Are triad chords your key to unlocking the guitar fretboard? Yes!

Paul Davids
(Image credit: Paul Davids / YouTube)

Paul Davids' new guitar lesson with Ariel Posen is another reminder of why triads are the often-overlooked secret weapon of great guitar playing. John Mayer understands this and so does Ariel, and in the video below is a great illustration of how using these 'smaller' three-note chords and inverting them can add sophistication to your guitar playing and provide a great foundation to build upon.

Ariel and guitar YouTube titan Paul also look at dynamics, which are easily overlooked too but add the special sauce of emotion and atmosphere that takes guitar playing to a higher level.

Check out the the video and then explore our introduction exercise with triads below.  

How John Mayer uses triads and you can too

John Mayer

(Image credit: Joby Sessions / Future)

"I’ve always liked that sound, especially the fourth [pickup position on a Strat]. When I was a kid, that was my favourite sound on the guitar; it’s even, it’s smooth, it has chimeyness but it still has bass. It’s the most colourful selection on the Strat." So said John Mayer to us back in 2010, and that leads us to what he considers to be the perfect accompaniment for that kind of go-to tone.

“Sort of in the centre of the fretboard… the one, the two and the five. I think that’s sort of my signature," he says of the three-note inversions that form a key part of some of his most popular songs. 

(Image credit: Future)

These three-note chords above are the kind of approach Mayer is talking about. And there is a slight ambiguity to them at times; a sus2 is neither major nor minor and an Emaj7 could be seen as a C#m9 if played over a C# root.

Whatever mood you're hearing, they'll sound great with a clean tone

Revisiting the John Mayer pentatonic guitar lesson with new notation

Rob Laing
Guitars Editor, MusicRadar

I'm the Guitars Editor for MusicRadar, handling news, reviews, features, tuition, advice for the strings side of the site and everything in between. Before MusicRadar I worked on guitar magazines for 15 years, including Editor of Total Guitar in the UK. When I'm not rejigging pedalboards I'm usually thinking about rejigging pedalboards.