My Guitar teacher wants me to play every triad and 7th chord i have in key the key of C. I can play the shapes on the 5th and 6th strings however, I dont understand what he means when he says things like, 1. every triad chord is built on 3rd intervals?? 2. How E G B D F A C relates, or even what it means other than the notes on sheet music. 3. Im a just confused and getting frustrated. Any help is greatly appreciated. Thanks
Either he doesn't explain theory concepts that well, or he hasn't taught you the basics in the right order.

Regarding the latter, what do you already know?
I'd ask your teacher for better explenation! Cause your question covers a lot of theory. Yes we could give you the chords in the key of C (C, Dm, Em, F, Gdom7, Am, Bdim) but if you don't know how to get them and how to form them, this is gonna be a long explenation.
short answer: play the c major scale and figure out which notes are in the chord. that's a rough head-start, but intervals are probably the most integral part of western theory since they completely encapsulate chords and scales and how they ultimately tie to keys, tension, and dissonance.
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Yep, like the others said, you're missing some fundamental bits of music theory that he should've explained.

First off, learn the Major Scale - in the key of C. The musical alphabet is simply ABCDEFG, and it repeats as you span multiple octaves. As for what octaves are, they are higher versions of the same note. Say you play a C note on your guitar. Then you play a D, E, F, and finally a G. You've now gone up the scale. Now you want to go higher, so you do so. You've now arrived on C again, but in the second octave. This will all be explained in much more detail in the lessons you can find on the internet. Ultimate-Guitar has a very good Lessons section, and also a Columns section. Search those for basic music theory lessons. Also try www.fretjam.com

Next, once you've gotten the Major Scale down and understand what a key is (which should be explained in the lessons you can find by following my tips), search for lessons on forming chords - they will explain to you what distances (intervals) between notes you need to use in order to form several kinds of chords. Also search for lessons on intervals. Then, finally, search for "harmonizing the major scale". It will teach you how to form chords out of scales using everything you've learnt so far, and then you will know how to form chords in the key of C or any other key.

Also, shame on your teacher for leaving so many important things out.
Last edited by robbit10 at Jan 22, 2013,
Do you have past lesson take-homes that might explain? Always make sure to write down concepts and examples during a lesson, or request such from your teacher to take home. A lot of theory basics are difficult if you don't have a reference to help.

With regard to issue #2 on your list: play notes in sequence on the guitar and see if you notice a pattern in the sound or freboard. There should be an obvious visual pattern in the notation - what would be the next note? What note would come before that first note?

If the patterns you're working on remind you of anything you've practiced previously, try to make some connections. If your teacher is any good, everything you learn should build on concepts you learned before.
Quote by TJK3
... I dont understand what he means when he says things like, 1. every triad chord is built on 3rd intervals??
Here's a rundown of how every triad is built in third intervals and then I will go on to show how the same principle is used to construct seventh chords.

First there are your basic triads. These are made by "stacking" major or minor thirds.

Stacking thirds is easy...

Because the triads are made from stacking major and minor thirds there are only four combinations that we can do and so four basic triads...

Maj 3rd + Maj 3rd = Augmented Triad (1 3 #5)
Maj 3rd + min 3rd = Major Triad (1 3 5)
min 3rd + Maj 3rd = minor Triad (1 b3 5)
min 3rd + min 3rd = diminished Triad (1 b3 b5)

Seventh Chords
To get a seventh chord you then stack another major or minor third on top of the fifth of each of these basic triads to get a seventh chord.

Note that we use whatever kind of fifth we have in our basic triad and add the major or minor third from there. So if we have a perfect fifth we might add a major 3rd the result will be a major 7 interval from the root. If it is a diminished triad with a ♭5 and we add a major third to this we will end up with a minor 7th from the root.

So to get our various seventh chords we go through each of the four basic triads and stack a third on top.

Here are the various seventh chords built using different triads as a base:

Sevenths built from Augmented Triads

Aug Triad + Maj 3rd = Augmented Triad (a Major 3rd on top of a #5 will give a #7. Since the #7 is enharmonic with the octave of the root the result is a doubling of the root note and it's still just an augmented triad. (1 3 #5 #7 is enharmonic with 1 3 #5 8).

Aug Triad + min 3rd = Augmented Major Seventh, or Maj7#5 (1 3 #5 7)

Sevenths built from Major Triads

Major Triad + Major 3rd = Major 7th chord (1 3 5 7) - written as Cmaj7

Major Triad + min 3rd = Dominant 7 (1 3 5 b7) - written simply as C7

Sevenths built from Minor Triad

Minor Triad + Major 3rd = minor Major 7 (1 b3 5 7) - written as Cm/Maj7

Minor Triad + min 3rd = minor 7 (1 b3 5 b7) - written as Cm7

Sevenths built from Diminished Triad

Diminished Triad + Maj 3rd = half diminished 7th or minor 7 flat five (1 b3 b5 b7) - written as either CØ7 or more commonly Cm7b5

Diminished Triad + min 3rd = diminished 7th (1 b3 b5 bb7) - Cdim7 or Cᴼ7

These are the basic triads and seventh chords built from "Tertian Harmony" which means to use maj and min thirds for construction.

Other Seventh Chords
There are also some seventh chords that are altered versions of these chords. That is, one or more notes have been altered and the result is that the intervals between each note are not ALL major or minor thirds, but they are still considered seventh chords.

Dominant seventh sharp five = 1 3 #5 b7 = C7#5 - An augmented triad with a minor seventh.

a diminished/major seventh = 1 b3 b5 7 = Cdim/Maj7 or Cm/Maj7b5 diminished triad with a major seventh.

Dominant seventh flat five = 1 3 b5 b7 = C7♭5

Major seventh flat five = 1 3 b5 7 = CMaj7♭5


That gives a total of eleven different seventh chords.

Here they are again
Seven "Tertian" Seventh Chords (made by stacking major and minor thirds)
1. Major seventh = 1 3 5 7 e.g. CMaj7
2. Dominant seventh = 1 3 5 b7 e.g. C7
3. Minor seventh = 1 b3 5 b7 e.g. Cm7
4. minor/major seventh = 1 b3 5 7 e.g. Cm/Maj7
5. Half diminished seventh = 1 b3 b5 b7 e.g. Cm7♭5
6. Fully diminished seventh = 1 b3 b5 bb7 e.g. C〬7
7. Augmented Maj7 = 1 3 #5 7 (aka maj7#5) CMaj7♯5

plus Four "Altered" Seventh Chords
8. Dominant seventh sharp 5 = 1 3 #5 b7 e.g. C7♯5
9. Diminished major seventh = 1 b3 b5 7 e.g. Cm/Maj7♭5 or Cdim/Maj7
10. Dominant seventh flat 5 = 1 3 b5 b7 e.g. C7♭5
11. Major seventh flat 5 = 1 3 b5 7 e.g. CMaj7♭5

A tip - when naming chords (and only when naming chords) the triad is assumed major unless otherwise noted and the 7th is assumed minor unless otherwise noted. Thus if you see Major or Maj then it is referring to the seventh since the triad is already major by default.

If you see minor in the name (m) then it is referring to the triad because the 7th is already assumed minor by default. (The 7 is only minor by default when used in chord names. Outside that 7 always refers to a major seven unless noted otherwise).

Anyway those are the basics of "stacking thirds" to create triads and seventh chords.

I understand it is more information than you need and if you don't get it all just focus on understanding how thirds create the four different triads to start with and slowly build on the concept from there.

Quote by TJK3
2. How E G B D F A C relates, or even what it means other than the notes on sheet music.

This is where we start harmonizing the major scale.

The C major scale is C D E F G A B C.

Now to harmonize this scale we stack thirds but we ONLY use the notes as they occur in the scale.

So we start with C and go up a third and then up another third...

By stacking thirds and sticking only with the notes of the major scale we get a chord that is spelled C E G.

Comparing that to our knowledge of how triads are constructed we can see that because C to E is a major third and E to G is a minor third then this chord is a Major triad. Chord = C Major AND/OR by knowing that C to E is a major third and C to G is a perfect fifth then we know that the chord is a major triad (C Major)

Next we do the same thing starting on D
We get D F A - Note that D to F is a minor third and F to A is a major third using the explanation above we can determine that this results in a minor triad. Chord = D minor

then we do the same thing starting on E, then starting on F etc.

What does C E G B D F A C have to do with anything??? This is just the major scale written out in diatonic thirds.

Here is the major Scale over two octaves = C D E F G A B C D E F G A B C

So two write it out in thirds you start on C then go up a third to E then up a third to G then up a third to B then up a third to D ....etc.

The result is C E G B D F A C

Becuause you've written it in thirds you could then just group them together to get diatonic triads or seventh chords . So a triad build on G would be
C E (G B D) F A C = G B D which is a G major triad.

Doing it this way is kind of a shortcut. I think it's important to use the whole scale C D E F G A B C and learn how to see thirds (you just skip a note). That way you learn to associate each chord with it's place in the scale.

When you stick strictly to the notes of a diatonic scale (major/minor) then the result can be described as "diatonic" to that scale. For example to create these "diatonic" triads you are stacking "diatonic" thirds.

The quality of the diatonic thirds (whether it is a major or minor third) depends on where it is located in the major scale.

If you look at the major scale and understand the step pattern W W H W W W H then it should allow you to identify the quality of the interval between any two notes in the scale because you can count the semitones and will know the letter names.

If you don't know much about intervals then you need to have a look into that.
Quote by TJK3
3. Im a just confused and getting frustrated. Any help is greatly appreciated. Thanks

Well hopefully this helps at least a little.
Applying this to the gutiar is the next step. For that you need to learn how and where to find the notes on the fretboard. Take some time learning where to find these triads and understanding the notes on the fretboard.

Best of luck.
If someone has trouble figuring out the pattern present in EGBDFAC, and anywhere in the reply appears "augmented Major 7", it's probably going to go over their head. There's a lot to be gained from actually figuring out stuff for one's self with limited information. Music theory deals wit a lot of pattern finding and problem solving, it requires as much exploration as explanation.
@20Tigers Holy crap, that's a very valuable lesson all condensed into a single post in this thread. Are you going to make an UG lesson/column out of this? And did you make those pictures just for that post?
Cheers. I have thought about making some articles or columns but never got round to it. I want to iron out a few kinks first and when someone asks a question I think I use it as an opportunity to do just that while also providing the TS with what I hope is some useful information.

I would actually like to go add something about inversions and sus chords after the triads then go to seventh chords then straight into extended chords from there and then discuss add chords, altered chords, slash chords etc

Basically I would like to eventually make it a reasonably comprehensive explanation on chord construction.

As for the pictures, I made those pictures a while ago for different reasons and indiviudally they have appeared in a few posts I have done before. But it made sense to put them together here.

I have them and a bunch of other pictures related to music and music theory saved in photobucket. I just link them here on occassions when I think they are relevant.
@20 Tigers, there's really a lot of stuff that would clear things up for people struggling with intervals and how chords are built. I'd go for lessons/collums, you clearly have the talent for describing it!