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Chord basics - major triads

September 15, 2016                 Archives            

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Some understanding of intervals is assumed for this article

Chords are derived from and related to scales. Most music theory uses the major scale as a starting point for understanding. The basic chord structure is the triad in root position. These are three note chords that are built by picking a scale degree and then adding successive notes each a third away.

The C major chord derived from the C major scale.

Major triad from scale

Building a chord this way gives three intervals in each triad.

In any major chord the distance between the root (lowest note) and third is the interval of a major third. The distance between the third of the chord and the fifth of the chord is an interval of a minor third. The interval between the outer notes is that of a perfect fifth - three whole steps plus a half step.

Root position major chords

In the A Major example above, the A to C# - chord root A and the chord 3rd - C# - of the A major chord is indeed interval of a major third (that is two whole steps). Likewise, in the C major chord, the root tone C to the 3rd of the chord - E is also a major third.

Our examples above show a minor third (the distance of one whole step and a half step) from the C# to E in the A major chord and the E to G of the C major chord.

Finally, the interval distance from A to E in the A major chord and the interval distance of C to G of the C major chord are both perfect 5ths - that is the combination of three whole steps and a half step.

In examples 1 - 4 below, write in a major third above the given note.

In examples 5 - 8, write in a perfect fifth above the given note.

In examples 9 - 20, construct a major chord with the given note.

Mouse over for the answers

Example 1 Example 2 Example 3
Example 4 Example 5 Example 6
Example 7 Example 8 Example 9
Example 10 Example 11 Example 12
Example 13 Example 14 Example 15
Example 16 Example 17 Example 18
Example 19 Example 20  



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