Minor Triad Chords | Close, Open and Inverted Voicings | Guitar Diagrams

What's a Minor Triad?

Minor triads are constructed by stacking three notes : the root (tonic), major third and perfect fifth of any minor scale, thus giving the interval formula 1, b3, 5.

As shown in the chart below, an A minor triad is made up of A (root), C (minor third) and E (perfect fifth). In comparison with major triad chords, the third is lowered by a semitone.

 A minor scale A B C D E F G
Formula 1 2 (9) b3 4 (11) 5 b6 (b13) b7
A minor triad 1 X b3 X 5 X X

Guitar Triads - Lesson With Shapes & Formulas (major, minor, diminished, augmented, suspended)

What Are The Four Main Types of Triads?

The four types of triads are :

  • Major : 1 3 5 
  • Minor : 1 b3 5 
  • Diminished : 1 b3 b5 
  • Augmented : 1 3 #5

Minor Triad Chord Charts | Root Positions and Inversions

Minor Triad Chords - Close Voicings

You will find below 4 guitar diagrams containing 12 minor triad chord shapes in closed position. Close voiced chords are those where the root position, and all inversions, fit within the space of one octave.

The interval structures for close voiced triads are :

  • R b3 5
  • b3 5 R
  • 5 R b3 
Root position  R b3 5
1st inversion (third in the bass) b3 5 R
2nd inversion (fifth in the bass) 5 R b3


Remember that inverted chord is a chord whose notes are arranged in a different order. It means that the bass can be the third or the fifth instead of the usual root note, thus giving different voicings.

Minor Triads - Open Voicings

As explained previously, minor triads are built with 3 notes. A root (1), a minor third (b3) and a perfect fifth. There can be open or closed voiced triads whatever they are (minor, major, diminished and augmented).

Open voiced triads provide a great way to expand your chord vocabulary, they are very useful for comping, composing or for chord melody arrangements.

What is An Open Voiced Triad?

An open voiced triad is built by moving the middle note of a closed voicing up on octave.

Let's take an example with a C minor triad (close voicing). It is built with C, the root, Eb the minor third and G, the fifth. To build a open voicing, you have to move the middle note that is Eb an octave up. This way you get a new voicing : C (Root), G (fifth), Eb (minor third).

Now you can repeat this operation with the two inverted closed minor triads to obtain two other open minor triad voicings.

Root position (root in the bass)  R 5 b3
1st inversion (minor third in the bass in the bass) b3 R 5
2nd inversion (fifth in the bass) 5 b3 R


What's The Difference Between Closed And Open Triads?

CLOSED VOICINGS : The notes are as close together as possible, all included in one octave.

OPEN VOICINGS : The notes are spread over more than an octave.

Here are three guitar diagrams each containing three open minor triad shapes. The root chord R 5 b3 is in blue. The first inversion b3 R 5 is in red and the second inversion 5 b3 R is in green.

Triad Pairs

What is The Triad Pairs Technique?

Minor triads can be used by pairs, this is what we call "the triad pairs technique". It's a simple principle employed by many jazz improvisers. The basic used is to take two adjacent minor triads from the diatonic scale that are the ii and iii degrees, e.g with the C major scale. 

As you can see the C major scale (just as all the scales) contains three minor chord types related to the second, third and sixth degrees. Only two triads are adjacent, Dm and Em, the second and third degree.


Minor triad pairs in the major scale

The triad pairs system consists in playing these two triads over any diatonic chord. In this way you highlight some chord tones as explains below.


Minor triad pairs against chords of the major scale

Practicing Diatonic Minor Triad Pairs

The examples below show how to practice minor triads using the triad pairs system.

  • The first exercise consists in playing the two adjacent minor triads of C major in order to cover the sixth string of the guitar using the root voicing (1 - b3 - 5) and the two related inversions (b3 - 5 - 1 and (5 - 1 - b3).
  • The second tab contains minor triads with basses on the sixth string.
  • The third tab have minor triads with basses on the fifth string.
  • Third exercise, basses on the fourth string.
  • Fourth example, basses on the third string.


Minor triad pairs on guitar


Minor triad pairs on guitar 6th string


Minor triad pairs on guitar 5th string


Minor triad pairs on guitar 4th string


Minor triad pairs on guitar 3rd string

Minor Triad Pairs Over Major 2 5 1 Progression

Here is an easy example of use of diatonic minor triad pairs over the iim7 chord of a classic 2 5 1 sequence.

Triad pairs guitar exercise 1

Chords / Minor Triad Relationships

Here is a chart showing what tones are brought out when a minor triad is played starting on a specific interval. It will help you find new sonorities for your improvisations. 

Let's take the sixth row as an example : When playing a minor triad starting on the major seventh (7) of a major 7 chord, the 7th, 9th and #11 are highlighted. The example in the sixteenth row show that when playing a minor triad starting on the #4 of a major 7 chord, you bring out interesting altered tones as the #11 and b9.

Major 3 3  5  7 C Em
Major 5 5  b7  9  C Gm
Major 6 13  1  3 C Am
Maj7 3 3  5  7 Cmaj7 Em
Maj7#11 7 7  9  #11 Cmaj#11 Bm
m 2 9  11  13 Cm Dm
m 5 5  7  9 Cm Gm
m7 2 9  11  13 Cm7 Dm
m7 5 5  7  9 C7 Gm
7 5 5  7  9 C7 Gm
7 6 13  1  3 C7 Am
7sus4 2 9  11  13 C7sus4 Dm
7sus4(b9) 7 7  b9  11 C7sus4(b9) Bbm
7#9 1 1  #9  5 C7#9 Cm
7b9b5 #4/b5 #11/b5  13  b9 C7b9 F#m
7alt b2 b9  3  b13 C7alt Dbm
7alt b3 #9  #11/b5  7  C7alt Ebm
m7b5 2 9  11  13 Cm7b5 Dm
m7b5 b3 b3  b5  7  Cm7b5 Ebm


Upper Structure Minor Triads

The following exercise below show what tones are highlighted when playing the twelve minor triads over the same bass note (C). The lower stave show the bass note (C) whereas the higher stave show the minor triads.

Example with the fifth bar : when stacking an E minor triad (E-G-B) on a bass of C, we get the third (E), fifth (G) and eleventh (B) of C major.

Upper structure minor triads

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Last edited: 2024-01-18

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