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:

Am pentatonic scale position 1

Following on from that, here is a tab for the same scale:

Am pentatonic position 1

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:

Am pentatonic triads
Am triad notes coloured in blue

With this information, you can play the following Am triads within position 1 of the scale:

Am pentatonic triads

Furthermore, a full Am arpeggio is available within this scale:

Am arpeggio guitar lesson

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:

Pentatonic triads - c major
C major triad notes coloured in blue

Similarly to the Am triads, here is a tab of every permutation of the diagram above:

C major pentatonic triads

And here is the full C Major arpeggio:

C Major arpeggio guitar

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:

asus4 dsus2 pentatonic triad
Asus4/Dsus2 notes coloured in blue

As I did with the other two triads, here is a tab of all permutations of this chord within the box 1 shape:

Asus2 Dsus4 triads guitar

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:

Gsus2/Dsus4 notes coloured in blue

In addition to the diagram, here are all the ways in which you could generate this chord:

Gsus2 Dsus4 triads guitar

Furthermore, here is a tab of the full arpeggio pattern on guitar:

Gsus2 Dus4 arpeggio 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:

Csus2/Gsus4 notes coloured in blue

To add to that, I have included a tab of every possible inversion of Csus2, or Gsus4, within this scale:

csus2 gsus4 triads guitar

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:

Scale Degree:IbIIIIVVbVII
Triad:minor, sus4Major, sus2sus2, sus4sus2, sus4

I hope you have enjoyed this lesson, and as always, I’ll see you next time.


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