Ex. 10 demonstrates how knowing the relationship between triad inversions and open strings can be a real advantage. Here, I’m moving through all three inversions while toggling between fretted notes and open strings. It creates a kind of juggling sound that can work in anything from a metal riff to a motif in a solo.

Next we’ll continue to build on this idea by adding a higher note with each inversion (Ex 11). In addition to sounding cool, the open strings allow quick breaks for fingering adjustments.

For the final example (Ex. 12), we insert chromatic passing tones to bring a scattered sound back down to earth. We then move through all of the inversions until the very end where I’ve added harmonic minor passing tones to create a final motif.

This same process can be applied to anything within the relative key. It is just a matter of taste in sound. I recommend trying these ideas over any progression that comes your way. Using three simple triads per chord type, you’re likely to be very surprised at just how relative everything can be.

Triads are small enough to comprehend while managing. I can’t stress the importance of them enough. The biggest challenge a guitarist faces is what one could consider “double learning.” Because the guitar is not like a piano and middle C, for instance, happens in numerous places, activities like sight-reading are more challenging than on any other instrument.

Not only do we have to learn the language of music, but how to interpret and execute it on an instrument that resembles a measuring stick. Music theory and guitar logic are two very different things, which is why you find some guitarists who know all the theory in the world but sound terrible. And conversely, you’ll find people who have no grasp at all of music theory, yet they go down in the books as one of the greats. It is this paradox that makes our instrument one-of-a-kind.