• Who Else Wants To Know Three Top Reasons Why Secondary Triads Are Important?

    in Beginners,Chords & Progressions,General Music,Piano,Theory

    Secondary triads are important for a variety of reasons.

    In previous posts, we’ve explored primary triads – from its definition, to its harmonic function, and so on. In today’s lesson, we’re taking a step in another direction by focusing on three top reasons why secondary triads are important.

    But before we proceed, let’s lay the foundation of this study by exploring secondary triads.

    A Review On Triads

    Although there are many ways to define a triad, we’ll go with the definition below:

    A triad is a collection of three related notes (which may be agreeable or not), sounded together.

    Here are some of the keywords in the definition above:

    • Three
    • Related Notes
    • Agreeable Or Not
    • Together

    To take you a step further, I’ll be expounding on these keywords.


    The prefix tri in the term triad suggests the number of the components in the triad. A triad consists of three notes – neither more or less than three notes can make a triad.

    Attention: It’s possible for a triad to have four notes. Read more here.

    “…Related Notes…”

    Before any collection of three notes can be considered as a triad, there must be a relationship between them. The notes of a triad are basically related in two ways:

    Relationship By A Given Scale

    The notes of the C major triad which are C, E, and G:

    …are related by the C natural major scale:

    …because C, E, and G are the first, third and fifth tones of the C natural major scale.

    Relationship By A Class Of Harmony

    The distance between successive notes in a triad is determined by the class of harmony of that triad.

    For example, the distance between the notes of the C major triad is determined by a class of harmony known as tertian harmony – where the distance between successive chord tones is in third intervals.

    The distance between C and E:

    …or E and G:

    …are third intervals respectively. Consequently, the class of harmony that relates the tones of the C major triad:

    …is tertian harmony.

    Simply put, the tones of every triad must have scale and class of harmony relationship.


    For all intents and purposes, a triad is a chord. This means that a triad can be defined as a chord of three notes. I dug a little further and I discovered that the term chord is derived from accord – an old English word that means “together”.

    So, while playing the notes of a triad, three of them are to be played/heard together (in accord).

    “What Are Secondary Triads?”

    Permit me to digress.

    If there are secondary triads, that presupposes that there are primary triads. Although primary triads are not our main focus in this lesson, it’s important we also highlight it briefly before we go on.

    Primary triads are triads that have the same quality with the key. For example, in the major key, triads that have a major quality are said to be primary triads and this is because they have the same quality with the key (major). The same thing is obtainable in the minor key, where primary triads are minor triads – having the same quality with the key.

    “Back To Our Focus…”

    Secondary triads are triads that differ from the quality of the key. For example, in the key of C major:

    …here are the scale degree triads:

    C major

    D minor

    E minor

    F major

    G major

    A minor

    B diminished

    C major

    The minor triads:

    D minor

    E minor

    A minor

    …are classified as secondary triads because they don’t have the same quality with the major key.

    “In A Nutshell…”

    Secondary triads are minor triads of the second, third, and sixth degree in the major key.

    Three Top Reasons Why Secondary Triads Are Important

    #1 – More Varied, Subtler, And Richer In Harmony Than Primary Chords

    #2 – They Can Be Used As Substitutes (Subsidiary Chords)

    #3 – They Provide A Contrast With The Key-Affirming Primary Chords

    Final Words

    The importance of secondary chords cannot be over-emphasized. There are several other reasons why every serious musician must know secondary triads and we’ll be exploring them in subsequent lessons.

    In addition to that, we’ll also learn how secondary chords can be applied in real life songs.

    Thanks for your time and see you in another lesson!

    The following two tabs change content below.
    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.

    Previous post:

    Next post: