Australian Guitar - - Technique -

There are four basic triads (three note chords) in mu­sic: ma­jor, mi­nor, aug­mented, and di­min­ished. I’m sure you’re all fa­mil­iar with basic ma­jor and mi­nor chords, but aug­mented and di­min­ished chords can some­times cause play­ers some con­fu­sion. The con­struc­tion of th­ese four chords is out­lined be­low: • Ma­jor (1-3-5) • Mi­nor (1-b3-5) • Aug­mented (1-3-#5) • Di­min­ished (1-b3-b5) A ma­jor triad is built from the first, third and fifth de­grees of a ma­jor scale. With mi­nor chords, the third de­gree is low­ered (flat­tened) by a semi­tone. The de­ter­min­ing scale de­gree for aug­mented and di­min­ished chords is at the fifth. For aug­mented chords, you take the ma­jor triad and raise the fifth by a semi­tone. Di­min­ished chords are the op­po­site of this – you take the mi­nor triad, but lower the fifth by a semi­tone.


To high­light the dif­fer­ence be­tween th­ese four triads, I’ve no­tated them as arpeg­gios on one string, all based off an E root note. No­tice how the fifth de­gree of the ma­jor triad moves up one fret to form the aug­mented chord, while the fifth de­gree of the mi­nor triad shifts down a fret to make it di­min­ished.


Putting this the­ory into prac­tice, I’ve writ­ten a short tech­ni­cal ex­er­cise in­cor­po­rat­ing ma­jor, mi­nor, aug­mented and di­min­ished arpeg­gios. In the key of E mi­nor, th­ese arpeg­gios are played in the com­mon three-string sweep pick­ing style where each shape in­cor­po­rates a pull-off on the first string.

Here are a few main points to note from this ex­er­cise:

• For each chord, the sweep-picked arpeg­gios move through dif­fer­ent in­ver­sions.

• A lot of th­ese shapes re­quire you to roll your fin­ger on and off ad­ja­cent frets to avoid the strings ring­ing to­gether.

• The G aug­mented and D# di­min­ished chords de­note an E har­monic mi­nor tonal­ity.

• It’s quite rare to see straight di­min­ished triads in mu­sic – usu­ally, a sev­enth is added as well. This is what I’ve done here by us­ing di­min­ished sev­enth arpeg­gios (1-b3-b5-bb7).

• The notes of aug­mented triads and di­min­ished sev­enth chords are at equal dis­tances. As such, the in­ver­sion shapes are the same up and down the fret­board: four frets apart for aug­mented, and three frets for di­min­ished sev­enth.

• Al­though not no­tated here, a plus (+) sign is an­other sym­bol used to in­di­cate an aug­mented chord, while a small cir­cle next to the chord name in­di­cates a di­min­ished one.

• To make things a bit more in­ter­est­ing, I fin­ish off the ex­er­cise by us­ing a sweep-tapped E mi­nor arpeg­gio across five strings.

Give th­ese arpeg­gios a try for your­self, and check out aus­tralian­gui­tar­ to hear me play them fast and slow.

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