Guitar Triads, Part 2: Minor Triads

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In part one of guitar triads we looked at major triads and how you can learn these triads based on the CAGED guitar system. In this lesson we’ll take a look at minor triads. If you need a review of triads and how they’re formed, check out part one again. Otherwise, let’s get started!

Minor Triads

Minor triads are built from the 1st (root), 3rd (minor 3rd), and 5th (perfect 5th) degrees of the minor scale.

Minor scale intervals

As is the case with major triads, these intervals are all a 3rd apart and the number of semitones between each interval determines the quality. With a minor triad we have the following stacked thirds.

  • Minor 3rd = 1 1/2 tones (3 semitones / 3 frets)
  • Major 3rd = 2 whole tones (4 semitones / 4 frets)
Quality Stacked 3rd Intervals Semitones 5th Quality
Minor Minor 3rd + Major 3rd 7 Perfect

Note how this differs from a major triad, which stacks a minor 3rd on top of a major 3rd.

Counting out the semitones of the first 3rd will give you the following:

  • Root to major 2nd = 2 semitones
  • Root to minor 3rd = 1 semitone
  • 3 total semitones (1 1/2 whole tones)

Counting out the semitones of the second 3rd will give you the following:

  • Minor 3rd to perfect 4th = 2 semitones
  • Perfect 4th to perfect 5h = 2 semitones
  • 4 total semitones (2 whole tones)
Minor scale triad intervals

Learning minor triads with the CAGED system

If you’ve previously learned the major triads, then learning the minor triads will be a simple process of replacing the major 3rd with the minor 3rd.

Note that the first diagram for each form is the full chord. The subsequent diagrams are the triads that can be derived from that position/chord shape.

C Form

C shape CAGED minor triads

A Form

A shape CAGED minor triads

G Form

G shape CAGED minor triads

E Form

E shape CAGED minor triads

D Form

D shape CAGED minor triads

Using minor triads in your playing

Similar to major triads, a quick way to learn to utilize minor triads in your guitar playing is to substitute them for full chords in songs you already know. Try doing this for all of the triad positions to see how the different voicings can affect the feel of the song. For a few easy songs to apply this to, check out 5 Easy Songs to Learn on Guitar.

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