• A Breakdown On The Scale Degree Triads In The Major Key

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    In today’s lesson, we’ll be breaking down the scale degree triads in the major key.

    Every triad in the major key is unique

    A Quick Review On The Scale Degree Triads In The Major Key

    A key is basically an environment created by a given set of eight tones, with the goal of establishing the first tone as key center or tonal center.

    Using eight notes from C to C:

    …produces the key of C major:

    …where the first tone (which is C):

    …is the key center or tonal center.

    “What Are Scale Degree Triads?”

    A triad is a chord of three notes and can be formed on every degree in the major (or minor) key.

    For example, in the key of C major:

    C is the first

    D is the second

    E is the third

    F is the fourth

    G is the fifth

    A is the sixth

    B is the seventh

    C is the eighth

    A triad can be formed on the first degree of the scale in the major key by using any chord formation technique. One of the common techniques you can find on this site is the pick-skip technique.

    Using the pick-skip technique, we can pick and skip notes until a scale degree triad is formed. Starting from the first degree of the scale (which is C):

    …we can skip D and pick E:

    …then skip F and add G:

    …to produce the C major triad:

    …which is the chord of the first degree of the scale (aka – “chord 1”.)

    Using the pick-skip technique, any scale degree triad can be formed as well.

    On the second degree (which is D):

    …is the D minor triad:

    On the third degree (which is E):

    …is the E minor triad:

    On the fourth degree (which is F):

    …is the F major triad:

    On the fifth degree (which is G):

    …is the G major triad:

    On the sixth degree (which is A):

    …is the A minor triad:

    On the seventh degree (which is B):

    …is the B diminished triad:

    Using the pick-skip technique, or any other chord formation technique, scale degree triads can be formed in any major (or minor) key.

    A Breakdown Of The Scale Degree Triads In The Major Key

    The Tonic Triad

    The tonic triad is the chord of the first degree in the major key. In the key of C major:

    …the tonic triad is the C major triad:

    The tonic triad is the most stable chord in a key because it consists of the first, third, and fifth tones (aka – “stable tones“) in the key. Most songs start and end on the tonic triad because of its stability.

    In addition to that, when a singer asks you (the pianist) to play a given key, he/she expects you to play the tonic triad of that key.

    Finally, it’s important to note that the tonic triad is one of the primary chords in a major key.

    The Supertonic Triad

    The supertonic triad is the chord of the second degree of the scale. We’re still in the key of C major:

    …and the supertonic triad is the D minor triad:

    The supertonic triad is also known as the predominant triad and this is because it is usually played before the dominant triad (aka – “chord 5”) which is the second to the most important triad in the major key.

    Most of the time, songs end by a chord movement from chord 5 to chord 1 (aka – “the 5-1 chord progression.)

    When the supertonic triad (aka – “chord 2”) is played before chord 5 in the 5-1 chord progression, this produces the 2-5-1 chord progression — which is one of the most important chord progression in jazz and gospel music styles.

    The supertonic triad is unique because of its harmonic role in the formation of the 2-5-1 chord progression.

    The Mediant Triad

    The mediant triad is formed on the third degree in the major key, which lies between the first and fifth degrees of the scale. In the key of C major:

    …the mediant (which is E):

    …lies between the first tone (which is C):

    …and the fifth tone (which is G):

    The mediant triad has two notes in common with the tonic and dominant triads. In the key of C major:

    …the E minor triad (which is the mediant triad):

    …consists of E and G:

    …which are the third and fifth tones of the C major triad (the tonic triad):

    Consequently, the mediant triad can be used to substitute the tonic and dominant triads.

     

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    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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