Teach Yourself Music Theory – 32.) Building Triads from Scales

Continuing with our topic of triads, we are going to be discussing what and which triads are built from scales… covering major, natural, harmonic, and melodic minor.

Beside the lead-sheet note note names, the Roman numeral figured-bass and triad quality remains the same from each respective scale regardless of starting pitch.

Let’s start with the major scale:

Building triads on each note, we get what we have above. 3 major triads, 3 minor triads, and 1 diminished triad. Chords I , IV , and V will always be major in a major key.

Now, natural minor:

We have the same amount of major, minor, and diminished triads… but they are in a different order.

As for harmonic minor:

With the inclusion of the raised leading tone, we see a quality of the chords change. Instead of v being minor, V is major in harmonic minor. Also, we have two diminished chords.

Finally, melodic minor:

With two raised pitches, we get another completely different group of triads. Now, the ii chord is minor… but the vio chord is diminished.

NOTE: the “B” symbol in the pictures means “flat” just like the “b” sign.

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Teach Yourself Music Theory – 31.) Figured-Bass and Lead-Sheet Notation

Even though we have been using the staff and writing notes to communicate which notes to play, there are other ways of notating music.

The first way we are going to talk about is figured-bass, which is a more “classical music way” of using Roman numerals and symbols to notate what chords to play in relation to the key.  To notate with figured-bass, you take the following steps:

  • Start by finding the key that you are in (with the example below, we are in C major)
  • Next, determine the chord harmonies with their qualities and inversion
  • Place a Roman numeral underneath each chord, with the numeric value corresponding to the root of the chord in relation to the kay
  • If it is a major triad, use uppercase letters
  • If it is a minor triad, use lowercase letters
  • If it is a diminished triad, use lowercase letters plus an “ o “ symbol
  • If it is an augmented triad, use uppercase letters plus a “ + “ symbol
  • Finally, add extra figures if inverted
  • If it is in first inversion, add a “ 6 “
  • If it is in second inversion, add a “ 6 “ with a “ 4 “ below it

Notice how the “ 6 “ and “ 4 “ correspond to the interval made with the root during an inversion.

Another way is lead-sheet, which is a way commonly found in jazz, pop, and rock tunes of writing out the letter names, chord qualities, as well as inversions of the harmonies.  To notate in a lead-sheet style, you take the following steps:

  • Determine the root of the chord and write it in an uppercase letter above the chord
  • If it is a major triad, do nothing more for its chord quality
  • If it is a minor triad, add “ min “
  • If it is a diminished triad, add an “ o “ symbol
  • If it is an augmented triad, add a “ + “ symbol
  • Finally, add extra figures if inverted
  • Add a slash mark “ / “ and write the bass note after it

Tah-dah!  There you have it.  Give it some practice, but we will be using these forms of communicating and writing for now on.

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Tip #205 – Progress by Voicing

In music theory, we are taught a certain way that chords progress by – following one by another based on their Roman numeral analysis. Such as:

  • V7 goes to I
  • Progression follow the Circle Of Fifths, I-IV-viio-iii-vi-ii-V-I
  • IVmaj7 can act as a predominant area or a Plagal cadence figure.
  • Etc.

Instead of thinking about chords by their Roman numerals, think about their voicings (in relation to the key or outside of it).

For example a dominant-seventh chord. You would think of that as the fifth scale degree to resolve to the root. So, G7 to C.

But, the function of the domain-seventh chord doesn’t always have to be the V7. It can be the:

  • Tritone Substitute, bII7 – I , G7 to F#
  • Dorian Vamp, V7 – ii , G7 to Dmin
  • Bluesy Vamp, IV7 – I, G7 to D
  • I7 chord in a 12-Bar Blues, I7 – V7 – IV7 – I7 , G7 to D7 to C7 to G7
  • Etc.

And now look! You have more possibilities than you can ever think of because you valued the chord voicing more than the Roman numerals in regard to the key.

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Teach Yourself Music Theory – 29.) Identifying Triads

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:


A chord.
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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Teach Yourself Music Theory – 28.) Interval Characteristics

Previously, we have talked about naming and grouping intervals.

Another characteristic we can classify intervals by is if they sound “good” or “bad” to the ear.

Now, this topic is VERY subjective. However, in theory, we have rules to classify the intervals.

An interval (melodic or harmonic) that generally sounds pleasing to the ear and stable is called consonant. Any interval that doesn’t sound “right,” has a need to resolve, classes sonically, or is outside diatonic tonality* is called dissonant.

Within consonance, there are perfect consonances that feature the perfect intervals, and there imperfect consonances that feature everything else.

If this sounds confusing, do not worry. These are labels to help understand the sonic quality of intervals as well as their stability/resolving motion.

Perfect Consonances

  • P1 or Unison
  • P5
  • P8

Imperfect Consonances

  • m3
  • M3
  • m6
  • M6

Dissonances

  • m2
  • M2
  • Tritone
  • m7
  • M7
  • Any diminished interval
  • Any augmented interval

Noticed how the P4 wasn’t included in any of these lists. That is because in the pre-historic times before the Renaissance the P4 was considered a perfect consonance. Then into the Renaissance era, the P4 was regarded as a dissonance. Now, scholars have evaluated the P4 interval again and pretty much made it a wild card.

Listen to the intervals and see if you agree with their classification.

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Teach Yourself Music Theory – 27.) Digging Deeper Into Intervals

If you are still not comfortable with the topic of intervals, I suggest reviewing previous posts. Otherwise, let’s go for a quick refresher:

An interval is the distance between two different pitches/notes. The two different notes can either occur at the same time (called a harmonic interval) or consecutively one after another (called a melodic interval).

Another way to classify intervals is by the span. Simple intervals are those that span an octave or less in length between any two pitches. Those that are of a greater distance than an octave are called compound intervals.

Previously, we have only named up to an octave. To name compound intervals, do the following:

  • Take out the octave(s) distance apart
  • Decide what is the leftover simple interval quality
  • Name it (i.e. M2 )
  • Then at a 7 to the value ( M2 +7 = M9 )

Intervals can also be classified by being grouped into their inversion relation; meaning, that when you take two notes and invert them by either having the lower note go above the higher note… or having the higher note go below the lower note, you produce another interval.

Let’s practice this concept. Start by writing middle C on a staff followed by the E4 pitch above it. Notice that this interval makes a M3. Now, take the middle C and move it up an octave to C5. You have now inverted the pitches, creating a m6 interval. So, M3 and m6 are inversionally related.

Practice writing two different pitches and naming the interval. Then, invert them and find the new interval.

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Teach Yourself Music Theory – 26.) Modes of the Melodic Minor Scale

Not only are there modes built from the diatonic scales of Major and natural minor, but there are modes of the melodic minor, too.


Similarly, they are constructed with the same pitch-class collections, but starting on different pitches and spanning an octave from there.


Below are the different modes and names built from the A melodic minor scale in the key of C:


NOTE:
these are the names I use for the modes. You will encounter multiple names for the same scale, so always be open to change.

Further NOTE: it should be a b6 in the Hindu Scale, my apologies.


Practice building the modes, playing them, and memorizing the names.

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