The A Flat Major Triad: A Complete Music Theory Guide

By Jade Bultitude
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The A flat Major triad is one of the most popular chords in Western music. In this article you’ll learn how to contract the A flat major triad as well as how to play it on piano and guitar. We’ve also included sections on inversions and figured bass for those that want a deeper understanding. Lastly, listen to some examples of popular songs that featured this triad.

A flat Major Triad – Root , 3rd and 5th

The A flat Major triad is formed of the 1st, 3rd and 5th of the A flat major scale. Another way of putting this is that we have the root note (Ab), a major 3rd above this (C), and a perfect 5th above the root (Eb). By playing these note we form the A flat major triad, or the A flat major chord.

Below is the A flat major triad shown in the treble and bass clef.

A flat major triad treble clef
A flat major triad bass clef

Before you read on make sure that you have a basic understanding of intervals. Intervals are vital for understanding how triads are built. Check out our guide to major, minor and perfect intervals for more on this.

A flat Major Triad on Piano

Below you can see how to play a A flat major triad on the keyboard or piano. This pattern of notes could also be played starting on any A flat note. However, the order of the notes must be the same, with Ab being the lowest note, followed by C and the highest note being Eb. This is called ‘root position’.

A flat major triad root position piano diagram

How to play the A flat Major Triad on Guitar

There are two simple positions that you can use to play a A flat major triad on guitar. Both positions can also be slide up or down the neck to play different major triads.

A flat major triad root position guitar chart

A flat Major Triad 1st Inversion

A 1st inversion is where we take a triad but we start on the second note, which in this case is C natural. We still keep the Eb above, but then the Ab (or root) become the highest note. This way of rearranging a triad gives us a different sound as the relative pitches of the three notes has changed.

We could construct a 1st inversion starting on any C note in any octave. The only thing that must stay the same is that the we use the Eb above and the Ab above that. Below you can see this triad on the staff.

A flat major triad 1st inversion

How to play A flat major 1st inversion on Piano

On the piano we can play the 1st inversion of a A flat Major triad by starting on an C natural. They play the Eb above and the Ab above this.

A flat major triad 1st inversion piano diagram

How to Play A flat Major 1st Inversion of Guitar

Below are the most common shapes for playing a A flat major triad in the 1st inversion. Remember that we can only use certain shapes are the pitches of the three notes are important.

A flat major triad 1st inversion guitar chart

A flat Major Triad 2nd Inversion

A 2nd inversion is where we take a triad but we start on the third note, which in this case is E flat. We still keep the A flat above this as we did from the 1st inversion. Then the C becomes the highest note in the chord. Again this will give us a different sound as the relative pitches of the three notes has changed.

We could construct a 2nd inversion starting on any E flat note in any octave. The only thing that must stay the same is that the we use the A flat above and the C above that. Below you can see this triad on the staff.

A flat major triad 2nd inversion

How to play A flat major 2nd inversion on Piano

On the piano we can play the 2nd inversion of a A flat Major triad by starting on a Eb. They play the Ab above and the C above this.

A flat major triad 2nd inversion piano diagram

How to Play A flat Major 2nd Inversion of Guitar

Below are the most common shapes for playing a A flat major triad in the 2nd inversion. Remember that we can only use certain shapes are the pitches of the three notes are important.

A flat major triad 2nd inversion guitar chart

What different types of triad are there?

There are several different types of triads that we can create for the major scale:

  • Major Triad– This is formed with the 1st, 3rd (major 3rd) and 5th (perfect fifth) of the major scale. The A flat Major triad is Ab, C and Eb.
  • Minor Triad– This is the same as the major triad, except instead of a major 3rd we have a minor 3rd. The A flat Minor triad is therefore Ab, Cb, Eb.
  • Diminished Triad – To create the diminished triad start with the 1st (Ab), then minor 3rd (Cb) then a diminished 5th (Ebb). A Diminished 5th interval is a half-step (semitone) smaller than a perfect 5th.
  • Augmented Triads– This triad starts with the 1st degree of the scale (Ab), followed by major 3rd (C) and augmented 5th (E). An augmented 5th interval is a half-step (semitone) larger than a perfect 5th.

Triads from the A flat Major Scale

By looking at the A flat Major scale we can actually make triads built on each note and only using notes from A flat major. Below you can see a list of each triad we will create be starting on different notes of the scale.

  • Ab Major
  • Bb Minor
  • C Minor
  • Db Major
  • Eb Major
  • F Minor
  • G Diminished
chords in a flat major

Famous Songs in A flat Major

Here’s 3 famous examples of songs in a A flat Major key. For this reason, they use A flat Major triads, as the root note chord, priminently in their chord progressions.

‘Firework’ – Katy Perry

Katy Perry’s ‘Firework,’ performed in the key of A flat major, is a dynamic pop anthem that encourages self-empowerment and resilience. With its uplifting message and catchy chorus, this song has become an inspirational staple in the modern pop genre.

‘Every Breath You Take’ – The Police

The Police’s ‘Every Breath You Take,’ set in the key of A flat major, is a hauntingly melodic track that combines the band’s signature sound with poignant lyrics of obsession and longing.

‘Easy’ – The Commodores

The Commodores’ ‘Easy,’ composed in the key of A flat major, is a timeless soul ballad that resonates with its smooth melodies and heartfelt lyrics. This classic track has established itself as a favourite in the world of R&B and soul music.

Figured Bass Notation for A flat Major Triads

Figured bass is an alternative way of labelling chords. It uses vertical numbers to denote chords and it can be used to label any type of triad. Below are the figured bass symbols for the A flat Major chord in all three inversions. 

A flat major triads figured bass
  • Root Position – 3/5 indicates that a 3rd above the root and a 5th above the root are to be played.
  • 1st Inversion – 3/6 indicates that a 3rd and 6th should be played above the root note
  • 2nd inversion – 4/6 indicates that a 4th and 6th above the root note should be played.

There are also figured bass symbols for minor, diminished and augmented triads. A summary is below, but if you want a deepen explanation of how to use this notation, check out our complete guide to figured bass.

What’s next….? 

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AUTHOR
Jade is an experienced musician and teacher as well as being the founder of Music Theory Foundations. She has been helping people learn music theory for more than 10 years from pre school children all the way to degree level studies.

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