The Complete Language of Music – Harmony 2

Today’s Harmony blog follows on from Monday’s blog. We finished up by saying that there were 2 main types of Triad. They are:-

  1. Major Triad.
  2. Minor Triad. 

The third is less used but still as important:-

3)   Minor Flat 5 (b5) Triad.

So what is the difference?

To find out you must look at the distance from the 1 note to the 3 note, in terms of semi-tones. If you go back to the Chromatic Scale and look at the distance it will tell you if the triads are Major or Minor. Below are the two facts that help you work out Major and Minor Triads.

If the distance from note 1 to note 3 is 3 Semi-Tones it is a Minor Triad.

If the distance from note 1 to note 3 is 4 Semi-Tones it is a Major Triad.

Taking the example:-

 A, C#, E. We count the semi-tones from A to C#.

By adding each semi-tone we get the following:-

A to A#/Bb is one semi-tone.

  A#/Bb to B is two semi-tones.

B to C is three semi-tones.

C to C# is four semi-tones.

So A to C# is four semi-tones and therefore is a Major Triad.

All the Major chords sound happy and upbeat.

All the Minor Chords sound sad or reflective.

Going through the Triads you will find that:-

·        The A Triad is Major.                        

·        The B Triad is Minor.               

·        The C# Triad is Minor.

·        The D Triad is Major.          

·        The E Triad is Major.              

·        The F# Triad is Minor.

The G# Triad is the 3rd Triad type – Minor b5.

All the other triads have the same distance, in semi-tones, between the 1st and 5th notes that is 7 semi-tones.

The G# Triad only has 6 semi-tones, so, being one less, it is called a flat 5th note

For now it is not a commonly used chord so we won’t spend too much time on it but the main way is to use it as a moving chord. You don’t stop on it but use it between 2 other chords.

Having looked at the A Major Scale and the chords associated with it and then all the other Major Scales we can now look at the Major scale triads in the same way as we looked at the Major scales themselves. The theory and patterns used are the same, but the chord shapes on the guitar can work out different.

The pattern for the Major scale triads is always:-

1          2          3           4           5          6           7

 Major, Minor, Minor, Major, Major, Minor, Minor b5

Below are all the Major scales and their related triads. Any triads written with just a capital letter is a Major triad and capital letter with a small m is a Minor triad. The m b5 is called a Minor flat 5 triad.

KEY         NOTES                                                     TRIADS  

C            C,D,E,F,G,A,B,C.                                      C, Dm, Em, F, G, Am, Bm b5.                 

G            G,A,B,C,D,E,F#,G.                                    G, Am, Bm, C, D, Em, F#m b5.              

D            D,E,F#,G,A,B,C#,D.                                  D, Em, F#m, G, A, Bm, C#m b5. 

A            A,B,C#,D,E,F#,G#,A.                                A, Bm, C#m, D, E, F#m,G#m b5. 

E            E,F#,G#,A,B,C#,D#,E.                              E, F#m, G#m, A, B, C#m, D#m b5.          

B            B,C#,D#,E,F#,G#,A#,B.                           B, C#m, D#m, E, F#, G#m, A#m b5.        

F#          F#,G#,A#,B,C#,D#,E#,F#.            F#, G#m, A#m, B, C#, D#m, E#m b5.     

C#         C#,D#,E#,F#,G#,A#,B#,C#.                     C#, D#m, E#m, F#, G#, A#m, B#m b5.   

F           F,G,A,Bb,C,D,E,F.                                      F, Gm, Am, Bb, C, Dm, Em b5.     

Bb        Bb,C,D,Eb,F,G,A,Bb.                                Bb, Cm, Dm, Eb, F, Gm, Am b5.     

Eb        Eb,F,G,Ab,Bb,C,D,Eb.                              Eb, Fm, Gm, Ab, Bb, Cm, Dm b5.

Ab        Ab,Bb,C,Db,Eb,F,G,Ab.                            Ab, Bbm, Cm, Db, Eb, Fm, Gm b5.    

Db        Db,Eb,F,Gb,Ab,Bb,C,Db.                         Db, Ebm, Fm, Gb, Ab, Bbm, Cm b5.         

Gb       Gb,Ab,Bb,Cb,Db,Eb,F,Gb.                       Gb, Abm, Bbm, Cb, Db, Ebm, Fm b5.

Cb       Cb,Db,Eb,Fb,Gb,Ab,Bb,Cb.                     Cb, Dbm, Ebm, Fb, Gb, Abm, Bbm b5.

Armed with the information above we can identifying the Key or Scale for a written piece of music. Once we have worked this out a whole load of information is available to us.

So how do we do it?

To identify a key:

1) First look at the Major chords and try and put them in alphabetical order. Do they fit the 1,4,5 pattern shown above? Do they fit in the diagram shown above?

2)  If they don’t go to the second alphabetical chord and start with that. Do they fit the 1,4,5 pattern shown above? Do they fit in the diagram shown above?

3)  If they don’t go to the third alphabetical chord and start with that. Do they fit the 1,4,5 pattern shown above? Do they fit in the diagram shown above?

Once you have worked out the Major chords check the Minor chords fit in the Key.

If we take the chords E Major, C# Minor, B Major and A Major what key are they in?

To identify a key:

1) First look at the Major chords and try and put them in alphabetical order. Do they fit the 1,4,5 pattern shown above? – A, B, E. – No. Do they fit in the diagram shown above? – No.

2) If they don’t go to the second alphabetical chord and start with that. Do they fit the 1,4,5 pattern shown above? – B,E,A. – No. Do they fit in the diagram shown above? – No.

3) If they don’t go to the third alphabetical chord and start with that. Do they fit the 1,4,5 pattern shown above? – E,A,B. – Yes.  Do they fit in the diagram shown above? – Yes – E Major Key.

Once you have worked out the Major chords check the Minor chords fit in the Key. Yes C# Minor is in the key of E Major.

This is another example of using information from theory to work out written songs so that you can then play them on your instrument. Enjoy.

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