An old high school friend of mine (I use the term ‘old’ in terms of years that have passed, NOT age, mind you!) recently contacted me about a musical endeavor he’s setting out on – to learn two of his favorite songs on keyboard. He’s never played before.

The fun I had introducing my middle school kids to the easy mathematical access into music came back to me. Here’a quick dip into the mysteries of making music:

(I found this youtube video to help:

LESSON 1: From key to adjacent key on the keyboard – including all whites and black keys – is called a half-step. EVERY major and minor triad (three noted chord) is made up of a total of 7 consecutive half steps from bottom to top note. Building a triad you will only be sounding three of those keys – each with a set amount of half-steps from the other.

The bottom note (or key, as you are playing a keyboard) and the top note are givens. It’s the one in the middle that makes the difference between the major and minor tonalities.

For a MAJOR triad: consider the bottom note “0”; count up note by note to FOUR – and press down that key, or note. Play all three notes at once: bottom, middle and top. That is a MAJOR triad – ALWAYS – beginning on ANY key on the keyboard.

Hence, MAJOR TRIAD = (from bottom to top) 4 half steps (on bottom) + 3 half steps (on top);

For a MINOR triad – again, 7 half-steps total – bottom and top notes are GIVEN – count the bottom note as “0” and count up (note by note) to THREE – that note is the middle note of your MINOR triad. Play all three notes. That’s a MINOR triad – ALWAYS – beginning on ANY key on the keyboard.

Hence, MINOR TRIAD = 3+4 (3 half steps from bottom to middle note; 4 half steps from middle to top note).

TA-DAH! All major and minor triads at your service!