Two-String Triad Combination

In our last look at triads, we looked at three-string combinations. These are great for working on sweep-picking, but aren't always the most convenient way to play triads. In this lesson we’ll take a look at two-string combinations which are easier to play without sweep-picking. These shapes will also give you another way to scoot around the fretboard, so let’s dig in!

The intervals in triads are spread out far enough that it's difficult to play all three notes on a single string. If we play triads on two strings, we have two ways to do it: we can play two notes on the first string and one on the next, or one note on the first string and two notes on the next. Let’s look at the shapes for the first type in the key of G major:

Two-string triads up the neck.

Now let's look at two string triads that start with one note on the first string:

Two-string triads up the neck (variation)

Another way you can play these triads is across the neck instead of up and down. Typically this is done entirely within a single scale pattern, so I think it helps to visualize the scale pattern you’re playing in. Here’s a G major pattern rooted at the second fret that we’ll use in these examples:

G major scale at the second position

When you play these triads across the neck, you’ll see that we play each type of triad fingering combination: triads on three strings and the two versions of two-string triads:

Triad shapes played across the neck

If we focus on our picking hand for a moment, you’ll see that playing triads in this order forces our picking hand to play differently for each shape. Here are those shapes again, this time in tablature format with picking strokes:

Ascending triads, second position

You’ll notice that you can’t always make the most efficient pick movements as you move from triad to triad. For example, at the end of the second triad you finish with a downstroke and the next triad starts with an upstroke. This means you have to bring your pick back over the fourth string to hit the fifth string on the upstroke.

That’s okay though. Things don’t always fall neatly into the most efficient picking patterns. Players that obsess over optimizing their picking can sound very mechanical, so it’s important to develop some flexibility in your picking approach. Playing triads in this way is a great way to expand your picking capabilities.

Keep in mind that these are the picking patterns I use when playing these. It doesn’t mean they are the right way or the only way to do it. You may find that a different picking patterns works better for you.

Of course, what goes up must come down, so here’s a descending version of those same triads:

Descending triads, second position

While we’re here, let me throw another variation at you. As we ascend or descend through the scale, we can alternate the order of the notes as we play each triad for a sort of “spider-y” sound. Take a look (and listen):

Ascending triads, “spider” style

Descending triads, “spider” style

With a solid understanding of triads, we can start looking into chords and arpeggios. With the music theory concepts grooved into your brain, the shapes under your fingers and the sound in your ears, you can master chords and arpeggios without having to memorize a thousand different shapes.

Until next time, keep rocking!