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Sam Bell Rhythm Guitar Concepts Part 7: Spread Triads

Lesson Notes

** As featured in issue 59 **

Spread Triads

Hello and welcome to the latest instalment of my rhythm guitar concepts column, so far we have been looking at timing, dynamics and being mindful of the chord voicings we choose when we’re playing with other musicians. Today we’re going to take a look at something a little bit different, spread triads.

Taking any closed three string voicing of a triad, for example, a C Major triad on the top three strings (G string 5th fret, B string 5th fret and E string 3rd fret) and moving the middle string note down an octave creates a spread triad. In this case, the note on the B string 5th fret was the note E (which is the 3rd of the C chord) this gives us a C/E spread triad voicing. We can do this for all triads, starting on different string sets. Doing this will not only expand the texture of the chord voicing but also leads to lots of voice leading possibilities. Voice leading is where chord sequences are connected closely by a melody note, while this is a simple explanation, the subject can go very deep! However, for now, I’m going to keep it simple.

In the example that accompanies this column, I have prepared a short spread triad etude that features in the clean guitar part from my song ‘Function’. This short section of music was inspired by experimenting with some spread triad voicings. I personally wouldn’t have come up with this particular chord sequence if I hadn’t been visualising these kinds of shapes, this is a good example where sometimes patterns can help inspire certain musical pieces. However, I used my ear throughout the experimentation, with the simple rule “if it sounds bad, it probably is bad!”

The etude moves through some strong cadences with the top note of each spread triad leading down to the next voicing. Giving us a moving top note melody and a close descending bass melody in the lower register. Throughout the piece I am using hybrid picking, I am picking with A string with the pick and then using my middle finger for the G string and my 3rd finger for the high E string.  This is something else that I feel is very cool about spread triads, you can apply fingerstyle techniques to the shapes very easily, giving you many options for melodic movement within the chord voicing.

Try to experiment with this concept, my etude here uses only Major Triads and it sounds very dramatic. Try the concept with Minor, Augmented, Diminished and Sus triads as well, there are some fantastic sounds to be had! This concept can be taken further with the subject of triad superimposition, where you can play for example a G Triad over an E bass note to get an Em7 chord. You could also arrange these triad shapes with another guitarist by harmonising the triads to get a pretty melodic sound from a spread triad arrangement.

Have fun, until next time, happy exploring!


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