• Are You Ready To Unlock The Power Of The Major Triad In The Major Key? [Intermediate Players Only]

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Are you ready to unlock the power of the major triad in the major key?

If your answer to the question above is yes and you’re an intermediate keyboard player, then you are on the right page.

In this lesson, I’ll be taking you by the hand and showing you the power of the major triad can be unlocked. Just in case you’re interested in learning other scale options that can be played over the major triad, this blog post will prove helpful.

Let’s get started by discussing briefly on the major triad.

A Short Note On The Major Triad

The major triad is the 1-chord in the major key. Using any major scale you’re familiar with, you can form the major triad by playing the first, third, and fifth tones of the scale together.

Using the C major scale (as a reference):

A major triad can be formed when the first, third, and fifth tones of the C major scale (which are as follows):

C:

E:

G:

…are played or heard together (“C-E-G”):

“Check Out All The Major Triads On The Keyboard…”

Now that we’ve refreshed our minds on the major triad, let’s see how the major triad works in the major key.

Unlocked: The Power Of The Major Triad In The Major Key

Every major triad in the major key has three functions: can function as a 1-chord, 4-chord, or 5-chord and I’ll be showing you how this works.

There are three major triads in the major key: the 1-chord, the 4-chord, and the 5-chord.

In the key of C major:

…there are the major triads in the key:

The C major triad (the 1-chord):

The F major triad (the 4-chord):

The G major triad (the 5-chord):

As The 1-chord

The major triad can function as the 1-chord in a given key. For example, the 4-chord in the key of C major:

…which is the F major triad:

…can function as the 1-chord in the key of F major:

So, beyond the use of the F major triad as the 4-chord in the key of C major, it can also be considered as the 1-chord in the key of F major.

The same thing goes for the 5-chord in the key of C major:

…which is the G major triad:

The G major triad (which is the 5-chord in the key of C major) can function as the 1-chord in the key of G major:

So, every major triad can function as the 1-chord and that includes the 4-chord and 5-chord.

As The 5

The major triad can function as the 5-chord in a given key. For example, the 1-chord in the key of C major:

…which is the C major triad:

…can function as the 5-chord in the key of F major:

So, beyond the use of the C major triad as the 1-chord in the key of C major, it can also be considered as the 5-chord in the key of F major.

The 4-chord in the key of C major:

…which is the F major triad:

…can function as the 5-chord in the key of Bb major:

So, every major triad can function as the 5-chord and that includes the 1-chord and 4-chord.

Scale Options For The Major Triad In The Major Key

The following scales can be used for the major triad in the major key:

The Ionian scale

The Lydian scale

The Mixolydian scale

Let’s take a closer look at these scales.

The Ionian Scale

The Ionian scale is the scale of the 1-chord in the major key.

So, when a given major triad is functioning as a 1-chord, its scale option is the Ionian scale.

“Check Out The Ionian Scale…”

In the key of C major:

…playing all the white notes on the keyboard from C to C:

…produces the C Ionian scale.

The Ionian scale can be transposed to all the notes on the keyboard. Consequently, there are 12 Ionian scales on the keyboard.

The Lydian Scale

The scale of the 4-chord in the major key is the Lydian scale. Therefore, when a given major triad is functioning as a 4-chord, you can consider the Lydian scale as an option.

“Check Out The Lydian Scale…”

…playing the notes of the G major scale:

…from C to C:

…produces the C Lydian scale:

So, the consideration of the C major triad:

…as a 4-chord is the reason why the C Lydian scale:

…can be considered as a scale option.

The Mixolydian Scale

The scale of the 5-chord in the major key is the Mixolydian scale.

When a given major triad is functioning as a 5-chord, you can consider the Mixolydian scale as an option.

“Check Out The Mixolydian Scale…”

…playing the notes of the F major scale:

…from C to C:

…produces the C Mixolydian scale:

So, the consideration of the C major triad:

…as a 5-chord is the reason why the C Mixolydian scale:

…can be considered as a scale option.

Final Words

The major triad in the major key is dynamic and every major triad can have three functions:

As the 1-chord

As the 4-chord

As the 5-chord

So, in the key of A major:

…where the 4-chord is the D major triad:

The D major triad can also be considered as the 1-chord and the 5-chord. Of course, the D major triad is the 1-chord in the key of D major:

…and this implies the D Ionian scale:

…or the 5-chord in the key of G major:

…which implies the D Mixolydian scale:

We’ll go deeper into this topic in a subsequent lesson and we’ll also see the application of the scale options over the major triad.

See you then!

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Chuku Onyemachi

Head of Education at HearandPlay Music Group
Onyemachi "Onye" Chuku (aka - "Dr. Pokey") is a Nigerian musicologist, pianist, and author. Inspired by his role model (Jermaine Griggs) who has become his mentor, what he started off as teaching musicians in his Aba-Nigeria neighborhood in April 2005 eventually morphed into an international career that has helped hundreds of thousands of musicians all around the world. Onye lives in Dubai and is currently the Head of Education at HearandPlay Music Group and the music consultant of the Gospel Music Training Center, all in California, USA.