top of page

Hacking the Fretboard Part 1: The Shifting Triad

Welcome to the "Hacking the Fretboard" series! I have been receiving quite a lot of requests about how to make progress when learning, and ultimately unlocking, the fretboard. This series will provide videos full of tips and tricks that are designed to help you develop a sturdy foundation of fretboard knowledge. In time this foundation, with persistent practice and patience, will lead to fretboard mastery and absolute creative freedom on the instrument! With that being said lets explore the concept of the shifting triad.

The shifting triad exercise will help you make considerable progress in three very important areas:

1) Fretboard knowledge

2) Chord dexterity

3) Chord vocabulary 

The purpose of this exercise is to pick a chord voicing (in this case a spread triad) and be able to play the same voicing in every possible position on the guitar. By "the same voicing" I mean literally the same notes in the same octave and in the same order.Take some time to check out the video above and review the notation right here:

As you can see, in the top row of notation, the actual pitches we are playing never change but the location and fingering of the voicing does. 

Here is how I arrived at these shapes. To get the first chord I simply picked a chord I wanted to work with, in this case a C major spread triad in 1st inversion. To get the second voicing I moved the "C" on the 1st fret of the "B" string to its equivalent on the 5th fret of the "G" string while keeping the other two notes the same. To get the third chord I moved the "E" on the 2nd fret of the "D" string to the 7th fret of the "A" string and again I keep the other two notes the same. This is the pattern for the exercise. I move one note to a new location while keeping the other two the same.

Why this Exercise is Helpful

When learning chords it is very easy to fall into a rut of simply recalling shapes. Shapes are very important to learn and they can serve to advance fretboard knowledge but there are other methods you can experience that will provide you will more well-rounded and accessible information, like this exercise. This exercise breaks you out of the world of shapes. Instead of learning one shape for this voicing you now know 8 across the entire fretboard! You also know where a lot of the "C", "E" and "G" notes are across the fretboard. If that wasn't enough, this exercise is also great for working on chordal technique because of the string skipping and the different string pairs. 

Practice Tips

-Start slow out of time

-Practice in time with metronome slowly

-Gradually increase tempo

-Play in all 12 keys

-Try other inversions

-Practice with all triad qualities (Major, Minor, Augmented, Diminished) both closed and spread

-Experiment with some 4-part structures!

I hope you found this concept helpful! Be sure to subscribe to my mailing list and check back for more lessons!


Recent Posts

See All

On the Humorous Aspect of Complex Music

[The following is a response to a question regarding my blog post "The Leap of Faith: New Sincerity as Compositional Discipline"] Q: Re-reading [David Foster Wallace’s] Octet, I noticed that one is co


bottom of page