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  • Candice Alderfer

The Building Blocks of Triads

Updated: Apr 28, 2019

When In Doubt, Intervals

There are many types of chords that can be made when we combine and stack notes on top of each other in different positions. Behind the makings of all the chords you'll run into in music are different formulas used to building them. You might not have all your scales memorized by heart, but the good news is you can build chords just by understanding the distances between each note position. In other words, know how to distinguish intervals comfortably. Even if you have your major scales memorized by heart, its still essential to understand why it makes sense to have the notes positioned where there are mathematically. To make a triad, whether its a major or minor chord, there are three positions that the notes must fill.


1. Root

2. 3rd (the third note above the root)

3. 5th (the fifth note above the root)


The distance between the notes in their positions dictates whether the chord is major, minor, augmented or diminished. For building major and minor chords in particular, it is crucial to know what distance makes up both a major and minor 3rd.


Major Chords

Lets begin with a C major triad. C is the root, E is the third note in the scale above the root and G is the fifth. The interval between C to E is a major 3rd. The interval between E and G is a minor 3rd. Here is a quick recap on 3rds and what makes the interval major or minor





Major 3rd = 4 half steps

minor 3rd = 3 half steps


This lets us know that the formula to a major triad is a Major 3rd in between the root and second position, and a minor 3rd between the second and third position. You can also take the first, third, and fifth scale degree of the major scale.


C D E F G A B

1 3 5


Lets build a D Major Triad this time


D E F# G A B C#

1 3 5


A D Major Triad is:

D F# A

D to F# consists of 4 half steps in between each other, making it a Major third, which F# to A consists of 3 half steps, making it a minor 3rd. Between D to A is a perfect fifth.


When making either a Major or minor triad, the first and third position of a triad MUST make up a perfect fifth. The first interval between the root and the 3rd will depict whether its major or minor.














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