There are four basic triads (three note chords) in music – major, minor, augmented, and diminished.  I’m sure you’re all familiar with basic major and minor chords, but augmented and diminished can often cause some confusion. The construction of these four chords is outlined below:

A major triad is built from the first, third, and fifth degrees of a major scale. With minor chords, the third degree is lowered (flattened) a semitone. The determining scale degree for augmented and diminished chords is the fifth. For augmented, you take the major triad and raise the fifth a semitone.  Diminished is the opposite of this – you take the minor triad but lower the fifth a semitone.


To highlight the difference between these four triads, I’ve notated them as arpeggios on one string and all based off an E root note. Notice how the fifth degree of the major triad moves up a fret to form the augmented chord, while the fifth degree of the minor triad shifts down a fret to make it diminished.

Hear Exercise 1


Putting this theory into practice, I’ve written a short technical exercise incorporating major, minor, augmented and diminished arpeggios. In the key of E minor, these arpeggios are played in the common three-string sweep picking style where each shape incorporates a pull-off on the first string.
Here are a few main points to note from this exercise:

Hear Exercise 2

Give these arpeggios a try for yourself, and check out to hear me play them fast and slow.