Guitar Major Triad Inversions

Typically guitar chords are played as five or six note bar chords or open guitar chords at the neck. But guitar chords can also commonly be played as three note triads. This requires the guitarist to mute the three unplayed strings with his or her remaining fingers on the fretting hand.

The major triads can be played on any of the four sets of three strings, but each set of strings require the guitarist to learn different fingering. On each set of strings the triad can be played in three different places, as different inversions, across the first 12 frets. After the 12th fret the pattern repeats.

The chart below shows all the basic major guitar triads and their first and second inversions.

Guitar Major Triad Inversions


One easy way to memorize these is to learn that the pattern for each set of strings is a variation of the pattern for the lowest strings. Note how the pattern for string 4, 5 and 6 is the same as that for strings 3, 4 and 5. As you move the pattern to a higher string, the note crossing from string 3 to string 2 just gets moved up one fret.
August 17, 2013
This is truly the holy grail for guitarist. This is perfectly demonstrated here, nailed it.
September 19, 2014
Very helpful and I agree with the previous comment, perfect demonstration.
October 15, 2014
I kept coming back to see this incredibly useful over and over, until I finally had the sense to print it out! Thanks!
June 5, 2015
New to guitar. Which is correct? Are the top three strings the highest notes or the top strings positionwise on the guitar
July 7, 2015
Guitar charts always have the highest pitched strings displayed on the top. It's a little confusing but just remember higher pitched notes are referred to as the "top" and displayed on the top. So the strings are high E, B, G, D, A, E, from top to bottom on the chart.
July 8, 2015
Very very useful, if you are familiar with the CAGED system, it makes it easier to memorize both ways (since those triads are the fragments of the CAGED pattern) I hope it helps someone, thanks again, cheers!
November 27, 2015
Wow... the importance of this as a building block to understand more advanced chord theory cannot be overstated. Whether you use CAGED or not, this is essential. Don't let the relative simplicity fool you... there's a lot going on here that leads to more advanced chord study... for me, at least. The minor chart is great, too. Thank you, AJ.
September 4, 2017
You are most welcome. Happy pickin'
September 4, 2017
I need a lesson... Can you please help me?
October 24, 2017
Hi Peter. You should ask about guitar teachers at your local music store.
October 25, 2017
Dwight K
Very helpful chart - I would, however, recommend including which positions are the 3rd and 5ths so that making minor, sus, and dim triads would be easier to figure out (if its possible - I taught myself music theory years ago and no confident in my statement)
August 9, 2018
Great suggestion Dwight. I've updated the chart with color coded thirds (as well as the minor triad version). If you know what position you are playing, it is easy to remember which are the thirds without looking at the chart. Root position has the intervals in order (Root, Third, Fifth), first inversions have the Third on the bottom (Third, Fifth, Root), and second inversions have the Third on the top (Fifth, Root, Third).
August 11, 2018
Jeremy T
This is great branch-out tool. Self taught starting many years ago. It wasn't bar chords but these patterns which I picked up from some jazz guitar book (way out of my league for that kind of material) were what got me really moving around the fret board, making connections and all that.. Never thoroughly applied the knowledge of those roots, thirds, and fifths though until recent years when I wanted to get serious about soloing. Anyway, knowing this will take you pretty far as a beginner. Thanks for putting up such a good visual of it.
July 30, 2019
Jeremy T
...and the same concept (not same patterns) can be applied to learning other instruments like the banjo and mandolin for an example.
July 30, 2019
Very concise, optimal chart, thanks a lot! Can you do more guitar chart like this for chords?
November 8, 2019
Great chart, but where are diminished triads? :)
October 4, 2023