Triads in the Major Scale
In the post “Triads” I explained what triads are. In the previous two posts I also gave you exercises for getting down major and minor triads…
In this post I’m going to build on this knowledge.
Today I will tell you the 7 Triads of the Major Scale!
This is so crucial!
It will answer the question: When I’m playing a scale, how do I know what chords go with it?
So pay attention, because this is foundational stuff!
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Formula for Triads in the Major Scale
Major, minor, minor, Major, Major, minor, Diminished
That’s the formula for the triads in the Major Scale.
If you recall, a triad makes a chord. So this is also the formula for the basic chords that go with the major scale.
7 Triads of the Major Scale
To get the 7 triads (or chords) of the major scale in any key, take the 7 notes in the scale and match them up with the formula above (MmmMMmD).
For example, the C Major scale has the seven notes: C D E F G A B
If we match those notes up with the triad formula we get: C Major, D minor, E minor, F Major, G Major, A minor, and B Diminished.
Those are the seven triads (and therefore the seven basic chords) that go with the C Major scale.
Chords in C Major:
C, Dm, Em, F, G, Am, B dim
So if you play any combination of those chords you are in C Major, and can play the C Major scale over your chord progression to make melodies or solo.
An example of a 4 chord progression in C Major would be: C, F, G, Am
Chords in G Major
For another example, let’s look at the G Major scale.
The notes of the G Major scale are: G A B C D E F#
So if we match those notes up with the chord formula (MmmMMmD) we get:
G, Am, Bm, C, D, Em, F#dim
That means that you can play any combination of those seven chords and it will be a perfect fit with the G Major scale.
To reiterate, just take the seven notes of whatever major scale key, and match those up with the chord formula of MmmMMmD
Ok, I gave you the answer. Now let’s break it down so you can understand why it works this way…
Triads in Scale
As a reminder:
Major Triad = Root, 3rd, and 5th of the major scale
Minor Triad = Root, flatted 3rd, and 5th (or root, 3rd and 5th of the minor scale)
Diminished Triad = Root, flatted 3rd, and flatted 5th
I explained this in the previous post “Triads” if you need to read that. What I’m about to explain is built on that knowledge.
I want you to think this through!
How you get the 7 Triads of the G Major Scale
Let’s use the G Major scale to break this down.
Again, the seven notes in G Major are: G A B C D E F#
If you look at the G Major scale you will notice that it’s root, third, and fifth are G, B and D.
G A B C D E F#
This is what makes a G Major chord, the triad of G B D:
Therefore, the first triad (or chord) in the G Major scale is: G Major
The 2nd Triad in Scale
Ok, that was the easy one.
Now let’s look at the second triad in the G Major scale.
The second triad simply begins at the 2nd note, A.
To get the second triad in the scale, move the triad notes over to the right, one:
G A B C D E F#
As you can see the next triad in the G Major scale is A C E.
You will recall this makes an A minor chord (because compared to an A Major triad it has a flatted third ~ it would also be the root, 3rd and 5th of the A minor scale).
A minor chord = A C E
The 3rd Triad in Scale
The third triad begins at the 3rd note, B.
To get the third triad in the scale, again just move the triad notes over to the right one:
G A B C D E F#
As you can see the next triad in the G Major scale is B D F#.
You can see this makes a B minor chord (because compared to a B Major triad it has a flatted third ~ and is also the root, 3rd and 5th of the Bm scale):
Are you starting to see it?
The 4th Triad in Scale
The fourth triad begins at the 4th note: C.
To get the fourth triad in the scale, move the triad notes over to the right one:
G A B C D E F# G
(As you can see above I extended the scale into the next octave to help you see that the next note in the scale after F# would again be the root, G.)
So the next triad in the G Major scale is C E G.
This is what makes a C Major chord (because it is the root, 3rd and 5th of the C Major scale ~ which, as I’m explaining, also happens to be the fourth triad of the G Major scale):
The 5th Triad in Scale
The fifth triad begins at the 5th note: D.
To get the fifth triad in the scale, again move the triad notes over to the right one:
G A B C D E F# G A
And so the next triad in the G Major scale is D F# A.
You will recall this is what makes a D Major chord (because it is the root, 3rd and 5th of the D Major scale):
The 6th Triad in Scale
The sixth triad begins at the 6th note: E.
To get the sixth triad in the scale, move the triad notes over to the right one:
G A B C D E F# G A B
Thus, the next triad in the G Major scale is E G B.
You may recall this is what makes an E minor chord (because it is the root, 3rd and 5th of the Em scale, which has a flatted third in comparison to an E Major triad):
The 7th (and final) Triad in Scale
The seventh and final triad begins at the 7th note: F#.
To get the seventh triad in the scale, move the triad notes over to the right one:
G A B C D E F# G A B C
And so, the last triad in the G Major scale is F# A C.
Now, in comparison to an F# major triad, this triad not only has a flatted third, but it also has a flatted fifth.
This is what makes a Diminished chord (a root, flatted 3rd and flatted 5th).
So the seventh triad of the G Major scale is F# Diminished:
Hopefully your getting it and not pulling your hair out! This is some left brained stuff, but it is important to understand if you want to know music theory, as all western music theory is based on the major scale; and understanding the seven triads of the major scale is hugely foundational!
Again, I encourage you to really think this through!!!
In order to also understand how to use other chords, like 7th chords, suspended chords, or add9 chords, and be in key you must understand Triads!!! The knowledge of how to use other chords in key is an extension of this knowledge!
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Thanks for reading!!!
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