Major Chords

A chord is a group of two or more notes played simultaneously. Chords with three notes are referred to specifically as triads.

In this lesson we will learn how major chords are constructed using three notes from a given major scale. Later in the Minor, Augmented and Diminished Triads lesson we'll look at how easy it is to alter the notes within a chord to create new qualities. The four types of triads covered in Music Theory and Practice by Musicopoulos are major, minor, augmented and diminished.

Building Triads with Intervals

The first note of the major triad is the root note of the major scale. Moving four half-steps up from the root gives you the second note of the triad. Moving up a further three half-steps gives you the third note of the triad.

Four half-steps above C is E

Building the C major triad using half-steps and whole-steps

Building with Scale Degrees

The following example shows the construction of the C major triad built from the scale degrees of the C major scale.

Building the C major triad using scale degrees

  • The 1st note is called the root and is the same as the root note of the major scale
  • The next note is called the 3rd as it represents the third note of the major scale
  • The last note is called the 5th as it represents the fifth note of the major scale

Embracing Intervals

Your path to understanding music theory is helped greatly by your appreciation that intervals are the key to your success. Intervals allow you to identify with harmonic relationship. At this stage in your development it is recommended that you continue to think in terms of intervals.

Stacking Intervals

When constructing a triad, the chord can be thought of as two intervals stacked in thirds. To create a major triad,
stack a minor third on top of a major third to form the major triad.

Building the C major triad using interval stacking