UkeThingy

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Music Theory – Basic Triads (Chords)

Posted by Ian on March 4, 2008

One thing I have discovered about us Uke players is that, as a whole, we know very little about music

theory. Sure, we can play all sorts of fancy chords and whatnot right and left, but when asked why

something is a chord, many of us have no clue what the answer is. Over the next few days I am planning on

making a music theory 101 course so you all will understand enough basic music theory to not have to rely

on chord charts and the like to figure out chords when playing a song.

Today’s lesson will be covering the basic triad chords: Major Chords, Minor Chords, Augmented Chords, and

Diminished Chords.

I guess the easiest way to explain the basic major triad chord is this:

Pick a note, any note.

Let’s pick ‘G’

Now, you count up four half steps, or a major third, from this note.

G…. G#…. A… Bb… B
…….1…….2…..3…..4

Then, you take three half steps up from the new note, which makes as a major fifth from the first note.
B…. C…. C#…. D (which is the same as G… G#… A… Bb… B… C… C#… D)
…….1…..2…….3

The resulting ‘G Major’ triad is GBD. Whenever you play these three notes, you are playing a G Major

chord.

Things become a little more fun when you start on a sharp.

Let’s start with a C#.

You get the major third….

C#…. D…. Eb…. E…. F

And the Major fifth…..

F…. F#…. G…. G#…

And you now have a C# major triad: C# F G#

For a Minor chord, you take the following….

The Root Note, a Minor 3rd, and a 5th

You already know how to get a 5th above the root, so let’s work with the Minor 3rd.

A minor third is simply the note three half steps above the root note.

To demonstrate, let’s construct an A Minor chord.

A is our root note.

To find the minor 3rd…..

A… Bb…. B…. C
……1……2…..3

And then we must be careful that when constructing the fifth, we base it off of the root note, not the

minor third, as that wold yield a minor 5th.

A…. Bb…. B…. C… C#… D….. D#… E
…….1…….2…..3….4……5……6……7

So an A minor chord is A C E

Now take a breath, because things are about to get a bit more interesting.

To take things a step further, We’ll construct an Augmented Chord (Aug.)

An augmented chord consists of the Root, a Major 3rd, and an Augmented 5th, which is the same as a Major

fifth except you go one half step higher (8 half steps from the root note, as opposed to 7)

An F Aug. chord would be constructed as follows…

F is our root note

The major third…

F… F#… G… G#… A

and an Augmented 5th

F… F#… G… G#… A… Bb… B… C… C#
…..1…….2…..3…..4…..5…..6….7….8

The resulting triad of an Augmented F chord is F A C#

Now, to wrap things up, I’ll explain how to construct a diminished (Dim.) chord.

A diminished chord is constructed by taking the root note, its minor third, and a diminished 5th, which

is a major 5th lowered by one half step (6 half steps above the root note, as opposed to 7).

Let’s make a D diminished chord.

D is our root note.

We construct the minor third for the root.

D… Eb… E… F
……1…..2….3

And we construct the diminished 5th

D… Eb… E… F… F#… G… G#
…….1….2….3…..4…..5…..6

The resulting triad is D F G#, D Diminished.

And that pretty much sums up the basics of chord construction.

With a little practice, you will no longer need to reference a chord chart every time you come across a

chord that you don’t know by heart. You will also be able to figure out different ways to play common

chords higher up on the fret board, using alternate fingerings, or duplicating different notes to put

emphasis on different parts of the chord.

Advertisements

2 Responses to “Music Theory – Basic Triads (Chords)”

  1. Gerry Long said

    Ian:

    Good job explaining the triads. I am a retired college music theory/arranging/instrumental, and do a lot of uke teaching. This is a hard one to explain, and I’ll forward this on to a number of my students.

    I have been doing an EZine called UKE-TIPS and it comes out every few weeks — two, three, four — whatever I have time for. Up to this point I’ve spent a lot of time on the importance of learning progressions.

    I’ll send the first five of them on to you if you are interested. Just send me a request with your preferred email address.

    I have also done a beginning uke chord solo method book, which is the main subject of my web site. I was fortunate enough to have James Hill record all of the solos, so the book comes with a special CD of him playing the solos unacompanied. That site is http://www.ukesolos.com.

    Gerry Long
    Newport Beach, Ca

  2. Matt said

    Nice effort, but it would be a lot clearer if you first built each triad (maj, min, dim, aug) off of the same note, so that readers could easily see/hear the differences between them, and THEN showed how they could be transposed into any key. That’s how I teach it, and it saves a lot of confusion.

    Anyway, good stuff! Hope you’re still playing.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: