Pop Music Theory


14: Chords: Major Triads

Lesson 14: Chords: Major Triads

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.

You need to know the major scale degrees 1-5, which we covered in Lesson 12: Major Scale 1-5 and Lesson 13: Major 1-5 Games, for this lesson, so be sure you've mastered those lessons before you read this one.

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)

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


1: Introduction
2: Pitch & Keyboard
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

© 2017 Conrad Albrecht. All rights reserved.