Music Theory Music Theory

Published on June 2nd, 2014 | by Sam


Music Theory – Triads

Now that you have the major scales down, you can start to create triads.  (Note that you can spell these using intervals of major and minor thirds as well).

Triads are the building blocks of harmony.  These three note chords are the foundation of 7th note chords.  Much pop/rock/country music consists of almost exclusively triads.  Triads are also at the core of harmony.  These are the chord movements that set up the way chords move now – dating back to the time of JS Bach and Mozart.

Major Triads

Major chords are just the first note of the scale, or the root, the third note, and the fifth notes of the scale.  So spelling a major triad would be:


Let’s use Eb major.  The Eb major scale is Eb F G Ab Bb C D Eb.

So the Eb major triad would be Eb G Bb.

Minor Triads

To change a major triad to minor, just lower the third by a half step.  So the spelling would be:

R b3 5

Eb minor would be Eb Gb Bb.  If the third is a sharp note (like G#) it would become natural.

E Major: E G# B
E Minor: E G B

Diminished Triads

The next triad we need to spell is the diminished triad.  This one is used frequently in pop, jazz, and blues music.  It’s not a chord that is resolved to but is heard frequently as a connecting chord.  The triad is spelled

R b3 b5

So both the 3rd and 5th of the chord are now lowered.  The circle is used to notate a diminished chord.

Ebo: Eb Gb Bbb

-Bbb is the same as A, but for theory purposes we have to still call it a Bbb.  Any kind of “A” note is considered a 4th in the key of Eb.

Eo: E G Bb

Augmented Triads

Augmented triads are significantly rarer than the other types of triads.  They just aren’t used as much.  But they are important still to know.  They are spelled by raising the 5th of the major triad up a half step.

R 3 #5

Eb: Eb G B
E: E G# B#

-B# is the same as C, but as I covered above, the 5th HAS to be some sort of B chord.

Triads in the Scale

If you use the same idea that we used to come up with the major chord, we can create a chord on each note of the major scale.  We just took every other note of the scale for the major chord.

Eb scale

Eb F G Ab Bb C D

So our first chord would be:


If we expand that to all the chords, we end up with:

Bb C D Eb F G Ab
G Ab Bb C D Eb F
Eb F G Ab Bb C D

If we were to analyze each chord we would come up with this pattern:

Major Minor Minor Major Major Minor Diminished

One way musicians describe chords is by using Roman Numerals – a Major chord is capitalized, minor chords are lower case.

I ii iii IV V vi viio

The great thing is that all keys have the same pattern!  So if you know your scale you can easily figure out which triads go with that scale.


D major scale = D E F# G A B C#

So the triads would be:

Dmaj Emin F#min Gmaj Amaj Bmin C#o

Part 1   Part 2   Part 4

(Photo Credit: Surat Lozowick)

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