Piano Chords - Traditional Triads for Non Piano Players

Everyone Should Know a Little Piano

Published: 22 Mar 2021 Updated: 31 Aug 2022Visits: 67Code: PL02

Topic: Chords Instruments: piano Subjects: Chords • Diminished • Augmented • Major • Minor • Traditional

Piano Chords - Traditional Triads for Non Piano Players

Every musician, every hobbyists should know a few basic chrods on a piano. Here is a super easy way to learn the four traditional triads: Major, Minor, Diminished, and Augmented. And, the inversions.

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Traditional Triads

The Traditional Triads, the three note chords are: Major , Minor , Diminished , and Augmented chords that form the foundation for contemporary music. These foundation chords can be created using a Step formula that allows you to create these chords with only knowing the Root or letter name of the chord you want to create.

The Piano Keyboard

The Traditional 88 Key Piano Layout

The first step that we need is to learn the names of the keys on the piano. Luckily, the piano keyboard is a lot easier than any other instrument.

For English-speaking musicians, music only uses the first seven letters of the alphabet to name the white keys: A, B, C, D, E, F, and G. The pattern simply starts over with A.

For France Italy, Spain, Latin American and other countries use Fixed-Do, Solfege.

For Germany they use B for Bb, and H for B. The theory is they wanted to be able to spell B-A-C-H in music.

Additional Resources & Links

On an 88 key standard piano keyboard the lowest note is A with the white keys ascending sequentially up, to the right: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C, D, E, F, G, A… And continuing up until you run out of piano.

It's Black and White

People often use the term It's Black and White. to refer to its simple and right in front of you, as written on a page. For piano, it truly is Black and White, as the keys are black and white.

In music from one letter to the next same letter is an octave for eight notes. However, in music there are 12 notes within one octave. These are the black keys between Some of the white keys that make up the 12 notes.

Ascending these 12 notes can be called A, A♯ B C, C♯, D♯, E, F, F♯, G, G♯, (A...), and the pattern then repeats ascending musically to the right. This combination is the ascending Chromatic Scale .

Descending these 12 notes can be called A B♭ B C D♭ E♭ E F G♭ G A♭ A and the pattern then repeats ascending musically to the right. This combination is the descending version of the Chromatic Scale .

Each key can have more than one name, called an Enharmonic Equivalent . This all depends on how it's being used melodically or harmonically — it's musical all context.

Note: All this is actually not necessary for creating the four basic triads of this lesson. It's just good to know, especially if you want to have a chance of naming the other notes in the chords we're about to create. You might even get the names right — but that's a subject for another lesson.

Major Triads

To create a Major triad:

  • Find the note that is the letter name of the chord? This is the capital letter that is part of the chord name and Chord Symbols of the chord.
  • Count up Four black and white keys (not including the one you are currently on). This is the second note of the chord.
  • Then count up Three black and white keys (not including the one you are currently on). This is the third and last note of the chord.

Major Triad Step Formula: 4 and 3, C or C Major is C E G

Example: C or C Major

A Major chord is the most common chord we typically play and the default is the chord type is not required to say are written. A C major chord is C or C major.

Root Inversion

An Inversion is simply the arrangement of the notes relative to the Root or Letter name of the chord.

With a triad having three different notes you can have three inversion with in one octave: the Root Inversion, 1st Inversion, and 2nd Inversions. There are all the music terms for these chords and shown here for reference.

The create the First Inversion, raise the lowest note of a Root Inversion chord one octave.

1st Inversion C or C Major is E G C

The create the Second Inversion, raise the lowest note of a First Inversion chord one octave.

2nd Inversion C or C Major is G C E

If you continue this process again you back to a Root Inversion one octave higher.

Minor Triads

To create a Minor triad:

  • Find the note that is the letter name of the chord? This is the capital letter that is part of the chord name and chord symbols of the chord.
  • Count up Three black and white keys (not including the one you are currently on). This is the second note of the chord.
  • Then count up Four black and white keys (not including the one you are currently on). This is the third and last note of the chord.

Minor Triad Step Formula: 3 and 4, Cm or C Minor is C Eb G

Example: Cm or C Minor

A Minor chord is the second most common chord we typically play and the default is to right a lowercase "m" or "min". A C, minor chord is C or Cm or Cmin.

Root Inversion

An Inversion is simply the arrangement of the notes relative to the Root or Letter name of the chord.

For the 1st and 2nd Inversion simple repeat the process that we did with the Major triad and raise the lowest note in the chord one octave.

Diminished Triads

To create a Diminished triad:

  • Find the note that is the letter name of the chord? This is the capital letter that is part of the chord name and chord symbols of the chord.
  • Count up Three black and white keys (not including the one you are currently on). This is the second note of the chord.
  • Then count up Three black and white keys (not including the one you are currently on). This is the third and last note of the chord.

C° or Cdim is C Eb Gb

Diminished Triad Step Formula: 3 and 3

Augmented Triads

To create a Augmented triad:

  • Find the note that is the letter name of the chord? This is the capital letter that is part of the chord name and chord symbols of the chord.
  • Count up Four black and white keys (not including the one you are currently on). This is the second note of the chord.
  • Then count up Four black and white keys (not including the one you are currently on). This is the third and last note of the chord.

Caug or C+ is C E G#

Augmented Triad Step Formula: 4 and 4

Fingering

The fingering of these four tradition triad, the root inversion and the first and second inversions is show above. Finger is a topic for another lesson.

Conclusion

That is all the is to creating the basic four triads that form the foundation for all else. The hard part is getting your fingers to follow you new knowledge.

End of Lesson - Thanks, Hope You Enjoyed It!

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`Ukulele • Piano Comparison

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Piano has is so much easier when it comes to learning the names of the notes (the keys) of the keyboard. The standard piano keyboard is color coded. With the white keys being one of the seven letters of the musical alphabet "A B C D E F G" and the black keys either sharp or flat notes depending the direction and / or key, scale, melody or tonality.

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