David Loberg Code, Western Michigan University
Chords are collections of 3 or more pitches sounding at the same time. They are usually used to accompany a melody. If the notes of a chord are played separately (one after another) it is called an arpeggio (or broken chord). A triad is a special type of chord made of three notes: a root, third, and fifth. You can form a basic triad from three consecutive lines or spaces on a staff (i.e., stacking 3 doughnuts or a triple scoop of ice cream). Like intervals, triads come in different qualities (flavors). A major triad is formed by taking the 1st, 3rd, and 5th scale degrees (Do, Mi, and So) of a major scale. (That is why it is called a major triad.)
- Spell a G major triad.
- The G major scale is: G A B C D E F# G
- G, B, D spells a G major triad.
A minor triad is formed by taking the 1st, 3rd, and 5th scale degrees of a minor scale (Do, May, and So).
- Spell a C minor triad.
- The C minor scale is: C D Eb F G Ab Bb C
- C, Eb, G spells a C minor triad.
An augmented triad is like a major triad but with an augmented 5th.
A diminished triad is like a minor triad but with a diminished 5th.