Triads are three-note chords and form the basis for many of rock’s classic riffs. Usually voiced on either the top three strings or the D/G/B string set (see the following figure), these three-note chords are often mated with low E-, A-, or D-string pedal tones (repeatedly sounded note). You’ll hear pedal-tone/triad riffs in songs such as “Crazy Train,” by Ozzy Osbourne; “Substitute,” by the Who; “Run Like Hell,” by Pink Floyd; “The Song Remains the Same,” by Led Zeppelin; “Running On Empty,” by Jackson Browne; “All Right Now,” by Free; “Running With the Devil,” by Van Halen; “Brown Sugar,” by the Rolling Stones; and “Rock and Roll All Nite,” by Kiss; just to name a few.

Here are a couple of riffs that incorporate some of the above triads. The first example places whole-note B, C, and Dm triads on the top three strings, and fortifies them with an open D–string pedal tone. Be sure to let the triads ring as you pedal the D string. The second example features A, E, and D triads on the D/G/B string set, all sandwiched between an open A–string pedal pattern.

The rhythms in this example are pretty tricky. You may want to go online to listen to the examples before attempting it. Download Example Audio...

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