Triads in the major and minor scale

Introduction to triads

We will examine triads in the context of the major and minor scale. A triad will be formed on each of the notes of our sample scale, C major.
A triad is a chord that comprises 3 notes, viz., root note or first note, a third and a fifth. In short 1,3 and 5. Study the C major scale and see how triads are formed on each of the notes of the scale. 

A triad may be major, minor, augmented or diminished, for the purposes of this study. Initially we will discuss triads in root position and later on in this study we will discuss the first and second inversions and their figuration. 

Examples of a typical harmonic and melodic triad in root position:


Example of a harmonic triad - C major

There are 2 parts that make up the harmonic triad of C major, a major third and a perfect fifth.


Example of a melodic triad - C major

When the triad is melodic the parts remain the same, a third and a fifth interval. A triad is major when it consists of a major third and a perfect fifth.


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Other intervals in the major scale

The example below is the scale of C major, with triads built on each note of the scale. In each triad, the lowest note is the root note. The illustration shows clearly that each root position triad, is made up of a third and a fifth. The major and minor triads look exactly alike yet they have different names. This is the result of the semitone count in the intervals. The list that follows will describe each of the intervals in detail.

The major triad consists of a major third and a perfect fifth
The minor triad consists of a minor third and a perfect fifth
The diminished triad consists of a minor third and a diminished fifth
The augmented triad consists of a major third and a augmented fifth

It is necessary to study the section on intervals first in order to understand the triad.
The major third interval has a size of 4 semitones
The minor third interval has a size of 3 semitones
The perfect fifth interval has a size of 7 semitiones
The diminished fifth interval has a size of 6 semitones
The augmented 5th interval has a size of 8 semitones


Table of triads in the C major scale

Each of the triads in the C major scale is tabulated here. 


Do all major scales have the same types of triads?

Absolutely, yes! All major scales use the same tonal structure therefore their triads are the same. Look at the following table which describes the triads formed on all major scales.

The tonic triad is major
The supertonic triad is minor
The mediant triad is minor
The subdominant triad is major
The dominant triad is major
The submediant triad is minor ( the submediant note in all major scale becomes the tonic of the relative minor scale)
The leading note or subtonic triad is diminished (actually a half diminished)
The tonic octave triad is major

Use the above solution for all major scales. Learn this order of triads from the tonic note to the tonic octave:
Major, minor, minor, Major, Major, minor, diminished, and Major. Test this against your favourite major keys or all of them.




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Triads in the A melodic minor scale

There are three forms of the minor scale that we are interested in, viz. natural minor, harmonic minor and melodic minor. Each of the triads in the A melodic minor scale, is tabulated here. For you own edification, make sure that you memorise the triads formed in each of these minor scales.
The melodic minor scale has the following intervals between its notes: tone, semitone, tone, tone, tone, tone, semitone.


A  C  E       A minor - minor 3rd and perfect 5th intervals 
B  D  F#    B minor - minor 3rd and perfect 5th intervals
C  E  G#    C augmented - major 3rd and augmented 5th intervals
D  F#  A    D major - major 3rd and perfect 5th intervals
E  G#  B    E major - major 3rd and perfect 5th intervals
F#  A  C    F# diminished - minor 3rd and diminished 5th intervals
G#  B  D   G# diminished  - minor 3rd and diminished 5th intervals
A  C  E      A minor - minor 3rd and perfect 5th intervals


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