Category Archives: Triads

Guitar Lesson – Music Theory Part 4 – Easy as 1, 3, 5

Last time on “Guitar Lesson – Music Theory”…
  • Notes next to each other = 1/2 step (H), two 1/2 = whole (W)
  • On the guitar, 1 fret = 1/2 step
  • To play a major scale, start at a note then play W-W-H-W-W-W-H to get back to the same note on octave away
  • If you start a scale on a different note, you’ll get different number of sharps and flats
  • Following number of sharps and flats is also called the circle of fifths
  • Using the same pattern but starting at a different position will give you another scale.  By starting at the 6th note, you’ll get the minor scale pattern.
  • Major scales and minor scales that have the same notes are “relative” to each other.
And now, part 4….
This time, let’s look at each note in the major scale and see what their relationship is to the “root” note (aka “1”, aka “do”):
(remember: W W H W W W H)
1 -> 2  =  W                      = whole step
1 -> 3  =  W + W                  = 2 steps 
1 -> 4  =  W + W + H              = 2 1/2 steps
1 -> 5  =  W + W + H + W          = 3 1/2 steps
1 -> 6  =  W + W + H + W + W      = 4 1/2 steps
1 -> 7  =  W + W + H + W + W + W  = 5 1/2 steps

How about the minor scale?

(remember: W H W W H W W)
1 -> 2  =  W                      = whole step
1 -> 3  =  W + H                  = 1 1/2 steps 
1 -> 4  =  W + H + W              = 2 1/2 steps
1 -> 5  =  W + H + W + W          = 3 1/2 steps
1 -> 6  =  W + H + W + W + H      = 4 steps
1 -> 7  =  W + H + W + W + H + W  = 5 steps

For now, let’s just look at the notes 1, 3 and 5.  The 1 note is, of course, the root.  As mentioned in the previous lesson, the 5th is the same between the two scales.  But the 3rd is different.  The “major 3rd” is 2 steps away from 1 while the “minor 3rd” is 1 1/2 step away from the 1.

This little 1/2 step makes a big difference in sound.

Let’s take a look some chords and see how this works out.
All the basic chords from the earlier lessons are “triad” meaning that they are made of 3 notes.  To form a triad, simply start at a note (1), skip a note, take the next note (3), skip another note, then take the next one after that (5).

When you do this with the C on the C Major Scale (C D E F G A B C), you get: C-E-G.  This picture shows where these notes are played when you play a C (open string).

How about when we do this for A minor?  The notes to Am are: A-C-E.  But the A major scale is: A B C# D E F# G# A.

But what if we looked at the notes from the A minor scale?  Then we have: A B C D E F G A.

So… when you take the 1, 3, and 5 notes from the major scale, you get the major chord.  When you take the 1, 3, 5 notes from the minor scale, you get the minor chord.

And that’s actually what is meant by “major” chord and “minor” chord.  The “major” and “minor” refers to which 3rd you’re taking from.  The major scale or minor scale.

In other words, in C major (chord), the “major” refers to the “major 3rd”.  And in A minor (chord), the “minor” refers to the the “minor 3rd”.

Sometimes people will use numbers purely relative to the major scale.  In this method, a minus sign (-) is used to mean “flat” or “diminished” and a plus sign (+) might be used to mean “sharp” or “augment”.

So a major chord might be written as: 1 3 5.  While a minor chord might be written as: 1 -3 5.

Yet another way to look at this is:
    major 3rd is 2 steps from root
    minor 3rd is 1 1/2 steps from root

Specifically for guitarists, once you’ve learned how to hold the chords, you may want to review the notes chart (see Part 1) and try to remember what notes are being held on each string.

TIP :- For each shape, start by memorizing where the root note is.  For instance:  (all examples refer to the open string chords from Guitar Basics lessons)

   Chord      Notes (1 3 5)    Root Notes On Strings

     E          E  G# B        low-E, D, high-E
     A          A  C# E        A, G
     D          D  F# A        D, B
     G          G  B  D        low-E, G, high-E
     C          C  E  G        A, B
     Am         A  C  E        A, G
     Em         E  G  B        low-E, D, high-E
     Dm         D  F  A        D, B

Guitar Lesson – Music Theory Part 3 – Major (Pain), Minor (Inconvenience)

So far, we’ve talked about the major scale which has a W-W-H-W-W-W-H pattern.

You can imagine that you can take this pattern and start in a different position.

So let’s try that with the C (Major) Scale:

   C   D   E   F   G   A   B   C

     W   W   H   W   W   W   H

What if we started this on A instead?

                       A   B   C   D   E   F   G   A

                         W   H   W   W   H   W   W

Now the pattern becomes:  W-H-W-W-H-W-W  (and we get the Minor Scale).

This is also called “relative minor” and “relative major”.  

In other words, the C Major Scale is “related” to the “A Minor Scale”.

This chart is sometimes called the “Circle of Fifths“.  Because as you go clockwise, the next note is the 5th of the previous one.

But what if we looked at the C Major Scale vs C Minor Scale?

        1  2  4  5  8
major:  C  D  F  G  C
minor:  C  D  Eb F  G  Ab Bb

Not only can you build another scale using the same pattern starting at a different position.  But when you look at the patterns side-by-side starting with the same note, you’ll notice that some notes from the two scales are the same while others are different.

In this case, the major and minor scales differ on the 3rd, 6th, and the 7th notes.

This will make more sense when we go back and look at chords.