How to play minor triads on guitar

Last updated on September 19th, 2023


In music, triads are the foundational building blocks used to create chords. We can use triads to outline the sound of a chord which is useful for creating melodies and for improvisation. 

Although the concept is seemingly simple, working out the triads on the guitar will go a long way for various musical applications.

This lesson will cover how to play minor triads on the guitar, the inversions starting on different strings, arpeggio shapes throughout the fretboard and pattern exercises to practice them.

Grab your guitar and let’s get started!

What is a minor triad?

A minor triad is a chord built on 3 notes using the chord tones 1, b3, and 5. For example, a C minor triad has the notes C, Eb, and G. The formula for a minor triad is 2 whole steps, then 1.5 whole steps. See the formula in the image below.

Minor triad formula

Minor triads chart

With this formula in mind, here is chart of the 12 minor triad chords.

Minor triad chord1b35
C minor triadCEbG
D minor triadDFA
E minor triadEGB
F minor triadFAbC
G minor triadGBbD
A minor triadACE
B minor triadBDF#
Db minor triadDbEAb
Eb minor triadEbGbBb
Gb minor triadGbADb
Ab minor triadAbBEb
Bb minor triadBbDbF

Minor triad shapes on different strings

The first step to learning minor triads is knowing the different ways to play it on one guitar string. We’ll use the C minor triad for these examples.

Minor triads on the 6th string

Here are three ways you can play a C minor triad starting on the 6th string below.

Guitar minor triads on the 6th string examples

Minor triads on the 5th string

The three shapes starting on the 5th string follow the same pattern as the 6th string except we adjust the fingerings when including open strings.

Guitar minor triads on the 5th string examples

Minor triads on the 4th string

The minor triad shapes starting on the 4th string look slightly different than the 6th and 5th string triad shapes.

Guitar minor triads on the 4th string examples

Minor triads on the 3rd string

The minor triad shapes starting on the 3rd string also have unique triad shapes that look different from the ones on the other strings.

Guitar minor triads on the 3rd string examples

All of these minor triad shapes can be applied to any root note on the same string. Make sure to adjust the fingerings whenever open strings are included.

Minor triad inversions

After learning the minor triads starting on each string, the next step is to learn the chord inversions. In short, a chord inversion is when you play the chord start on different chord tones.

For example:

  • Root position is when you on the root note in the bass (lowest note).
  • 1st inversion is when you have the 3rd of the chord in the bass.
  • 2nd inversion is when you have the 5th of the chord in the bass.

Here is what this looks like in music notation for a C minor triad.


Now let’s look at how to play a minor triad and it’s inversions starting on different strings below.

C minor triad chord inversions on guitar

Minor triads guitar chord charts

The following charts show you what the minor triads look like in chord form for each string.

Minor triad chords on the 6th string

C minor triad inversions on guitar - 6th string examples

Minor triad chords on the 5th string


Minor triad chords on the 4th string


Minor triad chords on the 3rd string


When playing chord with open strings, make sure to adjust these fingerings to what is most comfortable for you.

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Minor triad arpeggios shapes

For the previous examples, we have been learning minor triads horizontally across one string. In this section, we’ll be looking at the vertical triad shapes throughout the fretboard. Again, we’ll be using the C minor triad for the following examples.

Arpeggio shape 1

Triad arpeggio on guitar 1

Arpeggio shape 2

Triad arpeggio on guitar 2

Arpeggio shape 3

Triad arpeggio on guitar 3

Arpeggio shape 4

Triad arpeggio on guitar 4

Arpeggio shape 5

Triad arpeggio on guitar 5

Keep in mind that fingerings change whenever you have open strings included in a triad. Experiment with different fingerings to see what works best for you.

Connecting arpeggio shape – two octaves

Here is an example of how to connect the minor triad shapes throughout the fretboard. We’ll be using the E minor triad for this example.

E minor triad chord 2 octaves

Minor triad exercises

The following exercises can be applied to any of the arpeggio shapes on the fretboard. Here are some pattern exercises over one area of the fretboard using the C minor triad.

3 note pattern

After playing three consecutive notes of a triad, repeat the pattern on the second to last note (E, G, B then G, B, E, etc…)

3 note triad chord pattern example

4 note pattern

After playing four consecutive notes of a triad, repeat the pattern on the second to last note (E, G, B, E then G, B, E, G, etc…)

4 note triad chord pattern example

Note skipping pattern

For this pattern, you skip one note of the triad then repeat the pattern on the chord tone below it (E, B, then G, E, etc…)

Note skipping triad chord pattern example

Guitar minor triads chart

Use the following chart to review the minor triad shapes on guitar in C minor starting on different strings.


Wrapping up

Triads are a simple but effective way to outline the harmony of a chord. We covered how to play minor triads starting on different strings, inversions, arpeggio shapes throughout the fretboard and pattern exercises to practice them.

To master minor triads on the guitar, try working out these exercises in every key. This will help you connect musical ideas and and visualize the notes on fretboard.

This was a continuing study to the post: A simple guide on learning triads on guitar.

To learn more, I recommend checking out how to play Major triads, spread triad chords or minor 7 arpeggios.

📘 Get the free guitar practice guide here!

All the best,

JG Music Lessons



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