You probably have heard this term before, but maybe haven’t been able to completely define it. Especially as an aspiring musician, composer, producer, etc., you have heard this word before:
Which is a group of pitches played at the same time (or played in succession of one another in overlap) to create harmony.
Harmony, which we have talked about before in terms of harmonic intervals, are sounds (two or more) sounding at the same time.
Chords are defined by their collection of pitches, order, arrangement, etc. Today, we are going to talk about the basic kinds of chords in modern music. Those are triads, which are chords comprised of three different pitches, with the notes (from lowest to highest) are a third apart from each other.
That might be a confusing definition, so let’s take it a deferent approach…
Let’s list off the different kinds of musical intervals of thirds. There is the m3 (minor third) and the M3 (Major third). Now, let’s come up with the different interval combinations between the three possible notes:
- m3 – m3
- m3 – M3
- M3 – m3
- M3 – M3
Great, now let’s actually right them out. Start on middle C, and then write the pitches above with the possible interval combinations above:
These are triads. Three note chords built on thirds. Play them and listen how different they are. They go by these names:
- m3 – m3, Diminished Triad
- m3 – M3, Minor Triad
- M3 – m3, Major Triad
- M3 – M3, Augmented Triad
When talking about the quality of a triad, we look at the root, which is the lowest note the chord is built upon, and call it by its letter name. Then, we look at the third and fifth (respective pitches above that are a third and fifth apart from the root) to see the intervals to define the quality.
So, if we write D-F-A, we get a D minor triad. That is because the root is D and the interval combination of the thirds are m3 – M3. Try writing triads and seeing what you get!
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