Lessons > Chord Theory > The Major Triad

The Major Triad

A chord is the playing of three or more notes at a time. There are thousands of chords and not all of them follow a strict naming system. Understandably, learning every chord and recognising every name is no straightforward task. Generally, chords are given a formula based on how the notes of the chord fit into the major scale. Below you will see the C major scale:

C   D   E   F   G   A   B   C

The most basic chord we can create is a triad. A triad is created from the 1st, 3rd and 5th notes of a scale. In the C major scale C, E and G would form the basic triad. These notes form a C major chord.

C   D   E   F   G   A   B   C
1       3       5            

The diagram below is showing a C major chord (labelled 'C' for short). Notice how it only contains the notes C, E and G even though it is a five-string chord. The notes C and E show up twice.

Let's apply the same major chord formula to the D major scale. Remember - a major triad is built from the 1st, 3rd, and 5th notes of a major scale. These degrees of the D major scale are highlighted below:

D   E   F#   G   A   B   C#   D
1       3       5            

Below is an example of a simple D major chord:

More Major Chords →

Now that we know the formula for a major chord we can use this information to work out what notes are in a major chord of any given key. Below you will see a table that has the major scale written out in all 12 keys. The 1st, 3rd, and 5th notes of each key are highlighted. Notice how the degrees of the scale are written in Roman numerals.

Question - What notes are in an F major chord? Answer

Key I II III IV V VI VII Octave
A A B C# D E F# G# A
A# A# C D D# F G A A#
B B C# D# E F# G# A# B
C C D E F G A B C
C# C# D# F F# G# A# C C#
D D E F# G A B C# D
D# D# F G G# A# C D D#
E E F# G# A B C# D# E
F F G A A# C D E F
F# F# G# A# B C# D# F F#
G G A B C D E F# G
G# G# A# C C# D# F G G#

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