Guitar Comping Lesson: Using Triads to Enhance Comping and Improvisation

March 9, 2014 by Blog, Technique No Comments

Open Up Your Mind, Fingers and Ears to Improve Your Comping and Improvisation Using Guitar Triads

Over the years, I have had quite a few students come to me knowing how to play chords and scales but having little knowledge of how to play different chord positions or organize the notes of a scale to fit a chord progression. At this point I try to steer these students towards exploring triads.

What is a triad?
A triad is the three note foundation of a chord, such as a G, E, Amin.. so forth. The major triad will consist of the root(1), third(3), and 5th(5), and the minor triad root(1), flat third(b3), and fifth(5).

So for example, in a G chord the notes will be G,B,D and Amin-A,C,E. Although when common fingerings of these chords are played on the guitar, more then three notes sound, the three basic notes are being repeated by octaves.

Taking out these octaves and playing only three notes at time gives many different shapes and possibilities. It can also give a chord progression much different flavors and give your soloing a much more melodic feel.

Application of Triads
Although there are many applications for triads on the guitar, I usually start my students by going through three basic forms of the chord.

Let’s start off with a G triad, played in root position on the 4-3-2 strings, then we will move up to 1st inversion in which we will move the 3rd of the chord to the 4th string,  then finish off with 2nd inversion by moving the 5th of the chord to the 4th string .

G Triad in the Root Position

first position triad for guitar students

1st Inversion

g major inversion for guitar lessons in worcester ma

Second Inversion

g major inversion number 2 for guitar lessons


In all three examples we will be playing a G chord but each in a different position with a slightly different color and more importantly, different melody note.

The same can be applied to a minor chord such as Amin, with root position, 1st inversion, and 2nd inversion. From there, I suggest finding the position of different chords around the neck. Once comfortable with these positions a good exercise is to take a basic two chord progression such as G-C and play each triad shape back and forth in each of the three positions.

single note solos with triads

Then this can be expanded to any number of chord progressions, and even to different combinations of strings. The possibilities become endless.
In addition to comping, this concept can be applied to soloing by identifying core notes of the chord being played over.

At first this can take a little patience and a lot of mental energy, but once these are under your fingers, you will be able to break free from standard chord shapes and scales and play in a different way.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>