (R), it is the note that gives the name of the arpeggio.

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 seven triad chords grouped into three different types (major, minor and diminished).

It is important to memorize the order of the triads : major, minor, minor, major, major, minor and diminished.  Please note that there 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 the following chords:

  • C major (C, E, G).
  • D minor (D, F, A).
  • Em (E, G, B).
  • F major (F, A, C).
  • G major (G, B, D).
  • A minor ( A, C, E,).
  • B diminished (B, D, F).

Try to find these seven chords in twelve keys and play them on the guitar.

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.

How To Practice Triad Arpeggios?

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

Four Directions - Ascending And Descending Triads

The "four direction" concept is to play ascending and descending triads and mixing these two directions together. The first direction is to play triads up & up (ascending movement) .

The second direction consists in playing 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.

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. Let's take, for example, a major triad. This triad is built with a root (1), a major third (3) and a fifth (5). 

Beginners have a tendency to play these notes in order, from the lowest to highest, in other words, the root, then the third and finally the fifth. This would gives C, E and G for the C major triad. However, it's important to work on these triads by mixing the notes, here are 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 look 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.

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 from the harmonic minor scale and the melodic minor scale will be discussed later in another topic.

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arpeggios triads augmented triads diminished triads minor triads major triads


  • bill chalmers
    • 1. bill chalmers On 2018-06-27
    Hello. At the start of this article there is a mistake probably due to a typo. It is situated in the small portion coloured yellow.
    The notes that form a minor triad are given as : 1, flat3, flat 5 this is obviously a minute but as the article is aimed at beginners as you stated then
    this kind of thing can create confusion for them.
    • jazz-guitar-licks
      • jazz-guitar-licksOn 2018-06-27
      It is corrected thanks.

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