How To Play Open-Voiced Triads

Open-voiced triads provide a great way for you to expand your chord vocabulary beyond the usual chord shapes. I've always found them to be a great way of coming up with interesting rhythm guitar parts, particularly if I'm playing with another guitarist who is using more standard voicings. They can also be used to create cool single-note lines if you arpeggiate the shapes. 

In Theory...

First, a quick recap of the theory behind these shapes, which it is worth understanding so you'll be better able to implement these new sounds in your playing. Chord voicing is all about the order of notes within a chord. Change the order of notes and the basic chord quality stays the same but character of the sound wiil be different.  If we take a major triad, the easiest and most common way to play this would be to have all 3 notes close to one another within the same octave. This is a close or closed-voiced triad. If we take the middle note of this triad and move it an octave higher, we create an open-voicing. The notes are now spread out beyond a single octave and the resulting chord has a very different character - on the guitar it seems to have more of a pure and chiming sound than the close-voiced triad. All this is easy to see when the notes are written out in manuscript form:

On The Guitar...

Below I've written out the 3 major open-voiced triads which I demonstrate in the video, and show how they are derived from their respective close-voiced shapes. There's a root position shape (root in the bass) as well as a first inversion (3rd in the bass) and second inversion (5th in the bass). Pay attention to the intervals contained within each shape as this will make it a lot easier to put these chords into practice.

To play open-voiced minor triads simply make the major 3rd a minor 3rd instead by moving the B note down 1 fret. (If you're a real nerd for this stuff you could also try experimenting with diminished and augmented shapes.) Obviously you don't just have to play G triads: make sure you practice in all the other keys too, perhaps by running through the 3 inversions as you go round the circle of 5ths.

Harmonised Scale with Open-Voiced Triads

In the video I play a harmonised scale using these open-voiced shapes, which is another good way to get them under your fingers. I demonstrate this with all root position chords, but you could try doing the same thing with the other inversions too if you want a challenge. I've written all the options out below. Once again, try in all keys. 

Where now?

Once you have some of these new shapes under your fingers I suggest you try using them to play chord progressions and songs that you know. You can stick with the same inversions, or try connecting different inversions together. Remember you can also use these triads in your soloing and single-note playing: try punctuating your solos with a few open-voiced stabs, or arpeggiate the shapes to come up with some unusual single-note lines. 

Chord diagrams for all the major and minor inversions on each of the possible string sets can be found in the resources section.