The D Major Triad: The Complete Music Theory Guide

By Jade Bultitude
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The D Major triad is one of the most popular chords in Western music. In this article you’ll learn how to contract the D 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.

D Major Triad – Root , 3rd and 5th

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

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

D major triad treble clef
D 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.

D Major Triad on Piano

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

D major triad root position piano diagram

How to play the D Major Triad on Guitar

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

D major triad root position guitar diagram

D 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 F sharp. We still keep the A above, but then the D (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 F sharp note in any octave. The only thing that must stay the same is that the we use the A above and the D above that. Below you can see this triad on the staff.

D major triad 1st inversion

How to play D major 1st inversion on Piano

On the piano we can play the 1st inversion of a D Major triad by starting on an F sharp. They play the A above and the D above this.

D major triad 1st inversion piano diagram

How to Play D Major 1st Inversion of Guitar

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

D major triad 1st inversion guitar charts

D 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 A natural. We still keep the D above this as we did from the 1st inversion. Then the F# 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 A note in any octave. The only thing that must stay the same is that the we use the D above and the F# above that. Below you can see this triad on the staff.

D major triad 2nd inversion

How to play D major 2nd inversion on Piano

On the piano we can play the 2nd inversion of a D Major triad by starting on a A natural. They play the D above and the F# above this.

D major triad 2nd inversion piano diagram

How to Play D Major 2nd Inversion of Guitar

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

D 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 D Major triad is D, F# and A.
  • 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 D, F, A.
  • Diminished Triad – To create the diminished triad start with the 1st (D), then minor 3rd (F) then a diminished 5th (Ab). 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 (D), followed by major 3rd (F#) and augmented 5th (A#). An augmented 5th interval is a half-step (semitone) larger than a perfect 5th.

Triads from the D Major Scale

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

  • D Major
  • E Minor
  • F# Minor
  • G Major
  • A Major
  • B Minor
  • C# Diminished
chords in d major

Famous Songs in D Major

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

‘My Way’ – Frank Sinatra

Frank Sinatra’s classic ‘My Way,’ performed in the key of D major, remains an enduring anthem of individuality and resilience. This iconic track is celebrated for its timeless lyrics and Sinatra’s unparalleled vocal delivery.

‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love’ – Queen

Queen’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” in the key of D major, is a beloved rock ‘n’ roll classic that showcases the band’s versatile musical prowess. With its catchy rhythm and Freddie Mercury’s charismatic vocals, this song has earned a well-deserved place in rock history.

‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ – Deep Blue Something

Deep Blue Something’s ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s,’ composed in the key of D major, is a melodic gem known for its nostalgic charm and memorable chorus. This timeless hit has resonated with listeners for its relatable lyrics and enduring appeal in the world of pop music.

Figured Bass Notation for D 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 D Major chord in all three inversions. 

D 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.

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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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