Major Scale Chords

major scale chordsI thought it best to do a simple post about building triads from the major scale to tie in with the other posts I’ve done on intervals & major scale building. Once the major scale notes have been plucked from the jumble of the 12 chromatic notes we are left with a pretty sounding melody but nothing to bed down that melody. So we need to harmonize those notes to build chords and the starting point, generally speaking, in chord building are diatonic 3 note chords – Triads.

Even though I learnt about triads a long time ago, they are still the most common type of chord I come across in my everyday playing. In the major scale there are 3 types of triad – Major, Minor & Diminished. The technique used to build these major scale chords is known as stacking thirds – taking each note in the scale, adding the note up two from it and repeating once more to leave 3 notes each separated by a diatonic 3rd (sometimes a major 3rd and sometimes a minor 3rd).

I’ll apply the technique to the C Major scale here –

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Major Scale Chords

Stacking 3rds with each of the 7 notes of C Major throws up these triads –

C – up major 3rd – E – up minor 3rd – G = Major Triad

D – up minor 3rd – F – up major 3rd – A = Minor Triad

E – up minor 3rd – G – up major 3rd – B = Minor Triad

F – up major 3rd – A – up minor 3rd – C = Major Triad

G – up major 3rd – B – up minor 3rd – D = Major Triad

A – up minor 3rd – C – up major 3rd – E = Minor Triad

B – up minor 3rd – D – up minor 3rd – F = Diminished Triad

All of the major triads stack this wayRoot Note + Major 3rd + Minor 3rd

All of the minor triads stack this wayRoot Note + Minor 3rd + Major 3rd

And the diminished triad stacks this wayRoot Note + Minor 3rd + Minor 3rd

When the C major is harmonised this way, the resultant triads are –

C major (C,E & G)

D minor (D,F & A)

E minor (E, G & B)

F major (F, A & C)

G major (G, B & D)

A minor (A,C & E)

B diminished (B, D & F)

Examining the intervals of each triad may explain their individual sounds –

Major TriadsRoot Note, Major 3rd & Perfect 5th

Minor TriadsRoot Note, Minor 3rd & Perfect 5th

Diminished TriadRoot Note, Minor 3rd & 5th

The order that the triads appear remains the same for every key –

Major, Minor, Minor, Major, Major, Minor, Diminished

I made sure to memorize the above ‘order of triads’ so that, when applying this theory to my playing, I could effortlessly put it into practice when playing in different keys. I will expand on this in a future post which will have a practical application.

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