Basic Chord Theory I

author: CPDmusic date: 08/05/2010 category: chords
rating: 9.4 / votes: 30 
Intro: Hello, and welcome to a series of CPDmusic lessons. I had a request to do a lesson on guitar chords, so I decided to write a series on basic chord theory. This is the first lesson of the series, and will show the basic theory behind major, minor, augmented, and diminished triads (triads are three note chords). Enjoy! The Major Triad: Lets start by learning a pretty basic chord, a major triad. In this example, we will construct a C major triad. To start, we would take the root note, in this case C:
E||-------||
B||-------||
G||-------||
D||-------||
A||--3----||
E||-------||
From there, the next note would be a major third from the root note, in this case E:
E||-------||
B||-------||
G||-------||
D||--2----||
A||--3----||
E||-------||
The final note in a major triad is a perfect fifth from the root note. An easier way to remember this, which was suggested in the comments of one of my previous lessons, is to look at all the notes in thirds. So, instead of looking at the third note as a perfect fifth from the root note, we could also look at it as a minor third of the second note. Either way, the final note is G:
E||-------||
B||-------||
G||--0----||
D||--2----||
A||--3----||
E||-------||
And there you have it, a C major triad! Now, there are a few ways to express this triad, as with all chords, in a sort of equation. The most common one would probably be like this: 1 3 5 It may just look like random numbers right now, but really, it is the key to the major triad! Those numbers are in relation to the major scale. Each number represents a note, and the number tells you what notes make up that specific triad. For example, lets use this system with our C major triad. Since our triad is in C, we would compare those numbers to the C major scale, that being C D E F G A B. The first note is the number one, meaning it's the first note or the scale, or C. The second and third notes are the third and fifth notes of the C major scale, or E and G respectively. An important thing to remember is that it is ALWAYS in relation to the major scale, even with minor triads. ALWAYS. Now, to wrap things up, I should probably shed some light onto what this is a major triad. The reason that it is a major triad is because it has major intervals. The major third in the triad is really all that separates it from a minor triad. The Minor Triad: Now, the minor triad only has one note that is slightly changed from the major triad. The minor triad goes like this: 1 b3 5 It has the 1 and the 5 like the major triad, but the 3 is flattened, meaning it is lowered by one semitone. So, lets use this knowledge to construct a C minor triad! First, we will start with C:
E||-------||
B||-------||
G||-------||
D||-------||
A||--3----||
E||-------||
Now, the third note of the C major scale is E. But, in the minor triad, the E is flattened to a Eb:
E||-------||
B||-------||
G||-------||
D||--1----||
A||--3----||
E||-------||
And then finally, we would add the perfect fifth, or 5, to the now completed triad, in this case being G:
E||-------||
B||-------||
G||--0----||
D||--1----||
A||--3----||
E||-------||
So, there is our C minor triad! Pretty easy, eh? Examining it, you will notice that when compared to the C major triad, there is only one note that is different, and only by one semitone. This is how the major and minor triads differ, and the ONLY way. While a major triad is root, MAJOR third, perfect fifth, a minor triad is root, MINOR third, perfect fifth. Do you see the pattern? The Augmented Triad: The next triad we are going to learn is the augmented triad. It also differs from the major triad by only one note. An augmented triad goes like this: 1 3 #5 So, this means we would take the natural first and third note from the major scale, and the sharpened fifth note from the major scale, to make an augmented triad. So, lets use this to construct a C major triad, starting with the root note C:
E||-------||
B||-------||
G||-------||
D||-------||
A||--3----||
E||-------||
Next, we would add the major third, which would be E:
E||-------||
B||-------||
G||-------||
D||--2----||
A||--3----||
E||-------||
Finally, the fifth note of the C major scale is G. But, the augmented triad has a sharpened fifth, making the last note in the triad G#:
E||-------||
B||-------||
G||--1----||
D||--2----||
A||--3----||
E||-------||
So there is our C augmented triad. The reason this triad is called an augmented triad is because of the augmented fifth. An augmented fifth is a perfect fifth that has been raised by one semitone, that being the #5 in the above numerical sequence. This augmented fifth gives the augmented triad a bit more of a tense sound to it. The Diminished Triad: Now it's time for the final chord of this lesson, the diminished triad. This one is a bit different that the other triads we've learned thus far, as it has two altered notes in comparison to the major triad and scale. The diminished triad goes like this: 1 b3 b5 As you can see, this chord has two flattened notes. So, lets look at how to construct a C diminished triad, once again starting with the root note:
E||-------||
B||-------||
G||-------||
D||-------||
A||-------||
E||--8----||
The reason I put the C on the E string this time is because if we put it on the A string, we wouldn't be able to make the triad, because the b5 has to go on the D string. If we were to play the C on the E string, we would have to add a second C in between the Eb and Gb. (I will get into this in a later lesson). Next, we would add the b3. The third note of the C major scale is E, meaning the b3 in C would be Eb:
E||-------||
B||-------||
G||-------||
D||-------||
A||--6----||
E||--8----||
Finally, we would add the b5, which would be Gb:
E||-------||
B||-------||
G||-------||
D||--4----||
A||--6----||
E||--8----||
And there is a C diminished triad! The reason this triad is a diminished triad is because of the two diminished intervals, the diminished third and diminished fifth. These are the b3 and b5 in the above numerical sequence. Outro: So, that's all for today's lesson! Today, we learned the basic chord theory between major, minor, augmented, and diminished triads, which is important to learn early. Just to review: Major = 1 3 5 Minor = 1 b3 5 Augmented = 1 3 #5 Diminished = 1 b3 b5 And remember, those numbers are in relation to the major scale, no matter what. So, hopefully you enjoyed that lesson. One final thing, if you go to my YouTube channel here you can find a chord identification training video, which you can use to aid in identifying major, minor, and augmented chords by ear. Enjoy! Did You Like This Lesson? Check Out All My Lessons Here. More Lessons Coming Soon!
More CPDmusic lessons:
+ A Shortcut For Learning Scales Scales 01/05/2012
+ So You Want To Write A Song. Part 2 Songwriting & Lyrics 01/17/2011
+ So You Want To Write A Song. Part 1 Songwriting & Lyrics 01/05/2011
+ Scale Degrees & Chord Harmonization The Basics 11/05/2010
+ Time Signatures (2) The Basics 09/28/2010
+ Triplet Feel The Basics 09/27/2010
+ view all
Comments
Your captcha is incorrect