Pop Music Theory

Lessons

1-7 (Intro & Pitch) +
8-18 (Major Scale) -
13: Chords: Major Triads
19-29 (Chord Progressions) +
30-34 (Hook Chords) +
35-41 (Written Notes) +
42-50 (Song Chorus) +

Detailed Contents

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Lesson 13: 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 12: 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

Next:
Practice these major triads in Lesson 14: Major Triad Games.

Lessons

1-7 (Intro & Pitch) +
8-18 (Major Scale) -
13: Chords: Major Triads
19-29 (Chord Progressions) +
30-34 (Hook Chords) +
35-41 (Written Notes) +
42-50 (Song Chorus) +

Detailed Contents

Get Future Lessons


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