Long time followers of my blog will recall a lesson I did on spread triads within the pentatonic scale. While many found that lesson useful, I have had requests to cover the basic pentatonic triads. If you are in a rut with your lead playing, and find yourself performing the same licks again and again, then this concept will help you develop new ideas in your improvisations.
If you need clarification on the definition of a triad within music, then please visit my article linked in the first paragraph. After that, it’s time to start this guitar lesson with a reminder of the pentatonic scale:
A Minor Pentatonic Scale
I have chosen A minor as the key for demonstrating this concept because many guitarists are familiar with this scale. Here is a diagram of the A minor pentatonic scale in its first position. Additionally, I have labelled each note as it appears on the fretboard for quick reference. Furthermore, I have coloured the root note in red in every octave for ease of use:
Following on from that, here is a tab for the same scale:
As you can see, this scale contains 5 different notes, A C D E and G, hence the name pentatonic scale. From these 5 notes, it is possible to make two main triads, and several other 3 note chords.
Pentatonic Triads – Am
Let’s start with the first triad – A minor, containing the notes A C and E. Here is the same diagram of the pentatonic scale with all of those notes highlighted:
With this information, you can play the following Am triads within position 1 of the scale:
Furthermore, a full Am arpeggio is available within this scale:
Pentatonic Triads – C Major
Another triad available to us within this scale is C major. This because it contains the notes C E G, which are present in the Am pentatonic scale. Here are all of the notes of C major highlighted within the Am pentatonic scale:
Similarly to the Am triads, here is a tab of every permutation of the diagram above:
And here is the full C Major arpeggio:
Sus Chords Within Pentatonic: Asus4/Dsus2
Although some would argue that suspended chords are not triads since they are not built in 3rds, they are still 3 note chords. Also, in my opinion, they make your playing sound more interesting. With that in mind, I have decided to include all of the sus chords that can be generated within the the pentatonic scale in this lesson.
We’ll start with Asus4, which contains the notes A, D and E. If you play the same sequence of notes but start on D, you get a Dsus2 chord (D, E and A.) So, by learning this triad, you get two chords for the price of one. Here is a diagram of Asus4/Dsus2 within position 1 of Am pentatonic:
As I did with the other two triads, here is a tab of all permutations of this chord within the box 1 shape:
And here is a tab of the full arpeggio:
The Am pentatonic scale also contains the notes needed to generate a Gsus2 or Dsus4 chord. Gsus2 contains the notes G, A and D. Playing the same sequence of notes starting on D gives us a Dsus4 chord (D, G and A.) Here are the notes from Gsus2/Dsus4 mapped onto Am pentatonic box diagram:
In addition to the diagram, here are all the ways in which you could generate this chord:
Furthermore, here is a tab of the full arpeggio pattern on guitar:
Finally, there is a Csus2, or Gsus4 chord present within the pentatonic scale. This is because Csus2 contains the notes C, D and G. However, if you start this same sequence on G, then you generate a Gsus4 chord (G, C and D.) Here is a diagram of these notes within the first position of pentatonic:
To add to that, I have included a tab of every possible inversion of Csus2, or Gsus4, within this scale:
And here is the full arpeggio:
Pentatonic Triads: Taking It Further
As mentioned in the first paragraph, the examples in this lesson were presented in the key of A Minor for ease of reference. Furthermore, I only explored position 1 of pentatonic today. In order to fully grasp this concept, you should practice these ideas in all 5 positions of pentatonic, in all 12 keys. Next, Incorporate each triad into your pre-existing licks to make your playing sound more interesting.
To aid with your triadic studies, I have created a table below which lists all of the ideas explored above. Use this table to transpose these ideas into the other 11 keys:
|Triad:||minor, sus4||Major, sus2||sus2, sus4||sus2, sus4|
I hope you have enjoyed this lesson, and as always, I’ll see you next time.