16. Triads and chords

But…but I thought you said playing a triad is enough to consider it a chord…

1. Topics of discussion

In this tutorial, we will be discussing how you can actually play a chord without having the triad present, at all. This tutorial is oriented more towards guitar players. So, let’s have some fun.

2. When triads are not present

Triads are good and all when you want to play a chord and have an instrument with a keyboard handy (e.g. piano, harpsichord, electronic keyboard etc.). But what happens if you want to play an instrument which doesn’t have a keyboard, e.g. a violin, a guitar, a cello etc. ?

When it comes to violins and cellos you can at least have an ensemble in which each musician plays a different note (which is what actually happens in orchestras). But when you have a guitar, it’s more common that you have a maximum of 2-3 guitar players per band, each serving a different role (e.g. rhythm or lead).

The answer to this dilemma is far simpler than you imagine. While a triad can constitute a chord all by itself, it is not compulsory to have all the notes of it in a chord, on a guitar especially. More often than not, if you have the interval that distinguishes the chord quality (e.g. the major/minor third, or the altered notes for augmented/diminished triads), you’re good to go.

Let’s take a look at some examples of chord forms that don’t make use of the triad on guitar. The first one is D major (or D, for short):


Here is the chord played back:

You can look for the D-F♯-A triad all you want, you’re not going to find it anywhere. The notes that are played in this chord are A, D, A, D and F♯. Another example is its minor counterpart:


Here is the chord played back:

Basically any chord that makes use of this form doesn’t have the triad present.

Anyhow, this was it for this tutorial. It was a short one meant to show you there is life in chord playing without triads. You just need to make sure the notes that help our ear understand the quality of a chord are present. Next time we will be discussing what chords you can play on each note of a scale. See you then.

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