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14: Chords: Major Triads

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Lesson 14: Chords: Major Triads

This lesson teaches the major triad, which is the most basic chord type.

Before taking this lesson, you should know: the major scale, degrees 1-5. You can test yourself with Lesson 13: Major 1-5 Games.

A chord is a collection of several pitches, usually (but not always) played together at the same time. Pop music usually has several notes playing at the same time, and chords are how we understand and talk about these at-the-same-time notes.

There are many different chord types, so let's start with the most basic chord type: the major triad. The major triad is a 3-note chord, and the 3 notes are just degrees 1, 3, and 5 of a major scale.

The 3 notes in a major triad are called the root, the 3rd, and the 5th of the chord:
  • root: The note the chord is named after
  • 3rd: Degree 3 of that major scale
  • 5th: Degree 5 of that major scale

Here are some examples of the notes in some major triads. Use your knowledge of the scale degrees to be sure you understand why these chords contain these particular notes:

B♭ major triad
  • root: B♭
  • 3rd: D
  • 5th: F

B major triad
  • root: B
  • 3rd: D♯
  • 5th: F♯

D major triad
  • root: D
  • 3rd: F♯
  • 5th: A

Nicknames. Since the major triad is so common, it has some nicknames. For example, the B♭ major triad may just be called:
  • "B♭ major chord" ("triad" is assumed)
  • "B♭ major" (if we know we're talking about chords)
  • "B♭ chord" ("major" is assumed)
  • "B♭" (if we know we're talking about chords)

For reference, these are the notes in the common major triads:

Chord Symbol Root 3rd 5th
A♭ A♭CE♭
A AC♯E
B♭ B♭DF
B BD♯F♯
C CEG
D♭ D♭FA♭
D DF♯A
E♭ E♭GB♭
E EG♯B
F FAC
F♯ F♯A♯ C♯
G♭ G♭B♭ D♭
G GBD

When you're sure you understand this lesson, go on to Lesson 15: Major Triad Games to practice and test yourself.

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Lessons

1: Introduction
2: Practicing Songwriting
3: Pitch Names
4: Letters Game
5: Sharps & Flats
6: Half-Steps
7: Whole-Steps
8: Steps Game
9: Scales
10: Major Scale 1-2-3
11: Major 1-2-3 Games
12: Major Scale 1-5
13: Major 1-5 Games
14: Chords: Major Triads
15: Major Triad Games
16: Minor Triads
17: Minor Triad Games
18: Major Scale 1-8
19: Major Scale Games
20: Keys
21: Roman Numeral Chords
22: Scales Above 8
23: Diatonic Triads
24: Using Diatonics
25: Tonic Function
26: Subdominant & Dominant
27: Diatonic Function Analysis
28: Natural Minor Scale
29: Natural Minor Games
30: Minor Key Triads
31: 7th Chords
32: 7ths Games
33: Melody: Chord Tones
34: Treble Staff
35: Treble Staff Game
36: Time: Beats & Measures
37: Note Lengths
38: Tied & Dotted Notes
39: Rhythm: Rests
40: Non-Root-Bass Chords
41: Major Pentatonic Scale
42: Embellishing Tones
43: Melody Rhythm: Rolling Stone
44: Pitch & Frequency

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