• A Lesson On The Structural Differences Between The Major And Minor Triad

    in Beginners,Chords & Progressions,Experienced players,Piano,Theory

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    If you’re interested in learning the differences between the major and minor triad, then this lesson is for you.

    I bet the major and minor triad are the top two chord types you learned or probably are learning now if you’re a beginner. Understanding the differences between them goes beyond knowing that the C major triad:

    …has an E note:

    …while the C minor triad:

    …has an Eb note:

    There’s a structural difference between both triads and we’ll be making it our focus on this post.

    A Short Note On Major And Minor Triads

    A triad is a product of three related notes (agreeable or not) which are played or heard together. Although there are four commonly known triads — the major, minor, augmented, and diminished — we’re focusing on the first two triads in this lesson.

    The Major Triad — Explained

    The major triad is formed by the relationship between the first, third, and fifth tones of the major scale. Using the C major scale (as a reference):

    The C major triad can be formed when the first, third, and fifth tones of the C major scale (which are C, E, and G):

    …are played or heard together.

    Other major triads include the F major triad:

    …A major triad:

    …D major triad:

    …etc.

    “What Is A Minor Triad?”

    The minor triad is the triad associated with the minor quality. When the first, third, and fifth tones of the C minor scale:

    …which are C, Eb, and G:

    …are played or heard together, the C minor triad is formed.

    Attention: Using the minor scale starting from any note, a corresponding minor triad can be formed.

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

    The Structural Difference Between The Major And Minor Triad

    The difference between the major and minor triad that most people are familiar with is the difference in spelling and chord quality.

    “In The Difference In Spelling…”

    The spelling of the major triad differs slightly from that of the minor triad. For example, the C major triad is spelled “C-E-G” while the C minor triad is spelled “C-Eb-G”.

    The difference in spelling is slight but significant enough to differentiate the major triad from the minor triad.

    “In The Difference In Chord Quality…”

    The term “major” and “minor” are used to describe the character of a musical idea. The C major triad:

    …has a major quality, while the C minor triad:

    …has a minor quality.

    “But There’s A Difference In Structure…”

    Beyond the difference in spelling and quality, the structure of the major triad differs from that of the minor triad. Let’s go ahead and explore the structure of these chord types.

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

    The Structure Of The Major Triad

    The major triad consists of a root, third, and fifth tone. The C major triad:

    …consists of the following notes:

    C (which is its root)

    E (which is its third)

    G (which is its fifth)

    The structure of the C major triad (and every other major triad) can be understood by breaking down the intervals C-E:

    …and E-G:

    The interval between C and E:

    …is a major third interval, while the interval between E and G:

    …is a minor third interval.

    Attention: There are four half-steps in a major third interval (just like from C to E) and three half-steps in a minor third interval (just like from E to G).

    “So, What’s The Structure Of The Major Triad?”

    The major triad consists of two “third interval types”:

    The major third interval (between C and E)

    The minor third interval (between E and G)

    So, from the intervallic breakdown of the major triad, we have this structure:

    major third + minor third

    …and if you do the math:

    major third + minor third = major triad

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

    The Structure Of The Minor Triad

    From what we’ve learned about the structure of the major triad, the structure of the minor triad can easily be understood. Let’s get right into breaking down the third interval types in the minor triad (using the C minor triad as a reference):

    The minor triad consists of two “third interval types”:

    The minor third interval (between C and Eb)

    The major third interval (between Eb and G)

    So, from the intervallic breakdown of the minor triad, we have this structure:

    minor third + major third

    …and if you do the math:

    minor third + major third = minor triad

    The Difference Between The Major And Minor Triad

    The structural difference between the major and minor triad is noteworthy:

    Major triad = major third + minor third

    Minor triad = minor third + major third

    It’s also interesting to know that the quality of a triad (whether major or minor) is determined by its structure. The third interval between the root and third tone determines the quality of a triad.

    The interval between the first and third tone of the C major triad:

    …(which is C and E):

    …is a major third. This explains why the “C-E-G triad” is described using the major quality.

    The interval between the first and third tone of the C minor triad:

    …(which is C and Eb):

    …is a minor third. This explains why the “C-Eb-G triad” is described using the minor quality.

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

    Final Words

    The structural difference between the major and minor triad helps you understand the intervals they’re made up of, why certain chords are classified as major triads while others are classified as minor triads.

    In a subsequent lesson, we’ll take it a notch higher by learning about the functional difference between the major and minor triad.

    Keep up the great work!

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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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