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What are Triads in Music? - Definition & Examples

Instructor: Summer Stewart

Summer has taught creative writing and sciences at the college level. She holds an MFA in Creative writing and a B.A.S. in English and Nutrition

In music, a triad is a chord of three notes played simultaneously. Triads come in different varieties such as major, minor, augmented, and diminished. In this lesson, we will learn about triads in every form.

Background

Have you ever wondered what makes the rhythmic sound in many popular compositions such as the Sonatina, Opus 792 by Carl Czerny? You know, that 'dah-dah-dah' sound that holds up the melody? Well, that sound you are hearing is called a triad.

Triad chords are very common in musical compositions, and there many different types of triads including the major, minor, augmented, and diminished triad chord. Before we get into the types of triad chords in music, we will go over a brief definition of a triad, so you can fully understand triads.

What Is a Triad?

Remember that a chord is any blend of three or more pitch classes played together. A triad is a chord with three notes that can be set as thirds because their pitches work together. Each note in a triad bears a specific label. The bottom note is called the root, the middle note is called the third, and the top note is called the fifth.

Types of Triads

Four mains types of triads exist in music. The four main types of triads are named as major, minor, augmented, and diminished triads. Let's take a look at each one.

Types of Triads
Music

Major Triad

A major triad is created by taking a root note and combining it with a major third and a perfect fifth. For example, if you have the notes G, A, B, C, D, and F, then you would combine every other note starting with G as the root note. Thus, the major triad would be G,B, and D. This rule of thumb can be applied to create other major triads.

The Sonatina, Opus 792 by Crezny uses a major triad as its underbelly. Czerny used a classic major C triad to create that upbeat dah-dah-dah throughout the song. It gives it a waltzy feel to it. Without the triad, all you would hear is a one-note melody; a triad adds depth to songs.

Minor Triad

A minor triad is created by establishing a root note, and then adding in a minor third note and a perfect fifth note. For example, to play a C minor triad, you would need to begin with middle C, and then add minor third (three half-steps up from C), and then the perfect fifth (seventh half steps from middle C). Thus, the C minor triad would be C, E flat, and G.

Augmented Triad

Augmented triads are played by starting with a root note, and then adding in a major third and an augmented fifth note. What this means is that the fifth note is determined by counting eight half steps up from the root, instead of the standard seven half steps up from the root.

To build a C augmented triad, we start at middle C, which is the root. Afterwards, the major third is determined by counting up four half notes (or two whole steps) up from the root. In this case, the note added is E. The augmented fifth is determined by counting up another four half notes from the third, which turns out to be G sharp. So a C augmented triad is C, E, and G sharp.

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