The C Major triad is one of the most popular chords in Western music. In this article you’ll learn how to contract the C 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.
C Major Triad – Root , 3rd and 5th
The C Major triad is formed of the 1st, 3rd and 5th of the C major scale. Another way of putting this is that we have the root note (C), a major 3rd above this (E), and a perfect 5th above the root (G). By playing these note we form the C major triad, or the C major chord.
Below is the C major triad shown in the treble and 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.
C Major Triad on Piano
Below you can see how to play a C major triad on the keyboard or piano. This pattern of notes could also be played starting on any C note. However, the order of the notes must be the same, with C being the lowest note, followed by E and the highest note being G. This is called ‘root position’.
How to play the C Major Triad on Guitar
There are two simple positions that you can use to play a C major triad on guitar. Both positions can also be slide up or down the neck to play different major triads.
C 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 E natural. We still keep the G above, but then the C (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 E note in any octave. The only thing that must stay the same is that the we use the G above and the C above that. Below you can see this triad on the staff.
How to play C major 1st inversion on Piano
On the piano we can play the 1st inverssion of a C Major triad by starting on an E natural. They play the G above and the C above this.
How to Play C Major 1st Inversion of Guitar
Below are the most common shapes for playing a C major triad in the 1st inversion. Remember that we can only use certain shapes are the pitches of the three notes are important.
C 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 G natural. We still keep the C above this as we did from the 1st inversion. Then the E becomes the highest note in the chord. Agian 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 G note in any octave. The only thing that must stay the same is that the we use the C above and the E above that. Below you can see this triad on the staff.
How to play C major 2nd inversion on Piano
On the piano we can play the 2nd inversion of a C Major triad by starting on a G natural. They play the C above and the E above this.
How to Play C Major 2nd Inversion of Guitar
Below are the most common shapes for playing a C major triad in the 2nd inversion. Remember that we can only use certain shapes are the pitches of the three notes are important.
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 C Major triad is C, E and G.
- Minor Triad– This is the same as the major triad, except instead of a major 3rd we have a minor 3rd. The C Minor triad is therefore C, Eb, G.
- Diminished Triad – To create the diminished triad start with the 1st, then minor 3rd then a diminished 5th. 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, followed by major 3rd and augmented 5th. An augmented 5th interval is a half-step (semitone) larger than a perfect 5th.
Triads from the C Major Scale
By looking at the C Major scale we can actually make triads built on each note and only using notes from C major. Below you can see a list of each triad we will create be starting on different notes of the scale.
- C Major
- D Minor
- E Minor
- F Major
- G Major
- A Minor
- B Diminished
Famous Songs in C Major
Here’s 3 famous examples of songs in a C Major key. For this reason, they use C Major triads, as the root note chord, priminently in their chord progressions.
‘Let It Be’ – The Beatles
‘Let It Be’ is a beloved classic by The Beatles, released in 1970 as the title track of their final studio album. This timeless song, with its soothing melody and reflective lyrics, has touched the hearts of generations.
The song is in C Major and starts off on a C major triad.
‘Imagine’ – John Lennon
‘Imagine’ is a timeless anthem by the legendary musician John Lennon, released in 1971 as the title track of his iconic album. This song’s powerful lyrics and message of peace have made it an enduring symbol of hope and unity.
The song start with a C major chord and is in the key of C Major as well.
‘Wake Me Up Before You Go Go’ – Wham
‘Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go’ is an iconic 1984 pop hit by the British duo Wham!, known for its catchy melody and upbeat energy. This chart-topping song has become a timeless classic in the world of music.
The song is in the key of C Major and even starts on a C7 chord, which includes the C major triad.
Figured Bass Notation for C 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 C Major chord in all three inversions.
- 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.
- Learn how to construct the C Minor triad
- Swat up on your chord knowledge with our complete guide to chords.