Beginner Music Theory tutorials
15. Triads
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So you finally thought teaching people about playing more than one note at a time is good?

  1. Topics of discussion
  2. Triads explained

1. Topics of discussion

In this tutorial we will be learning the basic concepts that we need to understand chords. And those concepts revolve around triads. So, let's have some fun.

2. Triads explained

In music, a triad is a group of 3 notes, played at the same time, which are placed on top of each other on a music sheet. We've already witnessed an example in a previous tutorial.

Of particular interest to us though are the triads formed by having 3 notes, each separated from the previous one by a third. More often than not, when referring to triads, musicians think of the following four types:

  • major triad - a triad consisting of a major and minor thirds
  • minor triad - a triad consisting of a minor and major thirds
  • augmented triad - a triad consisting of two major thirds
  • diminished triad - a triad consisting of two minor thirds

Musicians will also use the term chord to describe a triad, especially when playing the piano. This is caused by the fact that in order to play a chord on an instrument, you require at least 3 notes. A triad fits the bill for that.

The easiest way to construct a major triad is to stack the 1st, 3rd and 5th notes of a major scale on top of each other. In the case of your beloved C major scale, the major triad for that is C-E-G. As you can see, we have a major third between C and E and a minor third between E and G.

In order to obtain the other triad variants, all we have to do is apply some accidentals. For example, if we flatten the E note, we get C-E♭-G, which is a C minor triad.

Now, if we sharpen the G note, we get C-E-G♯, which is a C augmented triad. And finally, if we flatten both E and G, we get C-E♭-G♭, which is a C diminished triad.

Here they are in all their splendor:


And here they are played back:

That about covers it for this tutorial. In the next tutorial, we will be discussing about the relationship between chords and triads in a bit more detail. See you then.

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