This week we’re going to look at Triads! A triad is a three note chord. We’re going to look at how they’re constructed and how to apply them in our bass lines.

Why Learn About Chords?

Arpeggios and chord tones (the individual notes of a chord) are essential in creating bass lines even if you don’t realise it. Pretty much every bass line you’ve ever learned is based on chord tones.

A Triad is a three note chord and the core foundation of pretty much every other chord. So they’re an important first step in the study of harmony

Tertian Harmony

When we look at basic chord construction in western music we usually abide by something called Tertian Harmony. This is simply the building of chords by the stacking of thirds.

I’m hoping all of you already have a knowledge of your basic intervals but if not, you should. Intervals are the building blocks of music and a good knowledge of them in all their different guises can make a massive difference to your playing and overall musicianship.

For now you just need to know two intervals. The major and minor thirds:

The thirds shown above cover two strings but we can also play them on a single string as follows:

Building Major Triads

So we now have our thirds let’s try building a Major Triad.

To do this we just stack one third on top of another. If we take a C as our root note. Build a major third (C to E) then build a minor third from the E (E to G)

So the C major triad is the notes C, E and G. We can play the triad up and down as follows:

All Four Triads

We can see in the previous example that the Major triad is made from a formula of Major 3rd + Minor 3rd.

We can extend this principle to create the four common triads:

  • Major Triad: Major 3rd + Minor 3rd
  • Minor Triad: Minor 3rd + Major 3rd
  • Augmented Triad: Major 3rd + Major 3rd
  • Diminished Triad: Minor 3rd + Minor 3rd

Here are all four arpeggios on a root note of C:

Exercise: Play each arpeggio twice before moving onto the next in the order: Major, minor, augmented, diminished

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