Don’t knock it until you triad it

In this lesson we will take a major scale, play a triad on each note to build a triad scale. For the record, “triad scale” is not an official musicological term. It just seemed like a good way to describe this scale. 

This is good because:

  • It will improve your left and right hand technique.
  • You will better train your ear to hear the sound of triads as well as harmonic movement.
  • It will help you learn tunes more easily.
  • This will help with improvisation.
  • Hearing and understanding triads will help you to build chords.


First, just play a D major scale.

Then, play a D major triad. Alternate between the scale and the triad.

Awesome. Next, let’s go through each step of this scale.

D  major: D0-2-A0

E minor: D1-3-A1

F# minor: D2-A0-2

G major: D3-A1-3

A  major: A0-2-E0

B minor: A1-3-E1

C#dim: A2-E0-L2

D major: A3-E1-3

Practice each of these. Then practice assembling two or three triads in a row:


Once this feels natural, try the whole triad scale:

D0-2-A0  D1-3-A1 D2-A0-2 D3-A1-3 0-2-E0 A1-3-E1 A2-E0-L2 A3-E1-3

E3-1-A3 EL2-0-A2 E1-A3-1 E0-A2-0 3-1-D3 A2-0-D2 A1-D3-1 A0-D2-0



Each triad outlines a different chord. Being able to understand and play chords will help you to play and communicate with other musicians. Play the whole thing. If you struggle, try playing just a few steps in a continuous loop. 

Let’s practice!

D major triad scale

Up: D0-2-0  D1-3-A1 D2-A0-2 D3-A1-3 0-2-E0 A1-3-E1 A2-E0-L2 A3-E1-3

Down: E3-1-A3 EL2-0-A2 E1-A3-1 E0-A2-0 3-1-D3 A2-0-D2 A1-D3-1 A0-D2-0


G major triad scale

Up: G0-2-D0 G1-3-D1 G2-D0-2 G3-1-3 D0-2-A0 D1-3-A1 D2-A0-L2 D3-A1-3

Down: A3-1-D3 AL2-0-D2 A1-D3-1 A0-D2-0 D3-1-G3 D2-0-G2 D1-G3-1 D0-G2-0


C major triad scale

Up: G3-D1-3 D0-L2-A0 D1-3-A1 DL2-A0-L2 D3-A1-3 A0-L2-E0 A1-3-EL1 AL2-E0-L2

Down: EL2-0-AL2 EL1-A3-1 E0-AL2-0 3-1-D3 AL2-0-DL2 A1-D3-1 A0-DL2-0 D3-1-G3

A major triad scale

If you have learned the raised third finger then you can play the A major triad scale starting on G1.

Up: G1-H3-D1 G2-D0-2 GH3-D1-H3 D0-2-A0 D1-H3-A1 D2-A0-2 DH3-A1-3 A0-2-E0

Down: E0-A2-0 A3-1-DH3 A2-0-D2 A1-DH1-1 A0-D2-0 H3-1-GH3 D2-0-G2 D1-GH3-1

Sheet music

Further practice

Add variations to this to make it fun:

  • Rhythms
    • Hoedown
    • Triplets
    • Swing doubles
  • Slurs
    • Slur three
    • Slur two-separate one
    • Separate one-slur three
  • Patterns
    • 1-2-1 pattern
    • 1-2-3 pattern

Learn more about adding variation here: How To Make Scales Fun

Practice this here: Triad Scale Practice


Lesson: Introduction to Triads

How To Make Scales Fun