Lesson 20 of 40
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Diatonic Harmony & Triads

29th September 2018

It’s important to be able to build chord progressions confidently with triad shapes. Most people are confident at this when using barre chords, but our goal is to become equally as confident when using other triad shapes across the neck. In this lesson I will show you how to do just that!


Hopefully you remember from one of the previous lessons that the diatonic chords of any major or minor key are as follows:

  • Major Key: (I) Major, (II) Minor, (III) Minor, (IV) Major, (V) Major, (VI) Minor, (VII) Diminished.
  • Minor Key: (I) Minor, (II) Diminished, (III) Major, (IV) Minor, (V) Minor, (VI) Major, (VII) Major.

You are hopefully already very confident at building chord progressions using your familiar barre chord shapes so far, but we will now explore how to do the same with some of the previously learned triad shapes and inversions.



The easiest sequence to visualise are root position triad shapes that ascend on one string set. In the key of A major, we would have: A (I), Bm (II), C#m (III), D (IV), E (V), F#m (VI), G#dim (VII).

Try using the root position shape that starts on the top three strings to begin with (E, A, and D strings):

We can also try the same approach using a root position from a different octave. Let’s now try the same thing with the first inversion shape starting on the 4th fret of the second string set (A, D, and G strings).

This will be slightly trickier to visualise than the previous example since the chord shape starts on the third degree. This is where it’s important to pay close attention to where the root note is.

In this particular inversion, the root note is on the bottom of the chord shape. You’ll need to watch this once closely as you ascend the string set, following a W, W, H, W, W, W, H pattern:

When written down, this looks way more complicated than it actually is:

A/C# (I), Bm/D (II), C#m/E (III), D/F# (IV), E/G# (V), F#m/A (VI), G#dim/B (VII)

Let’s try one more example using the second inversion shape that starts on the 2nd fret of the third string set (D, G, and B). The root note of the chord will now fall on the G string. Make this note your number one reference point. Providing you can remember the major, minor, and diminished shapes in their second inversion forms, you should have no trouble ascending the chord progression up the string set:

A/E (I), Bm/F# (II), C#m/G# (III), D/A (IV), E/B (V), F#m/C# (VI), G#dim/D (VII)

These are just a few examples in the key of A major, but I encourage you to try the same thing in minor, as well as in different keys so that you’re not dependant on one single position of the neck. You can also descend progressions to test your skill going backwards.