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Lesson #36: Triads and Scales

by Tyler de Witt posted on 1999-10-18
Topic: Theory Subtopic: General
Level: Beginner Number of Readers: 73523

Triads and Scales

We've taken a look at chords and scales individually, now let's look at them together.

Consider the C Major scale:

C D E F G A B C

If we start at C and take every second note we'll end up with

C E G

This is a major triad. It is built on the first degree of the scale, which is also called the tonic. We can build triads on the other degrees of the scales as well, using only the notes from the scale. Here is a triad built on the second note of the C Major scale:

D F A

This is a minor triad. Now here are all the triads that we can build on the notes of the C Major scale:

C E G	major triad
D F A	minor triad
E G B	minor triad
F A C	major triad
G B D	major triad
A C E	minor triad
B D F	diminished triad

Along side each triad is the quality of the triad. 3 of them are major, 3 of them are minor, and 1 of them is diminished. This holds true for any major scale. Here's an example:

G Major Scale

G B D		major
A C E		minor
B D F#		minor
C E G		major
D F# A		major
E G B		minor
F# A C		diminished

As you can see, the note names have changed, the interval structures have not. The triad built on the first note is still a major triad, and the triad built on the second note is still minor, and so on.

We rely on scales to build chords. The two go hand in hand. With our understand of how they together, a better understanding of the relationship between melody and accompaniment can be built.

You can use any scale to build triads. Consider the harmonic minor scale:

A B C D E F G# A

If we build triads on each of these notes, using only notes from the scale, we'll end up with these triads:

A C E		major
B D F		diminished
C E G#		augmented
D F A		minor
E G# B		major
F A C		major
G# B D		diminished

The qualities of the triads built on each degree of the scale are shown next to the triad.

With your knowledge of intervals, triads, and scales, you can choose any scale and build triads on all of its degrees, then figure out what quality the triads are. You might be wondering what use this is, but you'll see as we move on to more advanced lessons. In order to understand things in the advanced lessons, you have to learn this first. Everything builds on everything else.

Things to remember from this lesson:

1. Chords can be derived from scales.
2. Triads can be built on any degree of the scale, using the notes of the scale.
3. With a knowledge of intervals and triads, the type of triads can be figured out.
4. This process works for any scale starting on any note.


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