Music Fundamentals – Lesson 8

Building Triads

This post builds on last weeks lesson. Where intervals are comprised of two notes, triads are comprised of three. They are also the first instances of chords that you’ll see. A chord occurs when several notes are played simultaneously.  One of the most basic chord structures is the root position triad.

How to construct a triad

Just like intervals, there are major, minor, augmented, and diminished triads. Each of these triads is constructed differently, and each has a different sound quality.

Let’s start with major

C Major Triad


C major.mp3 C Major Triad

This is a C major triad. It is comprised of a root, a third, and a fifth, which are the first, third, and fifth notes of the C Major scale. Notice the intervals between the notes. The first interval, between the root and the third is a major third. The interval between the third and the fifth is a minor third. We’ll use the major triad as the base chord for the following triads in the lesson. Now, onto minor. To create a minor triad, take your major triad and “flat” the third. When you “flat” something, you lower it by a half step.  When we do this to C Major, we get:

C Minor Triad



C Minor.mp3 C Minor Triad


This is a C minor triad. The interval between the root and the third is a minor third, and the interval between the third and the fifth is a major third. Now, how about flatting the fifth as well? If we do that we get:

C Diminished Triad


C diminished.mp3 C Diminished Triad

This is called a C diminished triad. This is the “tensest” type of triad because it is comprised of all minor thirds and contains the dissonant tri-tone interval.

There’s one more type of triad which we get by “sharping” the fifth of a major chord. When you “sharp” something, you raise it by a half-step. When we do this, we get:

C Augmented Triad



C augmented.mp3 C Augmented Triad

This is a C augmented triad. While the diminished triad is  comprised entirely of minor thirds, the augmented triad is comprised of entirely major thirds.

Listen carefully to each audio example and try to get a feel for how each chord sounds. Every chord has its own unique quality, and it’s these qualities which makes the music we listen to exciting. If your goal is to become a complete musician, the ability to pick out these chords by ear is paramount.

Triads, and all other chords, can also be inverted. When you invert a chord, you simply put the notes of the chord in a different order. Triads can be inverted twice. In classical notation, first inversion is denoted by a super-script 6, and second inversion is denoted by a super-script 6/4. Pay careful attention to the sounds of the inversions in the examples below.

C Major Inversions



C Major inversions.mp3 C Major Triad Inversions


C Minor Inversions


C Minor Inversiosn.mp3 C Minor Triad Inversions


Diminished Inversions


C Diminished Inversions.mp3 Diminished Triad Inversions


Augmented Triad Inversions


C Augmented Inversions.mp3 Augmented Triad Inversions


I stress again, listen well to all of the above examples and get a good feel for the sounds of the different triads. Also, do the worksheet!!

Lesson 8 Worksheet

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