Triads as Chord Progressions | Hub Guitar

Triads as Chord Progressions

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Hi. This is Hub Guitar.

We're going to talk about voice leading.

This is a method of playing chords which visualizes each note in the chord as if it were a voice.

Now, when that chord switches to another chord, each voice in the first chord will move the minimum possible distance in order to reach a note of the next chord. Except in the case there that note is already fulfilled by another voice.

For example, if I want to voice lead from a D major triad to a G major triad. And here is a G major triad. So that sounds OK. But doesn't that seem more logical that given that there is already a D and G chord then I will keep that note. And given that the next chord tone is G major is only a half step away from F sharp. Doesn't that make sense that I'll let everybody go to the nearest note. Doesn't it sound more intelligent compare that to this.

So that's voice leading. Instead of playing chords just as one block after another, where the transition between one chord to the next is a product of which chords I randomly decide to use, now I can intelligently choose the next chord based on how well it fit with the previous one.

So be sure you understand the basic principle of voice leading. That's to move all of the notes from one chord to the next with the least possible motion.

Here's an example using I IV II V in D.

Notice that I land on the first inversion of D major, whereas I started on D major in root position. That means I can keep going now and do another cycle, voice leading to G again and then E minor. Of course I'll probably have to jump down an octave once I run out of the frets.

Once you've done that, you should repeat the exercise, starting it from EVERY string set, and making sure you can cover every inversion, too. After that, you'll be able to play this common chord progression all over the guitar.

Choosing Voicings

If you were playing the above, what chord voicings would you choose? Maybe you would pick open chords. But you might also play one of the two possible barre chord voicings: one with the “D” chord starting on Fret V, and one with it beginning on Fret X. You could also just use power chords or some of the CAGED chord voicings.

What if we decided to uncover as many sequences of these four triads as possible? How many are there? Using the closed-position triads, we could create at least 12 more possibilities. Before proceeding, let’s establish some rules of study:

Hands-on Practice

“Rules” for voice-leading

  1. Leave no possibilities unexplored. We’ll map out 12 new progressions.
  2. Start and end on a D chord.
  3. Keep all motion between triads to a bare minimum; keep all common tones. Ex: for the G chord, the note “D” will remain where it is.

Tips for voice-leading

  • Chord progressions generally sound smoother and more natural when fewer notes move (voice-leading)
  • Chords tend to sound good if they are not too high or low, so the triads on the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th string are useful
  • The chord progression itself has a big impact on voice-leading. Chord progressions that move in seconds or sevenths have the least voice-leading opportunity. Consider D-7 to E-7 (DFA to EGB). No common tones, and poor voice-leading. See Chord Progression Cycles for more details.

Let’s begin with the root position major triad on the lowest three strings. Starting with the D major triad at Fret X, try to name the notes of the chord and create each next chord in the most efficient way possible. You should finish the sequence by arriving at another D major chord in its first inversion.

Example Chord Progression






Key Tasks

  1. Voice-lead the chord progression D, G, E-, A, D starting on every possible closed D triad that you can find. Since there are four sets of three strings, and there are three different inversions of each chord, you should be able to find 12. (4×3=12).
  2. Voice-lead your favorite chord progression following the same rules. You might be surprised what you can discover.
As the creator of Hub Guitar, Grey has compiled hundreds of guitar lessons, written several books, and filmed hundreds of video lessons. He teaches private lessons in his Boston studio, as well as via video chat through TakeLessons.

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