Triads are made up of 3 notes played on top of each other. You will often hear people describe triads as chords. They consist of a bottom note (root), a middle note (3rd) and a top note (5th).

How to make a triad

First, work out which note you want to build your triad on (in our example we are building one on C).

Now start at the bottom note and count up 3 to get the next note (include the starting note when you’re counting) (in our example, 3 notes up from C is E).

Now start again at the bottom note and this time count up 5 (5 notes up from C is G). So, to build a triad on C we have used the notes C-E-G.

There are 4 different types of musical triad:

  • The first two are minor and major triads. The difference is in the interval between the bottom (root) and middle (3rd) notes.
  • In the major triad there are 4 semitones between C and E – 4 semitones equals a major 3rd.
  • In the minor triad there are only 3 semitones between the A and C – 3 semitones equals a minor 3rd.
  • The third triad is a diminished triad – this is a variation of a minor triad. To create a diminished triad all you need to do is play a minor triad and then lower the top note by 1 semitone (there are now only 6 semitones between the bottom and top notes of the triad – this is called a diminished 5th).
  • The other triad is called an augmented triad. To create an augmented triad, play a major triad and then raise the top note up by a semitone (there are now 8 semitones separating top note and bottom note – this is called an augmented 5th).

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