• Revealed: The Concept Of Mutually Exclusive Triads

    in Chords & Progressions,Experienced players,General Music,Piano,Theory

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    You arrived at this page because you’re interested in learning about the concept of mutually exclusive triads.

    In this lesson, you’ll find out how bigger chords like seventh chords, ninth chords, eleventh chords, and thirteenth chords can be broken down into smaller chords — triads.

    I guarantee that at the end of this lesson, you’ll discover that each time you look at bigger chords (like sevenths, etc.), you’ll effortlessly break them down to smaller chords.

    Before we go into the concept of mutually exclusive triads, let’s discuss briefly on triads.

    A Quick Review On Triads

    According to Jermaine Griggs, “…a triad is a collection of three related notes (agreeable or not) that maybe played together or separately.

    Permit me at this point to breakdown this definition of a triad so that you can have a better understanding.

    The first part of the definition says, ‘…a collection of three…’

    “…a collection of three…”

    It takes three notes to form a triad. Although there are four note triads, more of less than three notes cannot form a triad. Considering the fact that a chord can be defined as a collection of three or more notes, a triad fits into the description of what is known as a chord.

    Let’s take a look at the second part of the definition which says, ‘related notes

    “…related notes…”

    The notes of a triad must be related, in other words, they must be in relationship.

    Inasmuch as triads can be formed using three notes, not every set or collection of three note can be called a triad. Before a set of three notes can be called a triad, they must have a scale and intervallic relationship.

    “Let me explain this relationship…”

    We’ll be using a known triad:

    …the C major triad (which consists of C E and G.)

    There is a scale relationship between C, E, and G:

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

    …therefore what the notes of the C major triad:

    …share in common is that they are scale tones of the C major scale:

    There is also intervallic relationship between the notes of the triad.

    In a triad, the distance between successive chord tones is based on a stipulated interval.

    In this case of the C major triad:

    …take note that C to E:

    …is a third, and E to G:

    …is also a third, therefore, the intervallic relationship between the notes of the C major triad:

    …is in thirds, and this is known to music scholars as tertian harmony.

    Attention: Tertian harmony is the outcome of creating a relationship between notes in intervals of thirds.

    A Breakdown Of The Concept Of Mutually Exclusive Triads

    The concept of mutually exclusive triads has to do with the number of triads that are perceptible in a chord. In this segment, we’ll be taking a closer look at how seventh and ninth chords can be broken down into mutually exclusive triads.

    A Breakdown Of Seventh Chords

    A seventh chord is basically a chord that encompasses seven scale tones when played in root position. For example, the C major seventh chord:

    …encompasses seven scale tones of the C natural major scale:

    …from C (which is the first) to B (which is the seventh):

    A seventh chord usually consists of four notes:

    The root

    The third

    The fifth

    The seventh

    In the C major seventh chord:

    C is the root

    E is the third

    G is the fifth

    B is the seventh

    A seventh chord can be broken down into two triads, and here’s how:

    • Root + third + fifth = 1st triad
    • Third + fifth + seventh = 2nd triad

    “Let’s Breakdown The C Major Seventh Chord Into Mutually Exclusive Triads…”

    The C major seventh chord:

    …consists of two triads. The first triad is a product of the root, third, and fifth tones (which are C, E, and G respectively):

    …while the second triad consists of the third, fifth, and seventh tones (which are E, G, and B respectively):

    The first triad in this case is the C major triad:

    …while the second triad in this case is the E minor triad:

    Summarily, the C major seventh chord can be described as a product of these two mutually exclusive triads:

    The C major triad

    The E minor triad


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    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.

    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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