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An Introduction to Chords: Triads
Topic: Theory Subtopic: General Level: Beginner Number of Readers: 73113

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An Introduction to Chords:Triads

A chord is two or more notes played at the same time. While scales are horizontal arrangements of notes...

C D E F G A B C

-------> horizontal

... a chord is a vertical arrangement of notes.

G  ^ 
E  |
C  | vertical

Really, you could just choose any notes you wanted and played them together, and that would be a chord. But you'd have no clue about what kind of chord it was unless you knew some chord theory. If you read the lesson on scales, you'll know that scales are classified according to the interval structure. The same goes for chords. Consider this chord:

C E G

The interval between C and E is a major third. The interval between E and G is a minor third. This classifies it as a major chord. How do I know that? Because I've memorized the interval structure of the major chord. Remember, the interval structure of all major chords will always be the same: a major third between the first two notes, and a minor third between the second two notes. Since this chord begins with the note C, it is called the C major chord.

This is a special type of chord. It is called a triad. A triad consists of three notes, each separated by thirds. Remember, these thirds can be either major thirds or minor thirds. Triads are very important, because they form the basis for many other chords.

The degrees of a triad have names. The first note of a triad is called the 'root'. In the example above, the root is C. The second note is called the 'third'. It is still called a third, regardless of whether it is major or minor. In the example, E is the third. The last note is called the 'fifth'. It's called the fifth because it is a fifth above the root. In the example, G is the fifth.

Consider this one more time:

C E G

This is called the C major triad, because it's root is C, and it's interval structure is that of a major triad. If we wanted to build a major triad on a different note, all we would have to do is use the interval structure that we've been given, and our knowledge of intervals to successfully build the chord. Let's take A as the root:

A  x  x
 M3 m3

A major third about A is C#, and a minor third about C# is E, so we end up with this:

A C# E

It is also important to know the interval between the root and the fifth. In this case, the interval between A and E is a perfect fifth. This interval will be the same for all major triads.

I'll stress this again, THE NOTE NAMES MAY CHANGE, BUT THE INTERVAL STRUCTURE WILL NOT.

There. I'm glad I could get that off my chest. It's very important to understand that.

For this introductory lesson, only the interval structure of the major triad has been given, but don't worry, there will be more in the lessons to come, and there are of course charts located on this site that will give you the interval structure of almost any chord imaginable.

Things to remember from this lesson:

1. A chord is two or more notes played at the same time.
2. Just like scales, chords are named according to the note they start on, and their interval structure.
3. A triad is a three note chord, each note being separated by an interval of a third(regardless of the quality of the third)
4. The names of the degrees of a triad are the root, the third and the fifth.
5. The interval structure of a major triad is M3, m3.
6. If the interval structure of a chord is known, that chord can be built on any of the twelve notes using the interval structure, and a knowledge of intervals. THE NOTE NAMES MAY CHANGE, BUT THE INTERVAL STRUCTURE WILL NOT.


hehehe...



Questions
Question posted by Gareth Carter on 1999-11-10
Hi Great lessons, All I really want to know is what chord shapes will naturally flow into each other. Um, for instance I know the Beatles employed a succesful IV IVm VI for many of their bridges, as do Oasis. What I was wondering is if you could tell me of other combinations that go together? I am a student of Music in New Mexico, and I really want to put together a decent composition for once. Thanking you in anticipation of a reply Gareth Carter
There are 5 answers to this question. View/Post Answers

Question posted by Russ on 2000-01-30
I've been lookin up guitar lessons for review the last few days because i've been in a musical rut(just playin the same patterns over and over again, with nothing new). So far, out of all the pages i've looked at, this is the best lessons page i've found, i've been gettin right back on track after i've read through a couple of these and immediatly been getting some good NEW creative licks goin, thanks a lot :) (btw...this isn't a question if u couldn't tell).
There are 2 answers to this question. View/Post Answers

Question posted by matt on 2000-08-04
can u show me some power chord positions
There are 3 answers to this question. View/Post Answers

Question posted by paul walsh on 2000-08-30
can you tell me what chord shape these are Ab Db does this mean the same as A and d when i see the b symbol after a chord i think flat, but is there such a chord as A flat and D flat. Please explain ,and are there variations of these as bar chords Thanks Paul
There are 2 answers to this question. View/Post Answers

Question posted by maris on 2000-11-22
ok....i\'ve been looking up chords and i have found a couple pages that show every chord imaginable. anyway...for example it will show the chord for \"C\" like 5 ways. i know how to play the \"C\" but how is it that it has different ways to play. something seems weird. it\'ll have like---- C and C.. and C... (and says something about base notes) I am confused. Please help :)
There are 6 answers to this question. View/Post Answers

Question posted by donjuan on 2001-02-13
Can anybody show me some blues licks?
There are 3 answers to this question. View/Post Answers

Question posted by Zlatko Jusic on 2001-05-17
Hi, Ireally need to ask this because I cannot find the answer anywhere. I am using Locrian scales in my solos, but I wanna have some rhythm guitar as well. I heard minor seventh (with flatted fith) chords work well but I dont know what they are. Could you please give me some examples of these chords and tell me some information about them? Thank you.
There are 2 answers to this question. View/Post Answers

Question posted by Aaron on 2001-06-10
IS THERE ANYWHERE I CAN GO TO LEARN THE CHORDS IN A CERTAIN KEY?
There are 3 answers to this question. View/Post Answers

Question posted by Sparky on 2001-06-14
is there anywhere on the net where i can go to get a printout of all the major chords on one page, like a chart?
There are 2 answers to this question. View/Post Answers

Question posted by Kenny Christopherson on 2001-09-03
I was just looking up the song "Rocky Mountain Way" by Joe Walsh, And I would like to know if you can switch chords over to regular tabs.. I dont know how to play this stuff. The first few notes are like EE DA, then it jumps to E7 E7 E7 E7 E7 E7 then back down to EAGE... I am CONFUSED. I am used to reading regular tabs, and have never dealt with chords...
There are 2 answers to this question. View/Post Answers

Question posted by dirk on 2001-11-06
If you have to think about any of this stuff then perhaps you should take up some other hobby. Learn 5 basic chords,play some songs.If youre any good the rest comes easy.
There are 1 answers to this question. View/Post Answers

Question posted by Alexandra Kershaw on 2002-09-22
You make me sick, he he he show off!
There are 3 answers to this question. View/Post Answers

Question posted by jesse on 2003-02-17
i am a beinnger at playing the guitar, and my question is for ex. if u want to play the c chord which string u play with for those three notes, and also i still have trouble understanding e-tabs, can u send me some help or info. about that thanks!
There are 0 answers to this question. View/Post Answers

Question posted by james on 2003-02-20
i cannot find a "scale chart"which is recommended to have when trying to learn the "FRETBOARD" how and where do i get a scale chart ????
There are 0 answers to this question. View/Post Answers

Question posted by stevo on 2003-07-21
Iam looking for the song dance with me by earl klugh please help
There are 0 answers to this question. View/Post Answers

Question posted by pretty in punk on 2004-10-11
can u just post a chart of all the guitar chords like the basic ones
There are 0 answers to this question. View/Post Answers

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