Triads are the building blocks of simple chords. Essentially, a triad consists of three notes: the root, the third and the fifth note of a scale. The third note determines whether the triad is major or minor.
Diminished and augmented triads can be formed by raising or lowering the fifth note from its normal position as the Dominant. Triads are great for creating cool-sounding arpeggiated riffs, which can be used in both rhythm and lead guitar playing.
When integrating arpeggios into your playing, there are a number of ways you can play the individual notes. You can sweep across the strings, if the arpeggiated triad is positioned on three sequential strings, then alter the pattern to make a riff. If you are using distortion, then the triad can sound quite harsh if you let the notes ring out. Try using palm muting when playing major or minor triads.
The intro riff in Van Halen’s “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” uses the muted palm technique, along with a series of arpeggiated triads, forming the intro riff. The chord progression is I, IV, VII, in the key of A minor. The palm muting stops the extreme overdrive and distortion from overpowering the individual notes in the arpeggios.
Another cool-sounding riff that makes use of arpeggiated triads, is the second intro of Metallica’s “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)”. Here, the guitar uses a clean sound, and the strings are allowed to ring out.
The progression is formed with an open ‘E’ on the first string, followed by a triad, comprising a dominant interval, followed by a harmonic interval. The third note of the triad for the sequence, is an open ‘G’, on the fourth string.
When improvising in a solo, you can play triads by using pull-offs and hammer-ons. This allows you to execute quick successive notes, accurately. You can increase the speed of your triads, by playing them in descending order, using a pull-of, followed by an open string. A sequence of arpeggios using triads can be arranged by going down one open string per sequence. You can then play the open string and use hammer-ons when ascending in sequence.
Barre chords are useful for shaping your triads, especially if you are improvising. Simply use a series of barred minor or major chords to form your triads and play arpeggios based on a progression that slides up and down the neck of the guitar.
Typically, you would base this progression on the key that the song uses at that point. If the key is A Major, for example, you can use the Dorian mode and just play parts of the scale. This ensures you stay in the same key but also gives you a fair amount of creative leeway to improvise.
Using arpeggiated triads based on the relevant chords in the song you are soloing over, helps to free you from relying on just the scale. All too often, you end up basing your riffs or solos on a very predictable sequence of notes in a scale.
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