You Don't Know What A TRIAD Is

You Don't Know What A TRIAD Is

Tommaso Zillio

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what are triads

What is a triad?

Well, it's a three-legged device that is typically used to hold up cameras or video cameras. It allows for a steady phot— oh sorry, that's tripods, not triads. Whoops. My bad!

So what is a triad in music?

Simple! Absolutely elementary, my dear Watson!

A triad is a combination of three notes. Thanks for reading!

...Oh, but actually, those notes need to be a stack of thirds. Yes. Thanks for reading!

...One more thing, sometimes they can actually be a stack of a second and a fourth. You know, like, "suspended" triads. Thanks for reading.

... No wait, some people don't call these last ones triads. Oh, well, let's chalk this to "the exception that proves the rule" (a phrase that does not mean anything, but boy, it does shut down annoying nitpickers). Thanks for rea...

... What? Oh right. There is also the matter of the Lydian and the Phrygian triads. Can't forget about those! So thanks for...

... Waaait, one more thing. Those notes also have to be — you know what, it seems like maybe there’s a bit more to this than you or I anticipated.

I think maybe you should watch the video below, so we can see together all the important things that make triads, triads.

P.S. If you are thinking, "But it's just a matter of names. It's all semantics!"... eh... you wish...

Are you interested in learning more about chords and harmony? Understanding triads is a great start, but there is always something new to learn about chords.

If you want to start expanding your knowledge of chords on the guitar, check out my Complete Chord Mastery guitar course, and start improving your knowledge of chords and harmony today.

Video Transcription

Hello internet, so nice to see you! Today we have a seemingly easy question that becomes way, way, way more complex and interesting. And the question is, what is a triad? That will seem like such a basic question that everybody should know what is a triad? As you're gonna see, it's really not that easy. And it's interesting why.

So, in general, we all agree, for instance, that a major chord is a triad. And a minor chord is a triad. Okay, augmented and diminished, usually a triad to show but what is of that? How do we get there? The find that I mean, try the simply, the name, triad simply connects the number three. So there are three notes in that chord.

Okay, that's, that's why so. But what is the triad Exactly? Well, the classical definition given as far as I know, by your demo in 1722, was that you have to build your chord by stacking thirds, okay. And you have only two kinds of thirds major thirds and minor third major third is for half step simple. And the minor third, for complicated reason, the three half steps. So you have a starting note, which is your root note, let's say C.

Okay, your starting note is C. From these C, you can go up either a major third, or a minor third. So either four half step, and you're going to find the note E. Or a minor third, three half steps are going to find the note D flat. And from there, you can go up a major third or a minor third. Okay, so a minor effect in three half steps. So you're going to have G or in this case G sharp, here we're going to have G or G.

So you have only four possible combination, major third major third major third minor, third minor, third major third minor, third minor, third major minor, we call these the major chord, minor major because these the minor chord, minor minor, we call this a diminished chord. And major major, we call that the augmented chord, again, for complicated reasons. And I'm not going to go into right now.

So we seem to have only those four possible combination. That is the original definition on what is a triad? And everybody so far seems to agree. Hey, no, that's up to us. Why are we even watching this video? Because at a certain point, somebody started talking about suspended triads. And that's where the whole thing came down. Because what is a suspended triad? Well, I suspend the triad.

Let's see. Yeah, there's actually two classical suspended triads, we have C sus four, which is the classical one, the notes are C, F, and G. And then we have c sus two. And again, like everything can see it's easier to just see the N G. But you notice that those intervals are not anymore and not thirds anymore.

Okay, so now we have a something that is made by an interval of a second and an interval. So you know, afford an interval of a second. So it's a fourth and a second. And here, it's a sacrament of four. Okay, so at this point, you're not gonna ask, okay, so every chord note only a record of three notes that is made only on second and fourth is a triad?

No, because if I take a second in a second, they have C, D, and E. And that's not a triad. Everybody agrees. That's not a triad. Because not all the combination of notes make a triad if I take a foreign afford A or C, F and B flat, and that some people call that a quartile chord, but a quartile triad sometimes but we don't know if that's a triad.

Okay. See, the problem here is the problem of methodology, if you want is that at the beginning, we give out operative definition, we said tryouts I think made of major thirds and minor third, and you have only three notes. That's a great definition, it tells you exactly what it is what is not but then some of these are talking about other kinds of trials and then we are left with a definition by example meaning major, minor, augmented and diminished triad, the suspended second and four are triads.

And that's it. And everybody think they understood what a triad is. But in reality, you just have six examples and you have a few negative examples and nobody told you exactly what it is that makes a triad a triad. And even if it didn't make sense to have a definition, what is what is the problem? And what is not?

Why can't I use other combination of three notes to compose my music? Spoiler alert, I think is exactly whatever I want. Not a problem. But if we're talking about triads, we need to know what they're talking about. And we don't know. Because then, recently, more recently, much more recently, in the history of music, we had a few youtubers talking about different kinds of chord and calling them try it.

So for instance, we have somebody that said that he had these a Selenium triad they call Live, which is C, F sharp, and G, and then the the C Phrygian. triad, which is C, D flat, and G. So at this point, it seems like triad is everything, it has a perfect fifth. And then I'm not in between except the diminishment of winter coat, I don't have a perfect fifth. So Haha, I mean, first of all, those have been called triads, because some people tell you those are not triads because they don't fit the definition.

So not even the suspended triads. The point I want to make here is that you can use a definition you want but you have to be coherent, otherwise, you're gonna make a big mess. Why is this important for your music, because once you have a definition of something, this defines your musical landscape. Those triads here are those chords if you don't want to call them try those harmonies, or if you don't want to call them chords are, those things here sounds good.

And they create a specific sounds, if you consider them triads, they're going to become more and more common in music because people are like, I know what the triad is a major chord is a triad. And when a chord is a triad, this is not harder, because it's just a triad. There's kind of this psychological effect. If we don't call them triads, we call them in a different way, people are going to use them less and less and less, because they think those are not quite as complex things. And the name is complex, they're not going to use them.

It's strange, but that's the way we eat goes in the in the, in the community of musicians. Indeed, for instance, this chord here is C, F sharp G, existed well, before they hit YouTube and the internet, okay, indeed, it exists. In the first half of the 20th century, there were a group of musician called the Second Viennese School, which is Schlumberger. And essentially, these students are the guys responsible for the city of music, etc.

They were using this chord here, and they call these but not the critics called those this code, the Viennese tripod. Now, if you call this a try chord, rather than a triad, what happens is that the looks really complex, and less and less people use it, to the point at the Second Viennese School itself at a certain point, I mean, some of those musicians said, we are not going to call it the Viennese tricorder anymore.

Because it makes it sound so abstract and complex, etc, etc. Okay, it's kind of strange, that kind of refusing that the thing you invented is given your name, okay, because it will make it too complex or strange. So at the end of the day, we have been left with several definition of what a triad is, it's a chord made by stacking up thirds, it is just this chord and list or it is just those examples here, but not the example here. And you never give a rule, which is probably the worst thing. All we include all those chords for, for instance, if I put those chords in and try as triads at this point, everything has a perfect fifth and a note in between is a triad. But also, we have course, like diminished and augmented where you have an augmented fifth or a diminished fifth.

So if I play an augmented fifth, and they put any other note in between, it's still a triad, like, if I play C and G sharp, augmented fifth, and in between I put a D. Is that a triad or not? Newsflash? Probably not. Because this will sound a lot like the seven with a flat five. Okay, if you use these in context, and what if I use something else?

What if I don't go and go C, D flat, G sharp? Well, D flat and G sharp, this is an harmonic to a flat. So this sounds a lot like a D flat major seven without a third. So you cannot call those drives, because they are actually incomplete seven chord and we already have a name for those.

So all of these sounds like a big mess. whatever definition you choose, it's okay. What I would recommend is do whatever makes sense to you. But don't go on the internet and talk to people. This is not a triad, unless you're ready for all this kind of discussion and counter example. Okay. So at the end of the day, that's what I recommend.

First of all, is the definition you want as long as it makes sense to you. And it's useful for your music and the kind of music you want to make. If you like those chords, call them fires, no problem. Okay? If you'd like to distinguish between those chord and the standard triads don't call those triads call them try chords or something different, okay?

Or group of three notes that happens to sound good to me. Okay, no problem. Second, stuff going around the internet telling people this is not a triad. This is a code this is a triad whatever the point of the names is to understand each other once you got the message, forget about it. Third, bind. If you want to learn more about everything harmony, and how to actually use those things in your music, then I recommend my course complete chord mastery.

It's not a book. It's a complete video course that takes you from the basics up. We do everything you need to know about harmony and chords on your guitar. All the theory is done straight on the fretboard. There is no theory for the sake of theory here. Everything is immediately practical. And everything is developed through exercises so you know how to apply these immediately on your guitar.

If you have just a minute click on the link on the top right to check out complete chord mastery. If you liked this video, smash that like button and don't forget to subscribe and click on notification otherwise YouTube will not let you know when I put up a new video. And if you have any comments, feedback, suggestions, write them down in the comment. I enjoy reading from you and they make videos on your suggestions. This is Tommaso Zillio of MusicTheoryForGuitar.com, and until next time, enjoy.

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