Skip to main content

How to Play Diatonic Triads in Fingerstyle Guitar

Learn how to play diatonic triads from guitarist Adam Smale in this online fingerstyle guitar lesson from Howcast.


We're going to talk about diatonic triads now. If you don't know what triads are, triads are just the simplest of chords, three notes, thusly the tri.

So we're going to build very simple triads here. And we're going to start with the fifth string, the fourth string, and the third string. We're going to play one note per string, so I'm going to start off with the key of C. I'm going to play all the diatonic triads in the key of C, just on this string grouping, and after I show you this, I'll leave it up to you to figure out the rest of the string groupings.

So, we start with C major, I'm playing C, E, and G. That's our first chord, and we call that, we actually, normally label it with Roman numerals. So this would be Roman numeral number one, the C chord. Then we move up to D minor chord, like that, that's our two chord.

Now let me show you a really easy way to be able to think about how to find the notes of the next chord.

Diatonic means that it's all related to the same family, so you have to stay in the family of C. So you can only choose notes from the key of C. So, one easy way to accomplish this is, each string, just move up to the next note in the scale. So how I found my D minor chord was, I went C, up to the D on the fifth string. So the C went to a D, the E went to an F, and the open G went to an A.
So C, E, G, now becomes D, F, A. That spells out a D minor chord, and then I'm going to do the same thing.

I'm going to move up to the next chord in the family of C, which is going to be E minor. The D goes up to E, the F goes up to G, and the A goes up to a B.

E minor, F major's next, then G major, A minor, B diminished, up to C to complete the loop, and you can work your way back down too.

[playing guitar]

One way to think of it, is just simply playing a C major scale on three strings at the same time. [playing guitar] And there you have your diatonic triads in the key of C.

Popular Categories