• Revealed: 7 Ways To Revolutionize A Triad

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    You arrived at this page because you’ll want to learn 7 ways to revolutionize a triad.

    If you just got started with playing songs and the chord progressions of popular songs using triads, and are probably getting sick of triads, then this lesson is for you.

    Triads are the foundation of harmony and that’s why most piano players get started with it. However, it gets to a point where one can get so acquainted with the sound of triads that the ear would naturally be longing for more. After triads are mastered, the next thing most beginners go for is seventh chords, which for the most part are okay.

    But in this lesson, we’re not learning about seventh chords, we’re exploring 7 ways to revolutionize a triad and if you apply the concepts learned, I guarantee that you’ll take your application of triads to the next level.

    ¬†“What Is A Triad?”

    According to Jermaine Griggs, “…a triad is a collection of three related notes (agreeable or not) that maybe played together or separately.

    Permit me at this point to breakdown this definition of a triad so that you can have a better understanding.

    The first part of the definition says, ‘…a collection of three…’

    “…a collection of three…”

    It takes three notes to form a triad. Although there are four note triads, more of less than three notes cannot form a triad. Considering the fact that a chord can be defined as a collection of three or more notes, a triad fits into the description of what is known as a chord.

    Let’s take a look at the second part of the definition which says, ‘related notes

    “…related notes…”

    The notes of a triad must be related, in other words, they must be in relationship.

    Inasmuch as triads can be formed using three notes, not every set or collection of three note can be called a triad. Before a set of three notes can be called a triad, they must have a scale and intervallic relationship.

    “Let me explain this relationship…”

    We’ll be using a known triad:

    …the C major triad (which consists of C E and G.)

    There is a scale relationship between C, E, and G:

    They are the first, third and fifth tones of the C major scale:

    …therefore what the notes of the C major triad:

    …share in common is that they are scale tones of the C major scale:

    There is also intervallic relationship between the notes of the triad.

    In a triad, the distance between successive chord tones is based on a stipulated interval.

    In this case of the C major triad:

    …take note that C to E:

    …is a third, and E to G:

    …is also a third, therefore, the intervallic relationship between the notes of the C major triad:

    …is in thirds, and this is known to music scholars as tertian harmony.

    Attention: Tertian harmony is the outcome of creating a relationship between notes in intervals of thirds.

    Now that you’ve refreshed your mind on the basics, let’s proceed to the revolution of the triad.

    7 Ways To Revolutionize A Triad

    Attention: What you’re about to learn will open your eyes to how the sound of the triad can be enhanced, to sound better. The application of these seven dimensions will not produce bigger chords like seventh and extended chords.

    Dimension #1 – Inversion

    The regular arrangement of the notes of a triad are root, third, and fifth. For example, the C major triad:

    …consists of C:

    …which is the root, E:

    …which is the third, and G:

    …which is the fifth.

    The inversion of a triad basically changes the order of the notes. Instead of having C (which is the root):

    …as the lowest note, we can transpose it to a higher octave (C):

    …to produce the first inversion of the C major triad:

    In the first inversion of the C major triad:

    …the chord tones are ordered thus:

    Third

    Fifth

    Root

    Using the first inversion of the C major triad:

    …the second inversion can be derived by the octave transposition of the lowest chord tone (which is E):

    …to the next octave (E):

    …to produce the second inversion of the C major triad:

    …where the chord tones are ordered thus:

    Fifth

    Root

    Third

    Altogether, there are three ways of playing a triad in terms of inversion:

    • Root position
    • First inversion
    • Second inversion

    From my experience (any other experienced player can tell you this too), the inversion of a triad enhances it. A triad sounds best when it is played in its second inversion. The C major triad (played in root position):

    …sounds a lot better when played in second inversion:

    …and this is because of the fourth interval formed between its fifth tone and root:

    …which are G and C respectively. There are no fourth intervals in the root position of the major triad.

    “Check Out The Second Inversion Of All Major Triads…”

    C major triad:

    Db major triad:

    D major triad:

    Eb major triad:

    E major triad

    F major triad:

    Gb major triad:

    G major triad:

    Ab major triad:

    A major triad:

    Bb major triad:

    B major triad:

    “Check Out The Second Inversion Of All Minor Triads…”

    C minor triad:

    C# minor triad:

    D minor triad:

    Eb minor triad:

    E minor triad

    F minor triad:

    F# minor triad:

    G minor triad:

    G# minor triad:

    A minor triad:

    Bb minor triad:

    B minor triad:

    Submission: Due to time constraint and other factors, we’ll not be outlining the second inversion of augmented and diminished triads. Also note that an augmented triad cannot be enhanced by inversion.

    Dimension #2 – Duplication

    The duplication of any of the notes of a triad enhances it. The goal of duplicating a tone is to realize four notes instead of the three a triad consists of. There are several reasons why this is considered as an enhancement, here’s one you must take note of:

    There are four voice parts in a choir and a triad has only three notes. The duplication of a chord tone adds an extra tone to the regular three, making it four notes – which can be considered as the four voice parts – soprano, alto, tenor, and bass.

    Pursuant to traditional principles of harmony, the root note is duplicated in the major triad, while the third note is duplicated in the minor triad. In the C major triad:

    …duplicating the root note (which is C):

    …produces the octave position of the C major triad:

    In the C minor triad:

    …duplicating the third tone (which is Eb):

    …produces the octave position of the C minor triad:

    Inasmuch as I recommend that you learn the traditional guidelines, it’s also important for you to know that any tone (root, third, or fifth) can be duplicated.

    Using the C major triad:

    …as a reference, here are the products of the duplication of the first tone (which is C):

    …third tone (which is E):

    …and fifth tone (which is G):

    The same thing is applicable to all triads (whether major or minor).

    “Let’s Check Out The Outcome Of Duplicating The Tones Of Scale Degree Triads In The Key Of C Major…”

    Chord 1:

    The duplication of the root produces:

    The duplication of the third produces:

    The duplication of the fifth produces:

    Chord 2:

    The duplication of the root produces:

    The duplication of the third produces:

    The duplication of the fifth produces:

    Chord 3:

    The duplication of the root produces:

    The duplication of the third produces:

    The duplication of the fifth produces:

    Chord 4:

    The duplication of the root produces:

    The duplication of the third produces:

    The duplication of the fifth produces:

    Chord 5:

    The duplication of the root produces:

    The duplication of the third produces:

    The duplication of the fifth produces:

    Chord 6:

    The duplication of the root produces:

    The duplication of the third produces:

    The duplication of the fifth produces:

    The same thing is applicable in all twelve keys

    Dimension #3 – Suspension

    A triad consists basically of a root, third, and fifth tone. Using the C natural major scale:

    …the first, third, and fifth tones (which are C, E, and G):

    …are the tones of the C major triad.

    The substitution of the third tone (which is E):

    …with the fourth tone of the C natural major scale (which is F):

    …produces a C suspended fourth triad:

    Conversely…”

    The third tone (which is E):

    …can also be substituted with the second tone of the C natural major scale (which is D):

    …and this produces a C suspended second triad:

    A triad is enhanced when it is suspended to produce either a suspended fourth or a suspended second triad. However, it is important to know that suspended chords have a “neutral” sound because of the absence of the third tone – which determines whether a chord is major or minor. Hence, the C suspended fourth triad:

    …is neither a major nor a minor triad.

    “Check Out All The Suspended Fourth Triads…”

    C sus4 triad:

    Db sus4 triad:

    D sus4 triad:

    Eb sus4 triad:

    E sus4 triad:

    F sus4 triad:

    F# sus4 triad:

    G sus4 triad:

    Ab sus4 triad:

    A sus4 triad:

    Bb sus4 triad:

    B sus4 triad:

    “Check Out All The Suspended Second Triads…”

    C sus2 triad:

    Db sus2 triad:

    D sus2 triad:

    Eb sus2 triad:

    E sus2 triad:

    F sus2 triad:

    F# sus2 triad:

    G sus2 triad:

    Ab sus2 triad:

    A sus2 triad:

    Bb sus2 triad:

    B sus2 triad:

    Dimension #4 – Addition

    The addition of an extra note that is a third above a triad produces a seventh chord. For example, the addition of B:

    …to the C major triad:

    …produces the C major seventh chord:

    However, That’s NOT The Idea…”

    Due to the fact that a triad should remain the same after being enhanced, it is important for the addition to be limited to notes like the second, fourth, and sixth tones, that will not change the triad to a seventh chord.

    The addition of the second, fourth, and sixth tones to a triad enhances it and produces variants like the added second chord (aka – “add2 chord”), the added fourth chord (aka – “add4 chord”), and the added sixth chord (aka – “add6 chord”.)

    The addition of the second tone of the C major scale:

    …which is D:

    …to the C major triad:

    …produces the C major (add2) chord:

    The addition of the fourth tone of the C major scale:

    …which is F:

    …to the C major triad:

    …produces the C major (add4) chord:

    The addition of the sixth tone of the C major scale:

    …which is A:

    …to the C major triad:

    …produces the C major (add6) chord:

    “Let’s Quickly Derive The Added-Tone Chords For All Major Triads”

    C major triad:

    C major (add 2) chord:

    C major (add 4) chord:

    C major (add 6) chord:

    Db major triad:

    Db major (add 2) chord:

    Db major (add 4) chord:

    Db major (add 6) chord:

    D major triad:

    D major (add 2) chord:

    D major (add 4) chord:

    D major (add 6) chord:

    Eb major triad:

    Eb major (add 2) chord:

    Eb major (add 4) chord:

    Eb major (add 6) chord:

    E major triad:

    E major (add 2) chord:

    E major (add 4) chord:

    E major (add 6) chord:

    F major triad:

    F major (add 2) chord:

    F major (add 4) chord:

    F major (add 6) chord:

    Gb major triad:

    Gb major (add 2) chord:

    Gb major (add 4) chord:

    Gb major (add 6) chord:

    G major triad:

    G major (add 2) chord:

    G major (add 4) chord:

    G major (add 6) chord:

    Ab major triad:

    Ab major (add 2) chord:

    Ab major (add 4) chord:

    Ab major (add 6) chord:

    A major triad:

    A major (add 2) chord:

    A major (add 4) chord:

    A major (add 6) chord:

    Bb major triad:

    Bb major (add 2) chord:

    Bb major (add 4) chord:

    Bb major (add 6) chord:

    B major triad:

    B major (add 2) chord:

    B major (add 4) chord:

    B major (add 6) chord:

    Dimension #5 – Voicing

    Voicing is the consideration of the notes of a chord (aka – “chord tones”) as voice parts – soprano, alto, tenor, and bass.

    Soprano is the first voice

    Alto is the second voice

    Tenor is the third voice

    Bass is the fourth voice

    The regular perception of chord tones as keyboard notes differs from the concept of voicing because in the concept of voicing, there are factors to consider. The consideration of these factors lead to the rearrangement of the chord tones using voicing techniques, and there are lots of them – from the most basic to the most advanced.

    In this lesson, we’re focusing on the drop-2 voicing technique, which can be used to rearrange a chord by dropping the second voice by an octave.

    “Here’s How It Works…”

    In the C major triad:

    G:

    …is the soprano voice.

    E:

    …is the alto voice.

    C:

    …is the tenor voice.

    Using the drop-2 voicing technique, the C major triad:

    …can be rearranged by dropping the second voice (aka – “alto voice”) which is E:

    …by an octave (to E):

    …and this produces the drop-2 voicing of the C major triad:

    The drop-2 voicing concept revolutionizes a triad by opening it up and giving it more range. The regular C major triad:

    …encompasses a fifth:

    …while its drop-2 voicing:

    …encompasses¬† a tenth:

    …and sounds a lot better.

    “Check Out The Drop-2 Voicing Of All Root Position Major Triads…”

    C major triad:

    Db major triad:

    D major triad:

    Eb major triad:

    E major triad

    F major triad:

    Gb major triad:

    G major triad:

    Ab major triad:

    A major triad:

    Bb major triad:

    B major triad:

    “Check Out The Drop-2 Voicing Of All Root Position Minor Triads…”

    C minor triad:

    C# minor triad:

    D minor triad:

    Eb minor triad:

    E minor triad:

    F minor triad:

    F# minor triad:

    G minor triad:

    G# minor triad:

    A minor triad:

    Bb minor triad:

    B minor triad:

    Dimension #6 – Derived Bass Notes

    When a triad is played, it is usually accompanied with its root note as the bass note. For example, when the C major triad is played:

    …the root (which is C):

    …is usually played as the bass note.

    “Before I Go Any Further, Let’s Distinguish Between A Root Note And A Bass Note…”

    A root note is the first tone in a chord and also the tone from which the chord is established, while a bass note is the lowest chord tone.

    “Back To Our Discourse…”

    Although the root of the chord is commonly played as the bass note (which is the lowest note) on the left hand. It’s possible to derive other bass notes apart from the root of the chord. The C major triad:

    …consists of C, E, and G, and any of the tones of the C major triad can be played on the left hand as bass notes.

    For example, the C major triad:

    …can be played over the third tone (which is E):

    …on the bass, or over the fifth tone (which is G):

    …and this enhances the triad.

    “In A Nutshell…”

    Derived bass notes can revolutionize a triad. It’s all about foregoing the root note, which is commonly played as the bass note, and deriving another bass note – which can either be the third or fifth tone.

    “Here Are Scale Degree Triads In The Key Of C Major Over Derived Bass Notes…”

    Chord 1:

    Played over the root, produces:

    Played over the third (derived bass note), produces:

    Played over the fifth (derived bass note), produces:

    Chord 2:

    Played over the root, produces:

    Played over the third (derived bass note), produces:

    Played over the fifth (derived bass note), produces:

    Chord 3:

    Played over the root, produces:

    Played over the third (derived bass note), produces:

    Played over the fifth (derived bass note), produces:

    Chord 4:

    Played over the root, produces:

    Played over the third (derived bass note), produces:

    Played over the fifth (derived bass note), produces:

    Chord 5:

    Played over the root, produces:

    Played over the third (derived bass note), produces:

    Played over the fifth (derived bass note), produces:

    Chord 6:

    Played over the root, produces:

    Played over the third (derived bass note), produces:

    Played over the fifth (derived bass note), produces:

    “That’s The Idea…”

    The use of other other chord tones as bass notes (aka “derived bass”) can enhance a triad.

    Dimension #7 – Stylization

    Beyond the keyboard style of playing triads, there’s also the vocal style of singing triads. The notes of a triad can be sung by the four main voice parts:

    Soprano

    Alto

    Tenor

    Bass

    However, in the vocal style, there are so many factors to consider, and one of them is voice range.

    Voice range. Every voice part has a certain register on the keyboard that it’s designated to sing and this is known as its voice range. For example, the range for the bass voice spans from F2 to C4:

    …while that of the tenor voice spans from C3 to F4:

    Due to the consideration of voice range, chord tones are distributed across various registers on the keyboard. For example, the C major triad:

    …can be sung by a choir in this manner:

    C:

    …for the soprano singers.

    E:

    …for the alto singers.

    G:

    …for the tenor singers.

    C:

    …for the bass singers.

    Altogether, we’ll have the same C major triad:

    …with a vocal stylization:

    …and that sounds superb and enhanced.

    “In A Nutshell…”

    Changing the stylization of a triad from the regular keyboard style to the vocal style enhances it. Due to the fact that we can’t exhaust all the possible ways of playing a triad using the vocal stylization, we’ll dedicate another lesson to exploring the vocal style of playing triads.

    “Meanwhile, Here Are The Scale Degree Triads Arranged Using The Vocal Stylization…”

    Chord 1:

    Chord 2:

    Chord 3:

    Chord 4:

    Chord 5:

    Chord 6:

    Final Words

    From what you’ve learned in this lesson, I’m doubly sure that you’re taking your knowledge and application of triads to another level.

    I recommend that you dedicate some time to practicing and applying all the seven dimensions covered in all twelve keys while waiting for the next lesson.

    See you in the next lesson!

    The following two tabs change content below.
    Hello, I'm Chuku Onyemachi (aka - "Dr. Pokey") - a musicologist, pianist, author, clinician and Nigerian. Inspired by my role model Jermaine Griggs, I started teaching musicians in my neighborhood in April 2005. Today, I'm privileged to work as the head of education, music consultant, and chief content creator with HearandPlay Music Group sharing my wealth of knowledge with hundreds of thousands of musicians across the world.

    Attention: To learn more about this, I recommend our 500+ page course: The "Official Guide To Piano Playing." Click here for more information.




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