• The Classification Of Triads According To Stability

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

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    If you’re interested in learning more about the classification of triads, then you’re on the right page.

    There are four common triads in traditional harmony:

    The major triad

    The minor triad

    The diminished triad

    The augmented triad

    …and there are more than one theoretical basis for the classification of these triads. But in this lesson, we’re focusing on the concept of stability and how it can be used in the classification of triads.

    Kindly give me your undivided attention and the next seven minutes and guarantee you that your perspective to major, minor, diminished, and augmented triads will change.

    The Concept Of Stability — Explained

    When a chord is played, the outcome is either agreeable (stable) or not.

    Agreeable (or stable) chords are classified as concord while chords that have a degree of tension (and having the tendency to move to a more stable chord when played) are classified as discord.

    Before we take a look at the discord, let’s talk about the concord.

    Quick Insights On The Concept Of The Concord

    Chords that are ONLY made up of consonant intervals are classified as concord.

    The following intervals are consonant:

    The minor third

    The major third

    The major sixth

    The minor sixth

    The perfect fifth

    The perfect octave

    …and chords with these intervals are said to be concordant.

    A Short Note On The Concept Of The Discord

    The primary source of discord are chromatic dissonant intervals. Once a chord has one or more chromatic dissonant intervals as its component, such a chord will sound unstable.

    Here’s an example:

    In the C dominant seventh chord:

    …the interval between the 3rd and 7th tones (which are E and Bb respectively):

    …is a diminished fifth interval — which is a chromatic dissonant interval. It is the chromatic dissonant interval (E-Bb) in the C dominant seventh chord that makes it discordant.

    It is also important to note that following intervals are dissonant:

    All augmented intervals

    All diminished intervals

    The minor second

    The major second

    The perfect fourth

    The minor seventh

    The major seventh

    …and any chord with any of the above-mentioned intervals are classified as discord.

    The Classification Of Triads According To Stability

    Let’s go ahead and classify the four commonly known triads:

    The major triad

    The minor triad

    The diminished triad

    The augmented triad

    …according to stability. Don’t forget that the stability of a chord is determined by its intervallic components. So, we’ll be looking out for consonant and dissonant intervals.

    The Major Triad

    The C major triad (our reference) can be broken down into the following intervallic components:

    C to E:

    …a major third interval.

    E to G:

    …a minor third interval.

    C to G:

    …a perfect fifth interval.

    All the intervals in the major triad are consonant; consequently, the major triad is a stable triad. So, all major triads are classified as stable chords.

    The Minor Triad

    A breakdown of the C minor triad:

    …shows the following intervallic components:

    C to Eb:

    …a minor third interval.

    Eb to G:

    …a major third interval.

    C to G:

    …a perfect fifth interval.

    The minor third, major third, and perfect fifth intervals derived from the minor triad are ALL consonant intervals and this makes the minor triad a stable triad (just like the major triad).

    The Diminished Triad

    The diminished triad consists of the following intervals: the minor third and diminished fifth interval. Using the C diminished triad (as a reference):

    …here are the intervallic components of the diminished triad:

    C to Eb:

    …a minor third interval.

    Eb to Gb:

    …a minor third interval.

    C to Gb:

    …a diminished fifth interval.

    The diminished triad has a diminished fifth interval and it’s important to note that the quality of the triad (which is diminished) is derived from the diminished fifth interval.

    Attention: In the previous segment, we learned that chords that have diminished intervals (which are dissonant) are classified as discord.

    The diminished triad (because of the diminished fifth interval it consists of) is not a stable triad; it’s rather said to be active. When an active triad is played, the dissonance between chord tones create the tendency for the triad to move (or resolve) to a more stable chord.

    In a nutshell, the diminished triad is an active triad.

    The Augmented Triad

    The C augmented triad (our reference) can be broken down into the following intervallic components:

    C to E:

    …a major third interval.

    E to G#:

    …a major third interval.

    C to G#:

    …an augmented fifth interval.

    The augmented triad (because of the augmented fifth interval) is NOT a stable chord. So, it is classified as an active triad.

    Final Words

    In the classification of triads according to stability, there are basically two classes of triads: stable and active triads.

    Stable Triads

    The major and minor triads are stable triads and this is because of the absence of dissonant intervals. Major and minor triads can be broken down to the following consonant intervals:

    The major third

    The minor third

    The perfect fifth

    Active Triads

    Diminished and augmented triads are active triads and when played they have the tendency to move to a more stable chord. The active triads (the diminished and augmented) have the following dissonant intervals:

    The diminished fifth

    The augmented fifth

    See you in the next lesson!

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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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    { 1 comment… read it below or add one }

    1 Carolyn

    Thanks. Your break down of this is very simply to understand and I thank you. It really means a lot. The way you explained it. Please continue the good work. I love the way you really broke this down. I really have to book mark this information because it’s helping me to truly understand music. God bless you and your family..

    Reply

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