Pop Music Theory

Lessons

15: Chords: Major Triads

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Lesson 15: 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 13: Major Scale 1-5 and Lesson 14: 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)

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 16: Major Triad Games to practice and test yourself.

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Lessons

1: Introduction
2: Teaching Yourself
3: Pitch & Keyboard
4: Pitch Names
5: Letters Game
6: Sharps & Flats
7: Half-Steps
8: Whole-Steps
9: Steps Game
10: Scales
11: Major Scale 1-2-3
12: Major 1-2-3 Games
13: Major Scale 1-5
14: Major 1-5 Games
15: Chords: Major Triads
16: Major Triad Games
17: Minor Triads
18: Minor Triad Games
19: Major Scale 1-8
20: Major Scale Games
21: Scales Above 8
22: What Next
23: Keys
24: Roman Numeral Chords
25: Diatonic Triads
26: Using Diatonics
27: Treble Staff
28: Treble Staff Game
29: Pitch & Frequency

© 2018 Conrad Albrecht. All rights reserved.