Root Position Triads

Root position triads are a fundamental concept in music theory, referring to a specific type of chord structure. A triad is a chord made up of three notes that are typically played or sung together. These three notes consist of a root note, a third, and a fifth. The term “root position” indicates that the root note of the triad is the lowest note of the chord when it is played or written.

Here’s a breakdown of the components of a root position triad:

  1. Root Note: This is the fundamental note upon which the triad is built. It gives the chord its name. For example, in a C major triad, the root note is C.
  2. Third: This note is a third interval above the root. In Western music, this interval can be either a major third or a minor third, which determines whether the triad is major or minor. For a C major triad, the third is E (a major third above C), and for a C minor triad, the third is Eb (a minor third above C).
  3. Fifth: This note is a fifth interval above the root. It is usually a perfect fifth in both major and minor triads. For a C major or C minor triad, the fifth is G.

In notation and performance, when a triad is in root position, the root note is the lowest, the third is above it, and the fifth is the highest of the three. This arrangement creates a solid and balanced sound, serving as the foundation for much of Western harmony.

Root position triads are contrasted with first inversion and second inversion triads, where the third and the fifth, respectively, are the lowest notes, changing the chord’s texture and harmonic function without altering its fundamental identity.

In the example below we see the harmonized scale (chords in the key of C) using root position triads:

Ex.1 The first set (strings 1-3).

Ex. 2 The second set (strings 2-4).

Ex. 3 The third set (strings 3-5).

Ex. 4 The fourth set (strings 4-6).


All About Music
Friday’s Freebies