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What is a Triad?

A triad is a chord that contains 3 different notes. There are several types of triads. Triads are the most basic chords and are very common in every style of music.

What is a Major Triad?

The major triad is the most common triad. Its sound is often described as simple, bright, and happy.

The major triad is comprised of a root, major 3rd, and perfect 5th. (See intervals.) We would refer to these notes simply as the root, third, and fifth of the chord.

Another way of thinking about chord construction is to see them as different combinations of major and minor 3rd intervals stacked on top of one another. In this way a major triad is comprised of a major 3rd interval (root to the 3rd) with a minor 3rd interval on top (3rd to the 5th).

The major triad is the only chord built from this unique combination of intervals.

Major Triad Pattern Fingering

There are, as with everything on the bass, numerous ways to play major triad patterns on the fretboard. I will start you out with one simple, versatile fingering. Later we’ll come back and more thoroughly explore other fingering possibilities.

This fingering (see the major triad diagram) begins with your 2nd finger on the low root note. Play the third of the chord with your 1st finger, the fifth of the chord with your 4th finger, and the high root note with your 4th finger.

12 Major Triads

The major triad pattern can be started on any of music's 12 notes. For a D major triad, you’d start the root note on D. Its notes would be D, F#, and A.

For a G major triad, you’d make G the root note. Its notes would be G, B, and D. There are 12 major triads all sharing the same structure, but containing different notes.

Major Triad Notation

Chords have their own separate notation system called chord symbols. The chord symbol for the major triad consists of just the root note of the chord.

For example, in written music a C major triad is notated “C”. An Eb major triad is notated “Eb”.

Someone may tell you, “The chords for the verse are F, C, Bb, C.” This means the chords are an F major triad, C major triad, Bb major triad, and another C major triad.

Chord symbols are written above the staff and notes of the written music. The chord is written above the beat where the chord change takes place. This is most often beat 1. But, chords can change anywhere within the measure.

Applying the Major Triad

When you come across a major triad in a song, your role is to provide a foundation for its sound. You can do this by emphasizing the notes of the major triad pattern.

Many basslines emphasize the notes of the major triad by simply going up and down the notes of the triad.

When creating a bassline the notes of the triad do not need to be played in any particular order. And, you don’t necessarily need to play all of the triad’s notes to imply its sound. For instance, you might only play the root and the third.

Any of the notes of the triad can be repeated in your bassline, too. You might play a root, 3 fifths, and 1 third in your line.

Even more is possible with where you place the notes rhythmically. Most often basslines emphasize the root of the chord on beat 1. Everything else is open territory.

Even though the triad only contains 3 notes, it is ripe with possibilities. When you combine all of the possible ways of ordering and repeating the notes along with the rhythmic possibilities for placing the notes, you will realize the possibilities are infinite. Experiment and try to create your own basslines outlining the notes of any major triad or a series of them.

Major Triad Exercises and Examples

You want to be very familiar with this major triad chord pattern. Check out the major triad examples page for some exercises to practice and some example basslines applying the major triad.

Major Triad Details
Chord symbol notation: C
C major triad spelling: C, E, G
Intervallic construction: Root, M3, P5
Thirds construction: M3, m3