• Triads And Seventh Chords Every Serious Musician Must Not Be Without

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    There are essential triads and seventh chords that every serious musician must have in his/her chordal arsenal.

    These chords are important because of their relevance across a variety of music genres and styles. I guarantee that if you learn these chords and recognize them, you’ll hardly hear any harmony that you won’t be able to figure out.

    We’ll be covering these various classes of triads and seventh chords in this lesson and most importantly, you’ll be ending this lesson with an assignment on learning how to play them in all the keys.

    Let’s discuss briefly on triads and seventh chords before we proceed.

    A Short Note On Triads And Seventh Chords

    A vast majority of all the chords you possibly know about are either triads or seventh chords.

    Attention: Apart from triads and seventh chords, you have extended chords and then other non-tertian chords like sixth chords, suspended chords, added-tone chords, etc.

    A Short Note On Triads

    Triads are three note chords formed by notes that are related by a particular scale and usually in third intervals. So, if you take any given scale, and stack notes together in third intervals, you’d most likely form a triad.

    Let’s use the C major scale (as our scale reference):

    If we take C (as our root note):

    …and add other tones to C (that are a third above C):

    …like E:

    …and G:

    …we’ll have C, E, and G:

    …which is a triad and specifically the C major triad.

    Quick Review On Seventh Chords

    A seventh chord is just like the triad in terms of formation, however, it encompasses an interval of a seventh and instead of three tones, four tones are used.

    For example, if another tone (a third above its highest tone [which is G]) is added to the C major triad:

    …and that’s B:

    …we’ll have C, E, G, and B:

    …and that’s a seventh chord because it encompasses a seventh (from C to B):

    …and it’s specifically a C major seventh chord.

    Triads Every Musician Must Not Be Without

    There are four triad types that every serious musician must know and play in all keys and we’ll be covering them in this segment.

    The Major Triad

    The major triad is formed when the first, third, and fifth tones of the major scale in any key are played together. For example, in the key of E major:

    …the first, third, and fifth tones (E, G#, and B respectively):

    …when played together, produces the E major triad:

    Major triads are very important because they are the primary chords of the major key. In the key of C major:

    …there are three primary chords:

    The C major triad:

    The F major triad:

    The G major triad:

    …and it is important to note that they are all major chords.

    The Minor Triad

    Using the minor scale as a reference, you can form the minor triad when the first, third, and fifth tones (of the minor scale) are played together.

    Attention: This is similar to what we did in the major key for major chords.

    So, using the G minor scale:

    …the G minor triad can easily be formed using the first, third, and fifth tones of the G minor scale:

    G, Bb, and D:

    …and that’s the G minor triad:

    The major and minor key is replete with minor triads. In the major key, there are three minor triads and in the key of C major:

    …we have the following minor triads:

    The D minor triad (the 2-chord):

    The E minor triad (the 3-chord):

    The A minor triad (the 6-chord):

    …and they can also be called the secondary chords in the major key.

    The Augmented Triad

    The augmented triad is NOT one of those chords that you can find in the major key. However, it has its special place in classical and popular music harmony.

    The whole tone scale:

    …and the Lydian augmented scale:

    …are some of the scales that the augmented triad can be derived from. But, I’d want you to associate the augmented triad with the major triad.

    Raising the fifth tone of the major triad by a half-step produces the augmented triad. For example, the C major triad:

    …can be used in the formation of the C augmented triad. When the fifth tone of the the C major triad (which is G):

    …is raised by a half-step (to G#):

    …the C augmented triad is formed:

    Following the same procedure, any other augmented triad can be formed.

    Attention: Kindly note that augmented triads are great passing chord options. You can play an augmented triad a half-step below your target chord.

    The Diminished Triad

    The diminished triad is the chord of the seventh tone of the major scale (aka – “the 7-chord.”)

    In the key of C major:

    …the seventh tone is B:

    …and the B diminished triad:

    …is the 7-chord.

    Diminished chords can be associated with minor chords and here’s how:

    Lowering the fifth tone of a minor triad by a half-step produces a diminished triad.

    Using the C minor triad:

    …you can form the C diminished triad by lowering the fifth tone of the C minor triad (which is G):

    …by a half-step (to Gb):

    …to form “C-Eb-Gb”:

    …which is (for all intents and purposes) a diminished triad and specifically the C diminished triad.

    Diminished triads are passing chord options and this is because of their scary sound. A diminished triad can be played a half-step below the target chord in a progression.

    Seventh Chords Every Musician Must Not Be Without

    Although there are several seventh chord qualities out there to learn and master. I’m going to give you the top five that I recommend that you master playing in all the keys.

    These seventh chord types are used across a variety of music genres.

    The Major Seventh Chord

    Playing the first, third, fifth, and seventh tones of the major scale in any key produces the major seventh chord and in the key of C major:

    …C, E, G, and B:

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

    …and when played together, that’s the C major seventh chord:

    The major seventh chord has the same quality with the major triad. So, extending the width of the major triad by adding the seventh tone of the scale to it, produces the major seventh chord.

    The major seventh chord can be played as the 1-chord and 4-chord in any major key. In the key of C major:

    …there are two major seventh chords:

    The C major seventh chord:

    The F major seventh chord:

    The Minor Seventh Chord

    The minor seventh chord is a product of the relationship between the following tones in the minor key:

    The first tone

    The third tone

    The fifth tone

    The seventh tone

    …and in the key of C minor:

    …that’s C, Eb, G, and Bb:

    …which is the C minor seventh chord:

    The key of C minor has the following minor seventh chords:

    The D minor seventh chord:

    The E minor seventh chord:

    The A minor seventh chord:

    …and they are the 2-chord, 3-chord, and 6-chord respectively.

    The Dominant Seventh Chord

    The dominant seventh chord is the chord of the fifth tone of the scale.

    Lowering the seventh tone of the major seventh chord by a half-step produces the dominant seventh chord. For example, lowering the seventh tone of the C major seventh chord:

    …which is B:

    …by a half-step (to Bb):

    …produces the C dominant seventh chord:

    In the key of C major:

    …the dominant seventh chord is the 5-chord (the G dominant seventh chord):

    It’s also important to note that the dominant seventh chord is a useful passing chord option both in classical and popular music and resolves to major and minor chords that are a fifth below its root.

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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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