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Shred Academy - Free Guitar Lesson by Vaughan Egan
There seems to be a few people requesting lessons on theory lately
so this is my article dealing with a very basic element of music
theory, that of, how to construct the basic major chords –
also known as triads.
Well, on with
just take a look at what a chord actually is: a chord is any collection
of notes or pitches that are played together simultaneously or
near-simultaneously. I guess you can understand why it’s
near simultaneously in the case of playing a guitar with a pick.
Now for a
little bit of history, yes, the boring bits. The word chord comes
from cord which is a Middle English shortening of accord. In the
Middle Ages, Western harmony featured the perfect intervals of
a fourth, a fifth, and an octave. In the 15th and 16th centuries
however, the major and minor triads became increasingly common.
Now it is
that last little bit of information that really concerns us, the
major and minor triads. You may have guessed from the “tri”
prefix that this means 3. So these are actually 3 note chords.
So when someone says to play an “A” chord, what they
are in essence saying is, play me a 3 note chord constructed from
the “A” major scale. The “A” is the most
important note in this chord, and that the A is where the focus
So how do
we go about creating a major triad? I’m glad you asked because
that is what this lesson is really all about. Triad Construction.
Well to create
our triads we need to know a little about how the major scale
is constructed. So lets take a quick look at that very topic.
to create a major scale is based on the root note (the note at
which the scale starts) and follows this pattern W, W, H, W, W,
W ,H. Now in case you didn’t know know the “W”
refers to a whole step, and the “H” refers to a half
step. Now in the guitars case the whole step refers to a 2 fret
space, whereas the half step is just a single fret space.
So in the
case of the C major scale our root note is C. Now following the
formula from C with a whole step we arrive at D bypassing C#,
then the next whole step we arrive at E bypassing D#, the next
step though is a half step so we go up a single fret and end on
F. So to follow this through to its logical conclusion we have
Root: W W
H W W W H
C D E F G A B C (octave pitch)
is how the C major scale would look like on the 5th string of
Ok, so we have our major scale so what does that have to do with
chords? Well now, the major scale is the foundation for all music
theory. So lets just take a look at the triads. Now to create
a major triad based on the C major scale we need to know another
simple formula: 1, 3, 5. These numbers refer to their placment
within the scale. The first note in the scale is of course C,
the third note is E, and the fifth note is G. So the C major triad
is: C, E, G.
again with the G major scale gives us a different result. The
G major scale consists of the notes: G, A, B, C, D, E, F#, G.
So by using the 1, 3, 5 formula, we can tell that the first note
is G, the third note is B, fifth note is D. So the G major triad
is: G, B, D.
above takes care of the Major triads. But there are other types
of triads as well namely Minor triads, Diminished triads and Augmented
triads. So let’s talk about them too, don’t want to
make them feel left out.
Now that we
know our formulas for creating the major scale and the formula
for making major triads based on the major scale, to make minor
triads then, we need to know one more formula. The formula is
also based on the major scale. The formula is 1, b3, 5. Now the
“b3” refers to a flat symbol on the musical staff.
In this regards we take the 3rd note of the major scale and make
it flat. So using the C major as our example:
C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C (octave)
the formula 1, b3, 5. We can see that the first note is C, the
fifth note is G, and the third note is flattened so instead of
getting E we get Eb. So the minor triad is: C, Eb, G. These triads
have a sad quality about them whereas the major triads have a
happy quality about them.
about every aspiring neo-classical guitarist has used dimished
runs at one time or another without even realising it. It is because
they were made popular by Malmsteen for use in sweeping.
is an Malmsteen type sweeping arpeggio lick using Diminshed 7th
chords. Not exactly a triad as it has four notes, but, used to
illustrate what can be done with diminished chords.
these triads we have yet another formula to be memorised 1, b3,
b5. So going back to our C major scale:
C, D, E, F,
G, A, B, C (octave)
the formula 1,b3, b5. We can see that the first note is C, the
third note is flattened giving a note of Eb, and the fifth note
is also flattened giving us a Gb. So our Diminshed triad is: C,
“C” diminished triad is usually notated as: C°
Last but not least of the four main triadic types are the Augmented
for working out these triads is: 1, 3, #5. The “#”
smybol is the same symbol as used on the musical staff to indicate
a note that is sharpened, on guitar this would mean that the note
is moved up half a step on guitar (one fret).
So to use
the G Major Scale for this example we have:
G, A, B, C,
D, E, F#, G
our formula 1, 3, #5, we can see that our first note is a G, the
third note is B, and the fifth note is sharpened to D#. So our
G Augmented triad is: G, B, D#
A “G” Augmented triad is usually notated as: G+
Well that’s it for the main types of triads and I hope you
found the article helpful.