3rds & Thirds - What Are They? Playing & Having Fun

Once again, you do not need to play these 3rds as double stops.

Arpeggiated 3rds in the key of D on the D & G strings

TAB for the mp3 sound sample:

1 Like

Are you having even more fun? You should be having fun to the max by now – this is great stuff!

And we’ve only just begun … there is much, much more to come.

:slight_smile: :slight_smile: :slight_smile: :slight_smile: :slight_smile:

Have you figured out which fingers work best?
I deliberately have not prescribed which fingering to use for the different shapes – do what feels right for you. You only need two fingers at a time.

Some more prompts and suggestions as to how you might shape your further adventures.

  • You could try combining all these wonderful 3rds you now know how to play.

  • You could try switching between 3rds on the B & E strings, then 3rds on the G & B strings, and the D & G strings.

  • You could try playing some drone notes or bass note patterns on the open D string.

  • You could try tuning your low E string down a whole tone to drop D and use that as an open string for the drone / bass lines.

  • You could try using double stops and arpeggiated techniques all mixed up.

  • You could try sliding both fingers up or down when the adjacent shapes use identical fingering.

  • You could try sliding up or down using one finger as an anchor between the two different shapes.

Try things.



Have fun.

You could try using the backing track when doing all or some of these.

You could use a different backing track … perhaps this one next:


1 Like

Lovely backing track and such a nice resonance on the D & G strings. Found a nice little box in between frets 2 and 4 to play the first progression across e to D, then frets 4 to 7 D to B for the “chorus”. Now back to modes. :wink:

1 Like

I think this is really great, and have come across it in several songs in the last few weeks…it took until the day before yesterday before I realized that the note pair on string E/B d/fis (2 /3) is the same as B/G d/fis(7/7) as (11/12) etc etc…,that felt like a discovery, even though I did my theory course, this penny didn’t drop for a while…if I type too much now you have to delete this @Richard_close2u …or is it so obvious that it’s just me and I’m a bit slow?
Anyway, Thanks

1 Like

Richard - hope you don’t mind me adding a couple of BTs from the same source, just to give a different flavour but staying within the realm of D ?

First is B minor but its the same chords a the Key of D Major if folks are wondering, for some moody laid back noodling.

Seconds is another in D that ups the tempo a tad.

Atmospheric Ballad | Guitar Backing Track Jam in B Minor

Soulful Uplifting Ballad Guitar Backing Track Jam in D

1 Like

Hey @TheMadman_tobyjenner fill your boots and knock yourself out. The more cool and useful backing tracks people have to explore these golden nuggets of musical wonder the better.
Although … you are a naughty boy and you know it … sneaking in a bluesy relative minor backing track and anticipating things that are yet to come! :wink: haha

1 Like

Hi Rogier - what a lovely discovery to make … the octaves that repeat and repeat … notive when you play and compare them that although they are the exact same ‘notes’ they differ substantially in ‘timbre’. :slight_smile:


Apologies for jumping the gun. I never got past the posts explaining the basic patterns on the old forum and had bookmarked the topic for further exploration, so was not aware of how it developed but naturally am interested to follow the resurrection.

Tried to redeem myself with some additional BTs in plain old D but ended up in a Southern Rock BT rabbit hole with lots of modal delights but sadly no Ionian.

Anyway, enjoying finding positional approaches across the 4 strings covered so far and finding some interesting links.



1 Like

Tying in with your earlier comments about ‘nice little boxes’ …

@TheMadman_tobyjenner That is music to my ears Toby - metaphorically speaking, and hopefully literally in yours! :sunglasses:

I noticed… ,as everything sounds a little (and sometimes a lot) different in a different place…I was so happy that these Thirds helped me to discover more on other strings a little faster, than just on the e, b and g in single notes ( on the e,b and g string) in which pattern i playing and with double notes, that i didn’t get to explore any further or the obvious things :blush::sunglasses:


Thank you for this lesson, it’s a useful complement to the major/minor triad lessons over on the website. :slight_smile:

1 Like

I tried to play the thirds first with the root note of the chords on the 2nd string and it was kind of meh. Then I played the thirds as if the chords in the backing track were the root notes and that sounded much better. :slight_smile:

1 Like

Thanks for jumping aboard and beginning to explore and have some play time fun.
Both your observations about triads and about the sound over chords / roots will all connect with further aspects I will be adding to this topic along the line.

3rds & Thirds Part B - Some Theoretical Foundations

In Part A of this topic, I closed with some suggestions and prompts for using the 3rds over backing tracks.

Hopefully you have spent some time on that.

Have you done so with a critical listening ear?
Given that the backing tracks have other instruments and a filled out chord progression, what are you noticing as each chord comes along?
Do some of those 3rds sometimes sound beautiful and harmonious over some chords but not others?
Do some of them sound jarring and dissonant if you rest on them over a certain chord?
What’s going on here?


So far I have been referring to these pairs of notes on adjacent strings using the term 3rds. Whether played as double stop 3rds or arpeggiated 3rds, the name has been the same. That has been a deliberate and consistent choice. As we now move into exploring some of the underlying musical concepts in theory, we need a means of differentiating between two almost identical concepts - which I will do by using the terminology 3rds and thirds.

Up to now the whole emphasis has been on making the shapes of 3rds on your guitar, exploring, having fun and playing music with them. We next turn our attention to thirds as opposed to 3rds. A journey which will eventually loop right back around to 3rds again.

This first paragraph has been added in response to feedback and questions by @davidp and @roger_holland and @sclay below.

Thirds vs 3rds

So far, I have been using the abbreviated form of 3rds. I use this to mean a shape you play on two adjacent guitar strings, either as a double-stop or as two arpeggiated notes. Think of this as a physical hands-on musical thing. Below, I will be using the name third(s). Put simply, a third is an interval, a measure of musical distance, between any two musical notes. I use the long form and the abbreviated form to make a small but important distinction between two seemingly identical things.

Additionally, the word ‘third’ is also used to define the middle note (the 3) in a major (1, 3, 5) chord or a minor (1, b3, 5) chord. I will make efforts to avoid calling those middle notes thirds and refer to them as the numeric term 3 only. Be aware however that they are conventionally called thirds due to their importance within the context of the chords.


In the western system of music notation, the first seven letters of the alphabet are used to provide names. If we line up these letters in alphabetical order we have:


If you select any letter at random, it would be your start point - the first.
The next adjacent letter would count as the second.
The one after would be the third.

If you were to start at F or G you would need to consider that the list repeats - as these notes repeat in ascending and descending directions (higher and lower notes).



  • A to C represents an interval of a third
  • D to F represents an interval of a third
  • G to B represents an interval of a third

Now that we have a simple concept of interval naming, we need to broaden it out. Of the seven lettered notes, five have sharps / flats so we must apply the system to the totality of all 12 notes in western music. We need to look at the note circle.


The Note Circle

The Note Circle shows all the 12 notes that exist in Western music.

Note Circle

Moving clockwise around the circle takes us to notes higher in pitch and vice versa for anticlockwise. Note pairs E & F and B & C have no note between. Notes that can take two names are called enharmonic equivalents (G# = Ab for example).

The interval of a semitone is the smallest step on the guitar and is one fret. The interval of two semitones makes one whole tone. These two intervals make up scales.

Returning to the three examples above, the note circle highlights a crucial concept. The distances between the named pairs are not all equal.

Note Circle

  • A to C is a third of distance 3 semitones
  • D to F is a third of distance 3 semitones
  • G to B is a third of distance 4 semitones

All three intervals are thirds yet not all represent the same distance between musical notes.

Before continuing, it is vital to define that an interval of 4 semitones (2 whole tones) is a Major third and an interval of 3 semitones is a minor third.

  • A to C is a third of distance 3 semitones - a minor third
  • D to F is a third of distance 3 semitones - a minor third
  • G to B is a third of distance 4 semitones - a Major third

Next, we will look at connecting these pairs of intervals to the Major scale and to chord construction.