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6-1  SECONDARY TRIADS

Secondary chords (triads) are the supertonic, mediant, submediant, leading tone, and subtonic triads. Secondary triads are constructed on the second, third, sixth, and seventh scale degrees of the Major or minor scale. Two triad qualities are possible for each secondary triad in minor because of the altered sixth and seventh scale degrees of the minor scale. Secondary triads can create a rich and varied harmony when they are used as substitute chords for primary triads.

1. Supertonic Triad

a. The supertonic triad is built on the second scale degree. The supertonic triad is a minor triad when built on the Major scale (Figure 6-1). The harmonic analysis is ii.

Figure 6-1. Supertonic Triad on a Major Scale

b. The supertonic triad is a diminished triad when built on the harmonic, descending melodic, or natural minor scale (Figure 6-2). The harmonic analysis is iio.

Figure 6-2. Supertonic Triad Built on a Harmonic Minor Scale

NOTE: Remember, in harmonic analysis, upper case Roman numerals represent Major triads. Lower case numerals represent minor triads. An upper case numeral with a plus sign (+) indicates an augmented triad. A lower case numeral with a circle (o) indicates a diminished triad.

c. The supertonic triad is a minor triad when built on the ascending melodic minor scale (Figure 6-3). It is identical to the supertonic triad in Major. The harmonic analysis is ii.

Figure 6-3. Supertonic Triad Built on the Ascending Melodic Minor Scale

2. Mediant Triad.

a. The mediant triad is built on the third scale degree. The mediant triad is a minor triad when built on the Major scale (Figure 6-4). The harmonic analysis is iii.

Figure 6-4. Mediant Triad on a Major Scale

b. The mediant triad is a Major triad when built on the descending melodic or natural minor scale (Figure 6-5). The harmonic analysis is III.

Figure 6-5. Mediant Triad on a Natural Minor Scale

c. The mediant triad is an augmented triad when built on the harmonic or ascending melodic minor scale (Figure 6-6). The harmonic analysis is III+.

 

Figure 6-6. Mediant Triad on a Harmonic Melodic Minor Scale

NOTE: The augmented mediant triad is rarely used.

3. Submediant Triad.

a. The submediant triad is built on the sixth scale degree. The submediant triad is a minor triad when built on the Major scale (Figure 6-7). The harmonic analysis is vi.

Figure 6-7. Submediant Triad on a Major Scale

b. The submediant triad is a Major triad when built on a harmonic, descending melodic, or natural minor scale (Figure 6-8). The harmonic analysis is VI.

Figure 6-8. Submediant Triad Built on a Harmonic, or Natural Minor Scale

c. The submediant triad is a diminished triad when built on the ascending melodic minor scale (Figure 6-9). The harmonic analysis is vio.

Figure 6-9. Submediant Triad Built on the Ascending Melodic Minor Scale

NOTE: The diminished submediant triad is rarely used.

4. Leading Tone Triad.

a. The leading tone triad is built on the seventh scale degree. The leading tone triad is a diminished triad when built on the Major scale (Figure 6-10). The harmonic analysis is viio.

Figure 6-10. Leading Tone Triad on a Major Scale

b. The leading tone triad is a diminished triad when built on the harmonic or ascending melodic minor scale (Figure 6-11). The harmonic analysis is viio.

Figure 6-11. Leading Tone Triad on a Harmonic Minor Scale

5. Subtonic Triad.

The subtonic triad is a Major triad. It is built on the natural minor and descending melodic minor scales (Figure 6-12). The Major subtonic triad is rarely used. The harmonic analysis is VII.

Figure 6-12. Subtonic Triad on a Natural Minor Scale

David L. Heiserman, Editor

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Revised: June 06, 2015