The Triangle of Trust – Practical Music Theory for Guitarists

The Triangle of trust is a different perspective for guitarists to view music theory. This concept has been designed after years of teaching people, of all different mindsets and cultures, the ways of guitar and applying music theory. Through the years I find myself a student of how different people learn. Im continuely fascinated by the different points of view.

Traditionally all musicians learn the circle of fifths. The circle of Fifths is a wonderful thing but can be a little confusing. In the “Your in the Band” guitar teaching book series, Dave Clo dropped the Line of Fifths, essentially taking the guitar side of the circle of fifths and making it linear. I am a huge ambassador of the line of fifths, especially when it comes to the goals of 90% of guitar students.

To understand the concept of “The Triangle of Trust” it is not an understanding of the circle of fifths that is necessary. What is required is an understanding of your moveable chord shapes. Perhaps you have heard of the CAGED system? Essentially and understanding of moveable chord shapes, root on the E and A strings, is required. With that said we will use the Major Barre chords to start.

Root on the E string – we have are standard E hand shape

E hand chord shape
G Barre Chord

Root on the A string – we have are standard A shape Barre Chord

A hand chord shape
C Barre Chord

The secret of the Triangle of Trust is in the relationship of the 1, 4 and 5 chords. If the root 1 chord is on the E string, the 4 chord will be directly under it, root on the A string. Then the 5 chord will always be 2 frets above the 4 chord. Likewise, if the root 1 chord is on the A string, the 4 chord will be 2 frets back and root on the E string. The 5 Chord will be 2 frets up from that, root on the same string.

This forms a triangular pattern, or shape. You can trust this Triangle. Once you get a deep understanding of this concept all the other chords in a key can be easily accessible. And the kicker is you don’t even need to know the Alphabetical, note name of said chords. As long as you can find your 1 chord you can function in musical situations. From this understand everything else will begin to fall into place.

The Triangle of Trust is applicable in both Major and minor keys. The other chords (2,3,6 & 7) placement varies slightly between the two. This is a subject for another article. Stay tuned in the weeks to come and perhaps we unpack this concept a bit more. If you would like to sign up for mobile guitar lessons contact us here.


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