• # FAQ: What Are Quartal Triads?

Fourth voicings are commonly used by advanced players especially in gospel and jazz styles and some of them include the C7sus4 chord:

…and the so what voicing of the C minor eleventh chord:

This introductory lesson on quartal triads will give you a basic information on quartal triads and how they are formed.

Let’s get started by reviewing the concept of triads.

## The Concept Of Triads – Explained

According to Jermaine Griggs “…a triad is a collection of three related notes (agreeable or not) which may be played or heard together.”

There are two keywords in the definition of a triad that are of the greatest concern to us:

Three

Related notes

Let’s throw more light on these keywords before we proceed.

### Keyword #1 – Three

The number three is synonymous with the term triad and that’s why the prefix ‘tri’ in the term triad literally means three.

A triad consists of three notes; not more or less.

Words like triangle, trinity, tripod, etc., are all related to the number three.

### Keyword #2 – Related Notes

Although a triad is a collection of notes, however, before any collection of three notes is considered as a triad, there must be a relationship between those notes.

The notes of the C major triad:

…are related by a scale and class of harmony.

“Let Me Explain What Scale Relationship Means…”

The notes of the C major triad:

…which are C, E, and G:

…are related by the C major scale:

C, E, and G:

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

“…Then Relationship By Class Of Harmony”

The class of harmony of a chord is determined by the distance between successive chord tones. For example, the class of harmony the C major triad:

…can be derived by determining by the interval between successive chord tones.

C to E:

…is a third interval.

E to G:

…is a third interval.

Due to the fact that the C major triad is based on third intervals, its class of harmony is the tertian harmony.

Before we go into learning about quartal triads, let’s discuss briefly on classes of harmony.

### A Short Note On The Classes Of Harmony

Class of harmony is determined by the interval between successive tones in any given chord.

There are three main classes of harmony:

Secundal harmony

Tertian harmony

Quartal harmony

Secundal harmony is produced when the distance between successive tones is in second intervals, tertian harmony is produced when the distance between successive tones is in third intervals, while quartal harmony is produced when the distance between successive tones is in fourth intervals.

The C major triad (we encountered earlier):

…is a product of tertian harmony because the distance between its successive tones is in third intervals:

C to E:

…and E to G:

### “What Is A Quartal Triad?”

A breakdown of the term quartal triad would give us a clearer understanding of what they actually are.

The term triad refers to the number of notes, which is three.

The term quartal refers to the class of harmony, which is in fourth intervals.

A quartal triad consists of three notes, however, it’s important to note that the distance between successive chord tones is in fourth intervals.

Using the C major scale:

…a quartal triad can be formed on C:

…by adding successive chord tones in fourth intervals.

A fourth above C:

…is F:

…and a fourth above F:

…is B:

Altogether, we have C-F-B:

…a quartal triad consisting of three notes, with fourth intervals between successive chord tones.

## Final Words

Using fourth intervals, anyone can form quartal triads by stacking three notes in fourth intervals.

In a subsequent lesson, we’ll explore various quartal triad types and how they can be applied in a variety of musical genres.

See you then!

The following two tabs change content below.

#### Chuku Onyemachi

Head of Education at HearandPlay Music Group
Onyemachi "Onye" Chuku 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.

Comments on this entry are closed.