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Mastering The Fretboard: Minor Triads

In our last Mastering The Fretboard lesson we talked about major triads.  I would highly suggest that you go and check out major triads first if you haven’t already! Hopefully you’ve already been following since the first one, but if not it might be wise to go back and catch up.

This time we’re talking about minor triads, but before we dive in let’s quickly review why studying triads is important:

Often in music (but especially in jazz) I find that students like to jump ahead to something intricate or more complex without first confronting some fundamental concepts.  The problem with this is it leaves a lot of holes in their playing.  A student might know some fancy extensions and elaborate voicings but when asked to play the root, 3rd and 5th in all inversions they are clueless.  Triads are the foundations of building chords. Once you have those down you can build anything out of them!  By learning these first you are setting yourself up for all kinds of harmonic success.

In the last lesson we already talked about what a triad is and what an inversion is so let’s move forward and start learning all of these minor triad voicings:

 The formula for a minor triad:

Formula: Root-b3rd-5th

We’re going to use the key of G minor for our examples, so using this formula the notes in a G minor triad would be: G-Bb-D.

Let’s see what the G minor triad looks like notated in root position, 1st inversion and 2nd inversion:

minor triads

Just to review: knowing all of the inversions is important because it will help us understand where the minor triads lie all over the fretboard.  This will help us start to unlock where all of the notes are on the fretboard and get these shapes under our fingers.

My method for mastering minor triads:

My method is fairly simple and the same as the major triads: play the root position triad and both the 1st and 2nd inversions on all possible sets of strings.

So what are the possible sets of strings? The first set is E (low)-A-D. The second set is A-D-G. The third set is D-G-B and the 4th set is G-B-E (high).

If that’s not making complete sense to you now, no worries, the diagrams will hopefully explain everything!

Let’s see what this looks like on the first set of strings:

Minor triads 1Notice that the notes remain the same throughout all of the positions: G-Bb-D in different orders.  Keep in mind these shapes are the same as the major triads except that the 3rd is flatted. If you already know your major triads by heart all you need to know is where the 3rd is and then flat it. You don’t even have to look at these chord diagrams!

Let’s look at the next set of strings:

Minor triads 2

Same concept, slightly different shapes.

Here is the next set of strings:

Minor triads 3

You’ll notice that instead of starting off with the 2nd inversion this time we started with the root position again.  We couldn’t start on the 2nd inversion because we can’t flat the open B string! This is not a problem though as all voicings are still being covered.

Here is the last set of strings:

Minor triads 4

How to practice these:

  • Practice the shapes on each set of strings slowly and make sure you can play them forwards and backwards.
  • Once you feel comfortable with one set of strings move onto the next.
  • Repetition is key and be able to play all sets of strings consecutively forwards and backwards.
  • Ultimately, if you want to master these minor triads you need to take them through all 12 keys. That is a huge undertaking, but if you take the time to do it you will really be opening up your knowledge of the fretboard!

In the next lesson we’ll move on and talk about augmented triads. Watch the blog often!

-Brent Vaartstra

To learn more about this author visit

Brent Vaartstra
Brent Vaartstra is a professional jazz guitarist and educator living in New York City. He is the head blogger and podcast host for which he owns and operates. He actively performs around the New York metropolitan area and is the author of the Hal Leonard publication "Visual Improvisation for Jazz Guitar." He's also the host of the music entrepreneurship podcast "Passive Income Musician."


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