The FAST Way To Spell The NOTES In TRIADS On Your Guitar

The FAST Way To Spell The NOTES In TRIADS On Your Guitar

Tommaso Zillio

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Quick! What are the notes in a Gb minor triad?!

How long did that take you? 3 seconds? 3 minutes? As long as it takes to search it up on google?

Or did you just not even bother answering and go straight on to reading this next part? (For shame!…)

Now imagine if the stakes were higher. Imagine that you are on stage and the band leader calls: “let’s finish this in Gb minor!” No, that’s not realistic enough.

What if, instead, a music theory bandit was holding a weaponized electric guitar to your head, and you needed to give an answer in 3 seconds?

Sure, you might say that situation never has and never will occur on this planet, but what if it does? We can never be too sure of anything, and as we learned in middle school, improbability does NOT equate to impossibility.

What if, in some post-apocalyptic dystopian future, there are gangs of music theory bandits roaming the desert plains and terrorizing the population with flame-throwing electric guitars played from the top of monstrous amplifier-trucks?

amplifier truck

So, what shall you do to stay safe from dystopian music theory threats?

Well, you should watch this video on how to memorize the notes in major and minor triads, so you can keep yourself and your family safe!

But the real reason why you should watch this is – and that is 100% true – because being able to spell chords immediately in real-time is THE single thing that most slows down the vast majority of guitarists when they are trying to improvise.

No, seriously, I did check, and I did run a few tests myself. Get this under control, and let me know if it does not make anything you do with music 100x easier.

Too hard, you say? Well, if you use the system I explain in this video, learning the notes in ALL triads is roughly as difficult as memorizing a 7-digit phone number. So if you can remember your home phone number, you can do this too.

This video covers everything you need to know about the notes that are in chords, but what about playing those chords all over your fretboard?

For that, you should check out my course Complete Chord Mastery guitar course, which takes you from the ground up to completely understand chords and harmony on the guitar.

Video Transcription

Hello internet; it’s so nice to see you! Now, in all my years as a music teacher instructor, I have observed 1000s of people doing exercises, creating their own music, improvising solos, writing their own solos, writing chord progressions, writing songs, creating all kinds of music.

And so, after all this and with all my experience, I can tell you that there is one specific thing, one very specific thing that slows down everybody. Indeed, I can tell you that every time I see people doing exercises, unless I had my way with them before, and they did the exercise I told them to do.

But whenever I see somebody do an exercise, they spend around 50%, if not more of the time battling with this small issue that could be resolved, rather than actually thinking about music. Okay, at this point, you’re asking what is that? Well, it’s very simple. People spend 50% or more of their time whenever they’re doing anything music thinking, what are the notes in this chord again, for instance, you’re playing in a chord progression.

And let’s say that your chord progression is, I don’t know, G sharp minor, E, B, F sharp major. It’s a very standard chord progression. Honestly, it’s not really strange, but G sharp minor, again, E major, B major, F sharp minor. What are the notes? in G sharp minor, three, two, one. Do you have an answer? If you don’t have an answer in that amount of time, well you guys are too slow, and you haven’t learned your note of all the triads.

It seems quite stupid or inconsequential thing, but the thing is, we play so much music with triads, most of the music we like is made of triads, whatever your style, practically all styles, we use triads a lot. And people cannot tell you immediately what are the notes in those triads. Of course, now, if you’re looking at this, and you’re a professional musician, I sure hope you can do these in less than three seconds.

Okay. You guys need to know all the notes in all the triads. That’s what it is. Now, at this point, people are like, no, this is too hard. It’s gonna take too much time. No, no, it’s actually pretty easy. Let me show you. Okay. Right now, I’m not even selling you anything. I mean, I’m gonna sell you something later, maybe. But I’m not selling you anything. Right now I’m gonna show this to you completely for free in this video. It’s a contained system, it’s a system in two steps is super easy. Okay.

Now, every triad, major or minor, contains three notes. Yay. And one of those notes, it already comes for free. Because when I’m telling you G sharp minor, you know that the G sharp note is in it is the root of the triad. So, the name of the triad already contained one of the three notes you need to know, yay, that’s easy. It’s 33% of the work done. Okay. And that if you want it step number zero, because there is no thinking, the moment they tell you the name of the triad, you have one of the notes, we need to find the added two notes.

So, step number one, both major and minor triads will contain the perfect fifth. So, let’s ignore the third of the chord. And let’s concentrate on the perfect fifth. How do you find the perfect fifth? Well, in principle, it’s easy. It’s the next note in the circle of fifths, you guys may be familiar with the circle of fifths, the idea is that in this circle, every time you go clockwise, or sometimes counter-clockwise, but in the one I draw here it’s clockwise, every time you go clockwise, you go up a fifth in pitch, so you see C, up a 5th to G, up a 5th to A, and so on and so forth.

So, if I’m thinking G sharp minor, I just need to find G sharp on the circle of fifths and move one step clockwise and to find the D sharp, and that’s my fifth. Yay, I already find another note. Now, how do you learn that though, because a lot of people learn the circle of fifths from the beginning, meaning they go and they commit by memory, C, G, D, A, B, F sharp, C sharp, etc. That’s not really great. Because if you need to find, I don’t know the fifth of F, you’ll have to recite from C to F or the 12 notes and then go back to C.

Okay, I’m exaggerating here. But the idea is, rather than thinking of the circle of fifths as a continuous thing, from beginning to end, it will be best to learn all those little segments. Okay, how do you do it?

First of all, you don’t need to learn the sharps or flats. Why? Because if you add a sharp to the first note, you just need to add a sharp to the second note, if you add a flat to the first note, you just need to add that flat to the second note, for example, the fifth of A is E. The fifth of A flat is E flat. The fifth of G is D, the fifth of G sharp is D sharp. The fifth of C is G, the fifth of C sharp is G sharp, so we just need to learn the seven natural notes ABCDEFG so the only thing you need to do is to quite simple okay.

Ask yourself a mental question. What is the fifth of A, then look at the circle of fifths and see its E, and then do it another time with another random note, what is the fifth of G, what is the fifth of B, F sharp, that’s the only one that contains a sharp, okay? After a few times you do these, take away the circle of fifths from in front of you. And just ask this mentally and see if you remember it, you have only seven pieces of information to memorize, guys, this is the same amount of information as a phone number, okay, you can totally remember the equivalent of a single phone number, if it makes everything easier for you in your musical life.

If you do two or three minutes every day of asking yourself those letters. And literally you need one or two or three minutes doesn’t take much because once you finish ABCDEFG, you’re done. Okay? You have only seven possible questions and seven possible answers. So, it takes one or two minutes a day, you just need to remember to do it and you’ll learn all the fifths, and that’s step number one, you already have the root note in your chord, and the fifth in your chord. The other one is the third, that’s a bit trickier because the third can be major in major triads, or minor in minor triads. And if you do not know what I’m talking about, check out the video on the top right, that tells you exactly how those triads are built.

So, the thirds are a bit trickier, what do we do, we first learn all the major chords and we follow the exact same thing as we did for the fifths. Okay, we’ll learn those by heart. Again, you don’t have many possibilities here, you have only seven possibilities for the seven natural notes. The major third of the C note, it’s the E note, the major third of the D note is the F sharp, the major third of the E is G sharp, the major third of F is A, the major third of G is B, the major third of A is C sharp and the major third of B is D sharp.

Now, every time you add a sharp on the first note, you add the sharp on the second note, every time you add the flat on the first note, you add the flat on the second note. So, for instance, the major third of C sharp is E sharp, the major third of F sharp is A sharp, I’m adding a sharp on both sides. The major third of E flat is G sharp flat, and of course sharp and flat eliminate each other, nobody will ever say G sharp flat. And so it’s natural G, the major third of D flat is F natural, again, F sharp flat, and those two eliminate, so if you want to spell a major chord, again, you’ve just learned by heart, all the fifths and just learn by heart all the major thirds, which means it just learned by heart, all your major triads.

What if you want to spell a minor triad, well, then you do exactly the same thing. The fifth is still the fifth, the third, you need to add an extra flat to the second note. So, for instance, the major third of C is E, the minor third of C is E flat, C, E flat G, that’s your C minor. If you want to spell D minor, you take the D note, the 5 A, and this will be true for both major and minor. The major third is F sharp, but you want the minor third because it’s a minor chord. So, add the flat there, F sharp flat, the sharp and flat eliminates, and then I’m left with a natural F. So, the minor is D F A.

Now, this is the whole system to find those notes and memorize them. What’s gonna happen though, is that you’re going to use this system for a very short amount of time. Why? Because there are only 12 major triads and 12 minor triads and if you want to count the enharmonics, we have something like 15 major triads and 15 minor triads because I mean, G sharp and A flat could be considered different because the spelling is different. And since we’re talking about learning the notes, the spelling is different here. But since there are only that many, after you do these a few times, what you’re going to find is that you will just remember them.

Again, it’s not that much information when you see this for the first time, it looks really complex because of all the strange sharp and flat algebra, okay, that goes back and forth. It feels like high school mathematics, okay. But after a while you do them, it becomes easy, you just remember that G sharp minor is G sharp, B D sharp, but you will not have to think about it. We never have to do any calculation, simply because after the third or fourth time you spell it and maybe you use it in a song, you just know it.

Of course, we haven’t covered at all how to play those chords on the fretboard, how to see them on the fretboard or the different ways and how to play them, how to connect those chords. For that I will recommend you guys have a look at my course complete chord mastery.

Complete Chord Mastery is not a book. It’s a complete video course that takes you from the basics up. We do everything you need to know about harmony and chords on your guitar. All the theory is done straight on the fretboard. There is no theory for the sake of theory here, everything is immediately practical. And everything is developed through exercises so you know how to apply this immediately on your guitar. If you have just a minute, click on the link on the top right to check out complete chord mastery.

If you liked this video, smash that like button and don’t forget to subscribe and click on notification, otherwise YouTube will not let you know when I put up a new video. And if you have any comments, feedback, suggestions, write them down in the comment. I enjoy reading from you and they make videos on your suggestions. This is Tommaso Zillio of, and until next time, enjoy.

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