Minor triads have a much more mellow, some might say mournful, quality to them than their major triad cousins. The reasons why they sound sad when compared to major triads are complex and not fully understood (although theories abound on the subject), but I think it has a lot to do with social conditioning and cultural effects. We have all grown up watching Hollywood movies with amazing soundtracks that add to the mood of the film. Ever since I watched Bambi as a child, I’ve known (although during my early years, not consciously) that minor triads are associated with sad things. We’ve all got used to this association and have come to expect sad things to happen when “sad” music is played in the background of the films we watch. But anyway, I’m starting to wander away from the main point of this article…
The purpose of this article is to explain what minor guitar triads are and how to play them. Well, just like their major counterparts, they comprise just three different notes. All other guitar chords are based on the triads so the minor triads can be thought of as the basis of all minor chords. Even more complex minor chords are just minor triads with an extra note added here and there.
So, learn the minor triads in all the positions you can and you’ll be able to play any other chord just by applying a small adjustment here and there. Even if you’re not sure exactly how to tweak the triad to get the chord you’re after, you’ll probably be able to bluff your way through most songs just by playing the triad itself, particularly if the keyboards or other instrument are obliging enough to include the extra notes needed to give the character of the more complex chord that fits the song perfectly.
What Notes are in a Minor Triad?
The root note, the flattened third and the fifth notes of the major scale.
Simple as that!
Taking the key of C as the example, that would mean C, Eb and G. This is exactly the same as using the first, third and fifth notes from the minor scale.
Remember that when you play triads, you can include some of the notes more than once so that you’re using more (perhaps all) of the strings on the guitar and thereby achieving a much fuller and louder sound.
So that’s how to play minor triads on guitar in a nutshell. Learn them well, in multiple positions, and you’ll improve your playing and songwriting abilities enormously.