Triad Chords in Music: The Complete Guide

Understanding Triad Chords in Music - Complete Guide
Understanding Triad Chords in Music - Complete Guide
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What is a Triad Chord?

If you’re a beginner musician or music producer, understanding triad chords should be one of the first topics on your learning list. 

A triad chord is a group of three different notes played together that form a chord. Triad chords make up the majority of the chords you hear in music today, as they are the simplest chord structure. 

Notes in a triad chord are stacked in intervals and are generally played together, creating harmony and defining the chord’s unique sound. 

Most beginner musicians learn the major scales and triad chord formula when starting out, so they can begin reading music, as well as writing and arranging their own music.


The Note Names in a Triad

As the name suggests, the triad chord is made up of three notes. These notes are referred to as:

The Root Note: This note gives the chord its name and serves as the foundation.

The Third (3rd): This note is either a major or minor third above the root, depending on the scale of the music.

the Fifth (5th): And finally, this note that is either a perfect, diminished, or augmented fifth above the root. We’ll touch on these different note types shortly.

Together, these three notes create the distinct sound of a triad chord.

Triad Chord example on the Piano:

Major Triad Chord on Piano Example

Major Triad Chord on Piano (C Major Triad)


Different Types of Triad Chords

There are 4 main types of triad chords that you’ll come across in music. These are major, minor, diminished, and augmented. 

Each type of triad chord has a distinct sound, and knowing how to identify and play them is crucial for any musician. Let’s start by looking at the easiest, the major triad.


Major Triads

A major triad has a bright, energetic sound, and is commonly featured in a lot of pop and chart music. This is made up of the following intervals:

  • Root
  • Major third
  • Perfect fifth

For example, the C major triad consists of the notes C, E, and G

C Major Triad on Musical Staff:

C Major Triad on Musical Staff

C Major Triad on the Piano:

C Major Triad on the Piano

Minor Triads

A minor triad has a darker, more somber tone when compared to a major triad. The minor triad features in many deep house and techno songs. Its intervals are:

  • Root
  • Minor third
  • Perfect fifth

For example, the C minor triad consists of the notes C, Eb, and G.

C Minor Triad on Musical Staff:

C Minor Triad on Musical Staff

C Minor Triad on the Piano:

C Minor Triad on the Piano

Diminished Triads

Diminished triads have an unstable, tense sound. This type of triad is great to build tension before resolving to another chord, as it is often impacting the highest-pitched note. The intervals for this type is:

  • Root
  • Minor third
  • Diminished fifth

For example, the C diminished triad includes the notes C, Eb, and Gb.

C Diminished Triad on Musical Staff:

C Diminished Triad on Musical Staff

C Diminished Triad on the Piano:

C Diminished Triad on the Piano

Augmented Triads

Finally, the augmented triad features a dreamy and mysterious tone to it. It’s less commonly found in music, and more prominent in different applications of sound design. The intervals of an augmented triad are:

  • Root
  • Major Third
  • Augmented fifth

For example, the C augmented triad consists of the notes C, E, and G#.

C Augmented Triad on Musical Staff:

C Augmented Triad on Musical Staff

C Augmented Triad on the Piano:

C Augmented Triad on the Piano

Summary: Triad Chords in Music

Triad chords, as the essential foundations of music throughout history, have played a pivotal role in shaping the soundscapes we know and love today. 

These chord structures have become so significant that without them, music would not sound the same and have the same impact. They carry a harmonic richness and emotion that can not be found elsewhere.

As a beginner musician and theorist, taking the time to understand the 4 main types of triad chords will pay dividends in the long run.

Once you have built your confidence in identifying and playing with the different triad structures, try to build your own chord progressions with them. You can also test these triad chords in different musical modes. Both of these techniques will unlock a new world of creativity and possibility in your journey to music mastery.


Ready to move to more complex chord structures? Check out Seventh Chords in Music: The Complete Guide next.


FAQ: Triad Chords


What are the 4 triad chords?

The 4 triad chords are major, minor, diminished, and augmented. Each version has a unique and distinct sound. They are all created by combing the root note, third and fifth note with specific intervals. 


What is the formula for triad chords?

The formula for each triad chord is unique, which is:

Major triad: Root, majors third, perfect fifth

Minor triad: Root, minor third, perfect fifth

Diminished triad: Root, minor third, diminished fifth

Augmented triad: Root, major third, augmented fifth


Is triad the simplest chord?

Yes, triad chords are the simplest type of chord because they’re made up of only three different notes. Whilst there are other chord structures with more notes and complexity, triad chords remain the simplest for beginners to learn. 


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Thomas Smith
Thomas Smith
As Visionary and Chief Editor of 122BPM, Thomas is dedicated to inspiring the next generation of music pioneers. With a degree in Music and 10 years industry experience, Thomas is now shaping 122BPM as the central hub for music and audio education.
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