Ear Training: Major and Minor Triads

Ear Training: Major and Minor Triads l LadyDpiano

One of the best ways to improve your musicianship is by taking the time to sing and actively listen to musical materials you use everyday. Let's consider our most basic chords, major and minor triads. These chords are made up of different combinations of major and minor thirds. A major third (M3) spans the distance of two whole steps (G-B); a minor third (m3) covers one-and-a-half steps (G-Bb).

You can construct those triads by using formulas: Major triad = M3 + m3; minor triad = m3 + M3 (spelled from the bottom up). If you know your major and minor scales, you can refer to these relationships between the degrees of the scale. Try the following exercises at the piano to review thirds and triads.

Using the numbers 1 2 3 4 5, sing the first five notes of a major scale starting on G. Check yourself on the piano. Next break the triad down into its two stacked thirds. Sing 1 2 3 and then leave out 2, singing 1-3 (G-B, a major 3rd). Next, sing 3 4 5, then just 3-5 (B-D, a minor third). Finally, sing 1 2 3 4 5, then 1-3-5. Congratulations! You have just sung a major triad (G-B-D).


G-B (M3)
B, C, D
B, D (m3)
G-B-D (Major triad = M3 + m3)

For a minor triad, use the minor scale as your reference. Remember, a minor scale has a half step between sale degrees 2-3, so Bb is scale degree3 in G minor. Follow the same steps as above: 1 2 3 4 5. Then 1 2 3, 1-3, 3 4 5, 3-5. Finally, 12345: 1-3-5. Congratulations! You have just sung a minor triad (G-Bb-D). Do this same exercise starting on other notes within your voice range and you will improve your ability to quickly construct and recognize thirds and triads... by ear.

Hear and Play has just released a new software, Song Tutor and the Vocal Mastery System is a good resource for the vocalist/musician. Be sure and catch the following former posts I blogged about.

Ear Training

Ear Training Piano Lesson

Friday Freebie: Ear Training

Learn Songs By Ear

Practical Approach to Ear Training

Types of Ear Musicians

photo credit: Sunny Spot via photopin (license)
article credit: Joan Stiles


"The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you." B.B.King

Cornerstone Chords: Hillsong

I love the song, Cornerstone from Hillsong. Watch the YouTube Video and be blessed.
It's from the album, Cornerstone and it's such a great song to listen to when you're going 
through some difficult times.


Basically, a Major Seventh with Ninth = C E G B D
Right, you're just adding the ninth to the seventh chord.

So what is a C dominant 9 Chord?

C E G Bb D

Basically, it's a C dominant 7 chord with an added 9 tone. Play Bb and E with the left hand and Bb, D and G on the right.

Chords and Lyrics

Intro:  G   Em  C9  D

Verse 1
My hope is built on nothing less
C9                    D
Than Jesus' blood and righteousness
Em                    D
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
C9          D         G
But wholly trust is Jesus' name

        C9    Em    D
Christ alone, Cornerstone
G/B       C9            Em       D
Weak made strong in the Savior's love
G           C9
Through the storm
Em    D 
He is Lord
Lord of all

Verse 2
When darkness seems to hide His face
C9                       D
I rest on His unchanging grace
Em                 D
In every high and stormy gale
C9              D        G
My anchor holds within the veil
C9              D        G 
My anchor holds within the veil

Em    C9
He is Lord
D       G
Lord of all

Verse 3
When He shall come with trumpet sound
C9               D
Oh may I then in Him be found
Em                      D
Dressed in His righteousness alone
C9         D            G
Faultless, stand before the throne

If you're a Hillsong fan, be sure and grab these chord charts:


This Is Living

God Is GreatAll My Days

Hear and Play Chords: LadyDpiano

It helps to have a good understanding of chord formations. I have a music dictionary and I also recommend the audio series, Chords 101 & 102

photo credit: Hillsong United Concert via photopin (license)

"The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you." B.B.King

Mailbox Monday: What Are Accidentals?

Accidentals: LadyDpiano

Question from a reader:

"What's the meaning of an accidental in music?"



Accidentals are notes you don't normally expect to see in a particular key or scale. They are the extra sharps, flats, or naturals in the music that are not included in the key signature.

For example, in C major, which has no sharps or flats in the key signature, any note with a sharp or flat is considered an accidental.


In G major, which has an F sharp in the key signature, the F sharp would not be considered an accidental because it is part of the G major scale. Any other note that is changed by a half step would be an accidental.


An accidental is a sign used to raise or lower the pitch of the note. Remember that an accidental does not affect the same note of a different octave, unless indicated by a key signature.

Playing Closer To The Black Keys

When you play pieces with accidentals, try to move your hands a bit closer to the black keys. The closer you are hard-to-reach notes, the faster you'll get to them. This will make the passages easier to play, and they will sound smoother, too.

To see how this works play the example below twice. The first time place your fingertips at the very edge of the keys. The second time, your fingers should move in closer to the black keys. do you notice any difference? Which way is easier for your hands? Which one sounds better and smoother?

C-D-Eb-F#-G-F#-G  or  C-D-Eb-F#-G-Eb-C

Interesting Fact

F# on music staff

You have probably noticed that when we say F sharp, the name of the note comes first (F), and then we say sharp but in the music the sharp is written before the note, not after it.

Still not clear on the purpose of accidentals? Check out, what-purpose-do-accidentals-serve-in-music, especially read through to the very end on passing chords and grace notes.

If you're studying music theory and want to use a workbook for your own personal reference, purchase the 300pg Piano By Ear Home Study Course


"The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you." B.B.King

The Self Improvement Checklist: Robert Dumm

Self Improvement Checklist: LadyDpiano.com

Many folks are aware of learning to play the piano via chording techniques. Some of the old traditional methods of reading music and practicing scales are of the past. Some people find that playing the piano is very relaxing and it gets their mind off of things. More and more, kids and adults are taking piano lessons and discovering the many benefits to playing for their own enjoyment, to performing in public and serving with the music ministry at their church. We know we need to practice, right? Here's a wonderful article I think you'll enjoy!

The Self-Improvement Checklist by Robert Dumm

"Do you feel stuck? Are you making the kind of progress in your playing that you really want? Many people don't realize it, but self-evaluation during practice is the most important step towards progress... so it's important to think about what kind of critic you are. What do you consider a super performance, a so-so or  poor one? What do you mean when you say, "The technique was fine, but the rest left me cold?"

To find out what is wrong, you must keep score by listing what exactly went wrong or right with your performance. Have courage! After the agony of self-criticism, there's always the ecstasy of success. None of this is dull. The game of self improvement is the liveliest game of all!

Here is a checklist to help you in your self-evaluation.

1. Tone Quality: Are the sounds that reach your ears full, rich and soothing or are they forced and noisy?

2. Rhythm: Is your tempo right? Do you keep a steady beat?

3. Phrasing: Do you make each phrase clear... is there a beginning, middle and end... do you allow each phrase to breathe?

4. Dynamics: What extremes of loud and soft are right for the piece you are playing? How much dynamic control do you have? Do you use dynamic nuances in small phrases?

5. Tone Balance: Do your high notes sing out over the bass? Can you hear the occasional inner voice when it is important?

6. Touches: Are your legato lines seamless.... your staccato notes clearly separated... do you try for varied touches to produce different colors?

7. Rests: Do you sense rests as alive, like spoken punctuation?

8. Pedaling: Do you wipe out your touch distinctions with too much pedal? Why are you using the pedal? For rhythm? To enhance sonority? To connect two sounds? Do you find yourself unconsciously depending on the pedal?

Answering these questions will help you gain valuable control of your musical resources, and make changes for the better in the performance of any piece. 

Robert Dumm is the author of Pumping Ivory and Instead of Scales 

For those who enjoy working on their technique and polishing up finger skills, you may be interested in playing Hanon Exercises

photo credit: The Spirit of the Music via photopin (license)

"The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you." B.B.King

Harmony Accompanies Melody Carefully

Harmony l LadyDpiano

Composers choose the notes or chords that accompany a melody carefully. This is called the harmony. Sometimes all the notes of a chord are played together; in other places they might be played one note at a time, as in arpeggios. Some harmony chords sound nice, and others can sound a bit ugly.

The stormy-sounding chords are called dissonant chords; they feel tense. They are important in music because they make you want to hear them change to a nice-sounding chord. They lead the music to somewhere else. The nice-sounding chords are called consonant. You usually want to have both in music to make it more interesting.

Consonant, Calm

G-B-D Chord


A-C#-E Chord


Harmony provides the emotions in music. It can make the music sound happy, sad, calm, angry, and any other emotion you can think of. Look at your piano music and see if you can name an emotion for each piece. Is it happy, sad, impatient?

Dissonant, Uneasy





You can make a chord from every note in a scale by adding thirds to it. To name these chords, musicians use Roman numerals, such as I ii iii IV V. When the chord is major, the Roman numerals are capital letters, and when the chord is minor, the numerals are small letters. The chords also have English names like tonic, dominant, and mediant.

Composers often use specific combinations of these chords in the harmony for their music. When they use the chords in one of these patterns, we call it a chord progression. Probably the most famous chord progression is the Amen that concludes a hymn. It uses the chord from the 4th note in the scale and the first chord (or tonic).


IV Chord = FAC  (A - men)


I Chord = CEGC (A-men)

This example is based on the C major scale but the chords can be based on other scales as well. Another important chord progression that is heard in almost all rock and roll music is the I-IV-V-I. Hundreds of songs use only these three chords. (CEG / FAC / GBD)

On my other blog, I have a post on chord extensions and keyboard voicingsChords and Harmony

You may be interested in taking a look at Hear and Play offering Gospel Keys Ministry Musician 1 featuring Jason White. He teaches gospel piano chords.

photo credit: second sax lesson via photopin (license)

Wishing you a Happy 4th!


"The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you." B.B.King
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