The Scale of C Major

The natural Triads in the Key of C Major

In the Bass Clef (One Octave lower):

On the Grand Staff:

Can you identify the Chords?

So this is plenty of information for us to begin with.  The note names are probably obvious enough, the Scale of ‘C’ begins on the note ‘C’.  Clear as Crystal.  The rest of the notes are simply the order of white keys on the piano, all the way up to the next ‘C’.  This is called an Octave (Latin for the number 8), because all notes repeat themselves in a higher level on the 8th scale step.

Cool, so you might be looking at the graphic for the Triads of the Key, and be wondering: “What is a Triad?  What is a Key?  and What are these Roman Numerals supposed to mean?”  These are really important questions which we can only touch on a bit to introduce you to these musical ideas.

The word Triad comes from the number 3 (Tri-angle, Tri-cycle, Tri-force)  You can see that each chord is made of 3 notes, starting with the note of the scale that it is built on.

– (Bottom) This note is called the ‘Root’ of the chord and is the 1st tone

– (Middle) The next note is the Third, because it is the 3rd scale step from the root.

–  (Top)  The last note is the Fifth, because it is the 5th scale step from the root.

Here is our G Major Triad.

So the Triad is simply the basic Chord. It can be either Major or Minor.*

The Triad is the most pure harmonic structure, the foundation of all other harmony.

(*There are two other types- Diminished & Augmented, but these are imperfect and will be explained later.)

With the Keys, we get into a little more complicated subject.  When we talk about music being in a “Key,” we are talking about the Tone that is at the Center of the group of chords that are part of the Key.

In the Key of ‘C,’ the note C is the Harmonic Center.

Likewise, in the Key of ‘A,’ the note A is the Harmonic Center.

The Key is composed of the harmonies of each scale step.  This is where the Roman numerals come in.  They indicate the scale step that a chord is built on, and show the Major/Minor qualities of the chords that belong to the Key.  Upper case numerals are Major, and lower case numerals are Minor.

So, in the Key of ‘C’ Major, the C Major Triad is the I (one) Chord.

Did you notice?:

I, IV & V  Chords are Major

ii, iii, & vi  Chords are Minor

vii°    Chord is Diminished  (that’s what the little °circle mark means)

¡This is the same formula in every Major Key!

So once you learn the notes of each Key, then you already know how to harmonize it with the Triads of the Key.

Ok, let’s stop here for the first lesson.  Go back and look at the Grand Staff and try to figure out if the chords are Major or Minor, based on the scale steps.


Play the Triads in the Key of C major. Learn them with each hand.  Play the chords upwards from left to right, then play downward from right to left. Once you know them by heart, including how to name them all and know if they are Major or Minor, then play them with both hands together- chords in the right hand, bass line in the left- just like it’s written on the Grand Staff.

You might have learned the chords by watching the keyboard and moving the chord positions all the way up and down.  This is Good!   Now stare at the Grand Staff and don’t look at your hands or the keyboard!  This might be tricky at first, you’ll make a few mistakes and be tempted to look down…  Don’t!!  Stay Focused, Have Faith, Follow your Ear!

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