Triads: What are they? Why are the important?
In this lesson, we are going to take an introductory look into triads. To understand triads, you must first know how the major scale is constructed, and how it works.
Triads, in their simplest form, are chords. More specifically, when three notes are stacked on top of each other, and each note is a third apart, a triad is formed.
A chord is defined as three or more notes played simultaneously. Most guitarists can play a few chords, but very few actually know how those chords are built. It’s important to know how the chords are built so that when you solo, you can be more expressive and play to the mood of a song better.
Too many guitarists learn the pentatonic scale, then play the pentatonic scale in the right key, but ignore the chord changes. This is not only lazy, but musically dull. I’m in no way suggesting that you never use the pentatonic scale, but if you only ever use the pentatonic scale then you really should expand your vocabulary. So learning what notes each triad uses will help you be a more interesting player.
Each triad is a 3 note chord. There are 4 main triads that we use.
To work out a triad, first, you need to know your scales, or at the very least how to work the scales out. I will use the G major scale to demonstrate the triads, but any other major scale will work equally well.
We use roman numerals under each note to illustrate the degree of the scale. So G is the first degree, and D is the fifth degree and so on.( Classically trained musicians refer to the degrees differently.*)
To form the major triad, we use the first, third and fifth degree of the scale. So G major is:
G B D
I III V
To form the minor triad, we use the first, flattened third and fifth degree of the scale. So G minor is:
G Bb D
I IIIb V
To form the augmented triad, we use the first, third and sharpened fifth degree of the scale. So G augmented is:
G B D#
I III V#
To form the diminished triad, we use the first, flattened third and flattened fifth degree of the scale. So G major is:
G Bb Db
I IIIb Vb
Now you should work out the 4 triads listed in every key. It’s really easy to do and shouldn’t take you too long.
*The classical notations for degrees:
|VII||Leading note or Subtonic|
This lesson was written by Warwick Levey of the Gryphon Music Academy.