Monday, June 8, 2015

How to Read Tonic Triads in Music

Tonic triads are the basis for tonal music.

Learn the types of scale degrees in a major scale so that it is possible to quickly identify and read tonic triads. Tonal music gravitates to the tonic triad with a strong pull between the dominant or subdominant of a key and the tonic. Tonal pieces tend to end on a tonic triad. Tonic triads are the basis for tonal music. They base themselves on the first scale degree of a major or minor scale. To create tonic triads simply add the interval of a third and a fifth to the note of the first scale degree.

Step 1

Check the key signature for the number of sharps or flats and count them.

Step 2

Determine the key signature of the piece by using the number of sharps or flats obtained in Step 1 and comparing it to the circle of fifths (see Resources). There will be two options to choose from based on the key signature. The piece could be in a major or minor key.

Step 3

Determine whether the piece is in major or minor. To do this, take the notes of the first chord and put them in order in the closest position possible according to the musical scale. For instance, if the notes are B E G they would be written as E G B. Remember that a musical scale runs from A to G and then returns to A like a snake biting its tail.

Step 4

Determine if the first chord is a major or minor chord. If the first chord is major, use the major key from the circle of fifths. If the first chord is minor, use the minor key.

Step 5

Determine which triad is in the tonic by using the name of the key signature. If the key is in E minor, then the tonic is going to be E and the tonic triad will be built on thirds above that -- E G B.

Step 6

Read the tonic triads in the piece by looking for all chords that have the notes E G B if the key is in E minor. If the key is different than E minor use the name of the key to determine the tonic triad.

Tips

The tonic triad will not have any accidentals in it. It will be based on the pitches already available in the key. For instance, in A major, the tonic triad will be A C# E since there are three sharps in A major.

A major triad consists of a major third between the root and the third, and a minor third between the third and the fifth of the chord.

A minor triad consists of a minor third between the root and the third, and a major third between the third and the fifth.

Intervals are the distance between two notes. For instance, between A and C, there is a third.
To determine the interval number, count the number of letters alphabetically starting with A and ending with C.

Warnings

Not all pieces are going to be in major or minor. Some modern pieces use no key at all.