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Chord basics - major triads

September 15, 2016                 Archives            Previous Next

 

 

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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