Pitch and Harmony
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We will learn how to identify triads in the same manner as scales and intervals. We will begin with major triads.

Major Triads

You will recall that triads are made by stacking thirds. Its members are called the root, third and fifth. It’s useful to know the interval content of a major triad: it has a major third and perfect fifth above the root. The distance between the third and fifth is a minor third. We often name a triad by its root note and quality, for example, C major:

Learning to identify major triads by sound, is as simple as learning how to sing them. If we use solfege, the syllables are do mi so. We will continue to use the same methods as in the previous two articles.

  1. Start by singing a major scale up to the fifth: do re mi fa so
  2. Now sing re and fa silently: do (re) mi (fa) so
  3. And finally sing do mi so.

With triads you could also sing them both ascending and descending: do mi so mi do.

Now that you can sing back a major triad, try reproducing the following four major triads. You will first hear a triad with some time to sing it back, then you will hear the next one You may also wish to pause the player after each triad if you need more time:

Minor Triads

Now we can take a peek at minor triads. Minor triads have a minor third and perfect fifth above the root. The interval from the third to the fifth is a major third:

The solfege for minor triads is la do mi. Give yourself a starting pitch and sing the first five scale degrees of a minor scale, then work up to the triad as before:

  1. la ti do re mi
  2. la (ti) do (re) mi
  3. la do mi

Listen and sing back the following minor triads:

Now you can test your skills. You will hear six triads – identify whether the triad is major or minor:

Harmonic Form

Before moving onto diminished and augmented triads, we should spend a little time with non-arpeggiating triads. The following example has three major triads followed by three minor ones. Play the complete example, just listening to quality of the chords:

Now play the first chord only. See if you can hear and sing back its three pitches. You may have to fish around a bit, but that’s okay. You may also wish to work with you instrument. Play the chord, and sing a pitch from it. Figure out if you are matching the root, third, or fifth, then sing the rest of the triad. Replay the chord, and sing it from the root through to the fifth.

Allow yourself the time that you need to develop this skill. It only takes a few seconds to read this paragraph, but it might take a few practice sessions to develop this skill.

Make sure you take these lessons at your own pace. If you have any questions, please leave a comment below or come ask in our forums. The next part of the series continues on the topic of triads, looking at diminished and augmented triads: Learning to recognize triads, Part 2


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