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Could someone dumb down triads for me?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Dr. Zoidberg, Apr 3, 2005.

  1. I've read through most of the links here on TB and still don't fully understand triads. I know how to read music, maj/min scales and most modes, etc, but I just don't understand triads.

    Could someone explain them to me in a dumb'd down fashion? How do they relate to the root and the fret's?

    Much Thanks! ;)
  2. Kelly Coyle

    Kelly Coyle

    Nov 16, 2004
    Mankato, MN
    For the most part, triads are three notes (duh) with a third between each of them. So, in general:

    note - interval of a third - note - interval of a third - note

    OK, what's a third? The distance between two notes that's more than a second, which is one or two half-steps, and less than a fourth, which is five or six half steps. A third is three or four half-steps, the distance between, say, C and Eb (minor third), or C and E (major third).

    With me?

    So, there's just a few triads. Since there's two kinds of thirds (major and minor), and there's two thirds in a triad (the distance between the first note -- the root -- and the second note, and the distance between the middle note and the top note), we can arrange all of the possible combinations like so:

    m3 m3 (small m for minor): C Eb Gb (C diminished)
    m3 M3: C Eb G (C minor)
    M3 m3: C E G (C major)
    M3 M3: C E G# (C augmented)

    It's not quite that easy, though, since you can invert the triads which simply means to rearrange the notes: Eb Gb C is still C diminished.

    I hope that's what you were asking for. Try looking at Mick Goodrich's books, like The Advancing Guitarist or that harmony almanac thing he created. He has a system for understanding all of jazz harmony based on triads (rather than seventh chords, like usual).
  3. Tash


    Feb 13, 2005
    Bel Air Maryland
    Its even easy to draw out on paper, since you can read. Get a peice of staff paper. Write out all the notes of the C major scale from C to C (CDEFGABC).

    Now build a 3 note chord off of C using every OTHER note in the scale, you'll get CEG.

    That is a C Major Triad.

    No do the same starting on the D - you get DFA - which is a D minor triad.

    That's how you build a triad, any triad: simply stack the next two 3rds above the root note.

    Like Yellow said, you can invert triads, which simply means playing them with a note other than the root on the bottom. If you play EGC you still have a C major triad, even though the bottom note is E.
  4. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    Click on my user name in this post, then "Visit Jazzbo's Homepage."
  5. I had actually read through all of that before making this topic. Great article.

    Thanks Yellow and Tash, I understand it better now. ;)
  6. Tash


    Feb 13, 2005
    Bel Air Maryland
    Shall we move on to 7ths now? :)