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Jazz Guitar Triads

When learning how to play jazz guitar, we often explore large, 4, 5 and 6-note chord shapes, but there is another, easier set of shapes that are worth checking out in the woodshed.

Triad Fingerings for Guitar are three-note chords that have four different qualities, Major, Minor, Diminished and Augmented.

Each triad can be played both Harmonically (strummed or plucked all at the same time), or Melodically (each note plucked one at a time in order), and both approaches are worth exploring as you take these ideas further in the jazz guitar practice room.

When practicing these triads, it is a good idea to practice them on their own, all major for example, as well as mixing different triads together in order to fully retain each shape in your fingers and the sound of each voicing in your ears.

Click on any of the links below to learn more about how each triad is built, get fingering charts for both open and closed position triads and to start bringing these very important, but often forgotten about musical devices.



Jazz Guitar Triads




Do you have a question or comment about these Jazz Guitar Triads? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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  1. richard v, November 8, 2011:

    matt: i have been reading about triads and have been wondering what are the applications of triads in jazz in relation to extended chords. i hae been studying and practicing big chords for a long time and now i am wondering which chords apply where??? are triads mainly used foe comping .

  2. Matt Warnock, November 9, 2011:


    You can use triads for soloing or comping if you like, both work great. Also, try starting triads from the ninth of each chord to get the upper extensions. Some that work very well are D over Cmaj7, D over C7, Dm over Cm and Dm over Cmaj7 and C7.

  3. richard v, April 16, 2012:

    matt: I am having trouble practicing in all 12 keys. Can you give us an idea as to exactly how to approach this task. I am trying to take the lesson and going up one fret at a time and changing the notes i step higher as i go. is this the right way to handle this???

  4. Matthew Warnock, April 16, 2012:

    Hey Richard,

    That is a good way to practice, moving in the cycle of 5ths or 4ths is also a good way.

    I prefer to practice over tunes instead. Like if I wanted to work on a triad, I would practice it over the chords to All the Things You Are or Autumn Leaves or a Blues.

    That way I learned the new material, I took it to a number of different keys and triad qualities, and I now can apply that technique directly to a tune, which for me is the whole point of learning this stuff.

    Hope this helps.

  5. David, August 13, 2013:

    Hi Matt. I’ve been getting deeply into triads recently and it has really made me see the neck differently as well as changing the way I play. I have been transcribing some Lage Lund solos and have realised that he uses triads extensively.At a recent masterclass I asked Lage about his use of triads and he said that when he was at college he didn’t appreciate their value – they seemed too simple to bother practising. It was only afterwards that he realised how powerful they are. I think a lot of guitarists are like this. They see triads as a bit basic and boring so never spend the time to learn them, without realising that if they did it would give them a much better understanding of more complex harmony as well as a much clearer understanding of the guitar neck.

    Another great guitarist to check out in this respect is Chris Crocco who uses George Garzone’s ‘Triadic Chromatic Approach’. He takes triads just about as far as you can! I don’t know any other player who sounds quite like him.

  6. Luis, October 24, 2013:

    Hey Matt. Love your website! It has tons of cool stuff to learn. One question:
    What software do you use for creating your lessons?

  7. Matt Warnock, October 24, 2013:

    Thanks Luis, I use Sibelius for the musical examples.

  8. Mike Ranfft, January 20, 2015:

    Just wondering if you could clarify one or two points Matt. In the second comment you wrote about starting a triad on the 9th-D over Cmaj and C7…Are you suggesting D F# A over these chords? Also, if practicing triads over All the Things You Are as you suggest, how do you deal with the 4/4 time? Thanks in advance if you wind up coming back to this lesson and comment thread, and thanks again for writing out these triads with examples, etc.

  9. Matt Warnock, January 20, 2015:

    Hey, yes I’m saying to play D F# A over Cmaj7 and C7, brings out the Lydian and Lyd Dom sounds over those chords. With 4/4 time you can play four quarter notes, R-3-5-R, or two quarter notes and a half note, R-3-5. Hope that helps!

  10. Mike Ranfft, January 20, 2015:

    Very cool, thanks Matt! I had a feeling that you were getting into altered 7/bebop sounds with that triad. Yes, of course I didn’t realize one could certainly vary the value of the notes in a triad, or repeat one an octave higher. Many Thanks!

  11. Tim, May 26, 2015:

    Thanks for pulling this together, it really helps visualize the relationships of the notes for me on the fretboard. I was getting a bit lost out there and this helps me find my way back home!

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