Dublin Core




Guitar Education Chords and Scales


George Van Eps made a system for categorizing chords on the guitar in: Guitar Method. Mel Bay, 1961.

He bunched chords on what he called 'sets of strings'.

He bunched closed voice triads on 'sets of three strings' because all the chord notes can be played within three adjacent strings on the guitar.

The sets of three adjacent strings are:
    strings 1-3 (1st set of three strings)
    strings 2-4 (2nd set of three strings)
    strings 3-5 (3rd set of three strings)
    strings 4-6 (4th set of three strings)

Three inversions (root, 1st, 2nd) of closed voice triads can be played on each set of three strings.
There are twelve chord shapes in total.

For example:

These C Major triad inversions can be played on the 1st set of three strings:
GCE (open), CEG (position III), and EGC (position VIII)

There are also twelve chord shapes for minor and diminished triads.

I learned these chord shapes from studying Van Eps. In his work, Van Eps harmonizes scales by playing a closed voice triad under each scale tone. Here, I sometimes use different fingerings for the triads because I am relating the triad to a scale, not playing a scale with triads on the bottom. I often practice Van Eps's triads with three note strumming hand arpeggio patterns from Francisco Tárrega.

For this exercise:

The fret hand fingerings for the chords and scales are numbers: 0,1,2,3,4
The root's have string numbers in parentheses: (1)(2)(3)(4)(5)(6)

The finger that plays the root of the chord is the same finger that plays the root of the neighboring scale.

These exercises are listed by groups of strings, not by simplicity. Try all the chord/scale combinations, though some of them will be easier to play than others.


D.J. Ellis




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Guitar Practice: discussion, technique, song and online curation



D.J. Ellis , “triads_sets-of-3strings_minor-triads-with-scales_A-Minor,” D.J. Ellis Guitar - discussion, technique, song and online curation, accessed July 25, 2024,