In Secrets of Tasty Riffs & Solos, one of the tricks I taught was how to use two strings and climb up or down the fretboard in patterns of thirds. This is a great way to move between scale patterns, it sounds really cool and melodic, and it can quickly get you from one end of the fretboard to the other.
What’s not to like?
Anyhow I was just watching some Albert Cummings (do it!) and I saw him pull the exact same trick, and thought I’d post the video to give you another practical example of how this sort of thing can be used in a song.
Right around 4:06, you’ll see he starts using these patterns on the 1st and 2nd strings to rip down the fretboard, from right near the top to the bottom, then he uses different strings and different patterns (looks like inverted thirds on 1st and 3rd strings to me) to begin his climb back up.
Ever wanted to find a way to zip all the way up (or down) the fretboard and make it look like you really mean business with that thing?
There are a lot of different ways to do that, but in today’s video, we’ll look at one in particular works off of thirds. It’s kind of a two-steps-forward, one-step-back kind of thing, so it has a bit of that slinky effect. Call it what you like – it sounds good and that’s the main thing.
One of the nice things about this particular run is that it can be easily adapted to as long or as short as you want. In fact, if you wanted, you could use it as a framework and riff around in the vicinity of each stage of it, and really take your time with things. Alternatively, you could toss everything on the table all at once, and go for broke.
If you like the style of playing you see in this video, I encourage you to check this out for more of the same.
I came across this guitar lesson from Joe Bonamassa recently, and as I was watching, I realized that a lot of the movements he really loves are based on thirds and inverted thirds!
He doesn’t call them inverted thirds, but he should, I guess! An inverted third is simple a normal third turned upside down. Say for instance, G to B is a major third, right? Well, an inverted third would use those same notes, but instead of G being the lowest note, B would be the lowest note instead.
Checkout this lesson, and try to figure out what he’s doing here. Even if you can’t play as fast as Joe can, if you can figure out the principles of what he’s doing, you can apply that to your own playing at your own pace.
I should mention that while I’ve applied them differently than Joe has, I covered the topic of thirds and inverted thirds in quite a bit of detail in my Dynamic Rhythm Guitar course. You can find more details on that here.
So let’s take an example. At 0:47 that very first riff he’s talking about starts like this: x 10 x x 11 x but then he bends the 11th fret up a semitone. Well, what’s he starting with? That’s a G on the 5th string, and a Bb on the 2nd string… that’s a G minor third. Then, he bends the Bb up to a B, creating a G major third. Voila – thirds in action! Sounds awesome!
Okay, let’s do one more. In Joe’s Trick #3, he shows a really cool way of producing a sound on a standard tuned guitar that sounds like the guitar is actually tuned down lower than it is. He calls it a low V inversion, but you could also call this an inverted third.
Take a look: At 6:15 he does the first one, and the notes he is using are 3 x 2 x x x. Or, G and E. Well, we’re talking about inverted thirds, so that means that E is our root note, despite being the higher of the two notes, which means we’re dealing with an inverted E minor third.
Fancy name for a very sweet sound.
Regardless of what you call it, learning how to master thirds in your playing is a terrific way of adding a lot of character to your solos and riffs. In my course Dynamic Rhythm Guitar, I didn’t go in the same direction Joe has here, however that is the beauty of thirds – there are literally endless variations and directions you can go with them. The really key thing is to learn to recognize them on the fretboard, and then begin experimenting with them. We do both in Dynamic Rhythm Guitar. Learn more here.
Here’s a fun way to apply some thirds in a blues style format over an E7 chord.
There are two types of thirds: major and minor. The major third is four semitones, and a minor third is three semitones. On your guitar, if you play a G on the 3rd fret, 6th string, at the same time as a B on the 2nd fret of the 5th string, you get a major third. That kiddy-corner pattern you get will produce a major third anywhere in the lower four strings.
To get a minor third, simply drop the B to a Bb. That same pattern will give you a minor third anywhere on the lower four strings.
The “progression” we’re playing over here is actually just one chord – E dominant 7. I like playing it with the added D on the 3rd fret, 2nd string. The D is the flatted 7 (b7) that makes this chord sound so cool. Remember, E7 is neither major nor minor, and as such it can stand in like a body double for either one. In this particular case we’re treating it like a minor chord.
When you’re using thirds, think about what chords are in the key. If your I IV V chords are major, then the related thirds are going to be major as well. For instance, in the key of G, we have D major. Thus, when you’re looking for a third to play off a D, play the major third.
If you’re looking for a great way to apply the riff you learn in this lesson, I recommend working it over while playing along with these blues jam tracks. (There’s a free sample track available at that link)
Alrighty – ready to dig into this? Let’s get started.
In my opinion, if you can fully understand how to use thirds on your guitar, you’ve come a long way… Thirds are one of the best sounding harmonies to the human ear, and there are many, many different ways in which they can be applied on the guitar.
In these guitar lessons I try to bring out elements of that, but to really understand it you’re going to have to dig into this on your own too. I’ve posted videos on thirds in the G major scale, and inverted thirds in G, and today’s guitar lesson looks at some thirds off the second and third strings in D major.
If you can’t see my hand very well, the only two patterns I’m using are the minor third (0-0-0-4-3-0) and the major third (0-0-0-5-5-0). Take those two patterns, and move them up the fretboard, and you’ll find what I’m working with.
If that’s all completely Greek to you, I highly recommend checking out my course on Guitar Scale Patterns, which will really open up the fretboard for you.
The big takeaway from this lesson is recognizing the two different thirds patterns, major and minor, and then recognizing how those relate to the various scale patterns up and down the fretboard. Once you tie them all together in your mind, the whole fretboard is your oyster…
Today’s guitar lesson has some cool guitar riffs and ideas for you, but this time I also get into the theory behind the riffs – just a bit ;).
Theory is incredibly useful for a) finding cool guitar riffs, and b) figuring out what the heck is going on musically when you hear something cool. Take for instance a song like Purple Haze. Jimi heard that in his head, but now we can describe what he was doing by using theory…
In this video, I’m talking about the key of G, but please take a moment once it is done, and think about how you can apply it to the other keys. If you watch carefully, what I’m doing in here can be applied to other keys from a pattern perspective too. Very cool. Perhaps I should do a followup on that actually…
Anyhow, we’re looking at the second interval of thirds in the Am, Bm and C chords. In my guitar theory course I teach how all the major and minor chords (triads) break down into just two sets of intervals. Well, these cool guitar riffs use the second set of intervals in those chords.
Before your eyes roll back in your head trying to figure all this out, I should mention that this trick is incredibly common. Brown Eyed Girl and Fortunate Son are two songs that spring to mind immediately that use these intervals, but there are literally hundreds and hundreds…
Yah, I know it probably sounds complicated, but please have a watch through the video, and I’ll try to help with any questions if you leave them below the video.