If you’re starting down the path of learning to play the piano, then you no doubt will want to understand how to play the F major triad. And while it may seem highly complicated, in this article, I’m going to explain everything you need to know (and provide various images and diagrams) so you can walk away with a solid knowledge base (and hopefully more confidence on the piano, as well!)
What is an F Major Triad?
According to music theory, a triad is three specific notes from any given musical scale. Those specific notes are the first note, known as the root, the third note, and the fifth note. To play an F major triad, you would need the root, third, and fifth note of the F major scale. Here’s what that F major scale looks like.
And here’s what the scale sounds like, as well.
If you’ve taken any music lessons or remember any music classes from your school days, you’ll recognize that as the basic “do, re, mi” pattern that you might already be familiar with. That pattern makes up a major scale, a scale in a tonality that evokes a feeling a happiness in our ears, as opposed to a minor scale, which would evoke a feeling of sadness or melancholy.
So, now that we have an F major scale, let’s look at the notes that will make up our triad.
As stated before, a triad is made up of the root, third, and fifth note of the scale. If we take a look at that F major scale, we will see the root, third, and fifth of the scale are F, A, and C, respectively.
And now that the theory is out of the way, let’s see if we can find those three notes on the piano.
Navigating the Piano Keyboard
If you’re reading this article, it is assumed that you have a piano or keyboard to practice on. (If not, go find one!) Whatever you are playing on, you will notice that it is made up of black and white keys.
Take a closer look at those black keys and you will notice that they are arranged in groups of two or three (excluding the one on the very left side of the keyboard for those that are using a full keyboard). This is very important, as we are going to use this pattern to help locate the notes.
To make things a little easier, I’ve circled the sets of two in blue and the sets of three in red. You may have to depend on the black key pattern to locate notes every time at first, but don’t worry. With practice, you’ll soon be able to find notes by sight alone.
Now triads can be played with their notes in any order but, for the purpose of this article, I am going to teach you how to play it in root position, with the F as the lowest note.
To find an F, first locate a set of three black keys.
Once you have that, find the black key that is furthest to the left within that set of three. The F is the white key to the immediate left of that first black key. It looks like this:
There’s our root! Finding that should put you in place to easily locate the next two notes in our triad. There are two ways to do this. Since F is the first note of the scale, you can simply count up the white notes to the right, locating which are the third and the fifth, or, since that trick does not work with every scale, you can use another black key trick.
To find an A, you want to look for a set of three black keys. A is the white key in between that second and third black key.
Finding a C is pretty similar to finding an F, only you’ll be looking for the white key to the immediate left of a set of two black keys. Like this:
The entire triad together will look like this.
These black key tricks will work anywhere on the piano, since the notes repeat over and over again and always look the same. To play a lower F triad, find an F towards the left side of the piano. To play a higher sounding F triad, go towards the right of the piano.
It is more comfortable for beginners, however, to start in the middle of the keyboard. It will feel most natural that way and you’ll be able to sit up straight and practice your posture at the same time.
Pianists orient themselves at the piano with middle C — the C that is closest to the middle of the piano. I’ve marked the F you should use to start your practicing in this more natural position.
Great! Now that you know what notes make up the F major triad and where to locate them on the piano, let’s take the next step and learn how you should play those notes.
- You Can Also Learn: B Flat Major Piano Chord
F Major Triad on the Piano
Many instruments don’t require musicians to use all ten of their fingers. For many, the thumb is there just for support and balance. Not so with the piano.
You’ll be using all ten fingers here. To keep up with that, pianists number their fingers like so:
If you’ve ever taken a look at some piano sheet music, you may notice that there are often small numbers printed above some of the notes. These numbers are called fingerings and they give the pianist a suggestion of what finger to use to play certain notes. Using those suggestions will put your hand in the most efficient way to play a selection of the music.
When learning scales and triads, certain fingerings will make them easier to learn. For that reason, I strongly suggest that you use the fingerings in this article so that you are playing as efficiently as possible.
Playing F Major Triad with Right Hand
We’ll begin with your right hand.
Locate the F that you wish to start with and set your first finger (your thumb) on it like this:
Note the way the thumb lies on the note and the rounded shape of the rest of the fingers. It is crucial, especially for beginners, that you use the correct technique and posture when playing your notes. It will make you a better player with stronger and more dexterous fingers. Keep your fingers rounded, being careful not to let them bend at the joint. Keep your elbows at your sides and the heels of your palm off of the keyboard.
- You Can Also Learn: C Major Piano Scale
Alright, so you’ve got your F, you’re sitting up nice and straight, and your hand is set correctly. Let’s find the next two notes. If your thumb is sitting correctly on the F, your hand should
already be pretty close to position. You’ll play the A with your 3rd finger and the C with your 5th. It should look like the picture below.
And that’s all there is to it! Let’s move on to the left hand.
Playing F Major Triad with Left Hand
Since your hands are mirror images of each other, your left-hand fingering will be the opposite of your right. To play the F triad in your left hand, you’ll locate the F and then set your 5th finger on it as shown in the image below.
Again, take note of the hand shape in the picture and try to imitate it as closely as possible. Don’t let your fingers bend at the joints and make sure you are touching the key with your finger tip. If you have long fingernails, now would be a good time to give them a trim. Having long nails makes it more difficult to place your fingers correctly. Besides, they make an irritating clicking sound while you play and who wants to put up with that?
Now that your 5th finger is on the F, your hand should fall into position. Set your 3rd finger on the A and your 1st finger (thumb) on the C. Like this:
Be sure to use the weight of your hands when pressing down the keys, instead of your individual fingers. That will make sure that all three notes of the triad are ringing out simultaneously and at the same volume.
And you’ve got it! Now you can play the F major triad in both hands!
- You Can Also Learn: D Minor Chord on Piano
The Next Step to Take
And now that you know how to play the triad in both hands, you can expand on what you’ve learned!
Try playing the triad hands together, at the low end and the high end of the piano. Try a broken triad by playing the notes separately instead of all together. Try an inverted triad by mixing up which of the notes is on the bottom, as in A,C,F instead of F,A,C.
Once you get the hang of it, you can try for something a little trickier. Triads sound wonderful with the pedal!
If you’re playing a piano, the pedal you’re looking for is called the damper pedal or the sustain pedal. Some pianos have two pedals and some have three, but the damper pedal will be the one on the right, regardless of the number of pedals your piano has.
For those of you out there using a digital keyboard, you’re not left out of the loop! If you’d like a pedal, there are digital pedals of all shapes and sizes available out there. They hook up to a port on the back of your keyboard. Just make sure you check the size of the port (it usually will say SUSTAIN beside it) to make sure you buy a pedal that is compatible with your instrument.
Pedaling is a different technique all together, but if you’d like to get better at it, check out the link below for some tips.
Songs in Key of F Major
And once you’re a pro at playing the F major triad, why don’t you give some of these songs a try? Songs can be played in any key of course, but these four songs were originally composed in the key of F major:
Don’t Stop Me Now by Queen
The ultimate feel-good song! The chord structure is a little more complicated on this one (this is a Queen song, after all) but it starts off with a good old F major chord! Give it a listen, it’s guaranteed to improve any mood!
Go Your Own Way by Fleetwood Mac
Another feel-good song and one of my favorite Fleetwood Mac tunes! The opening guitar strums an F major chord to open up this classic!
Blank Space by Taylor Swift
A catchy song for the younger crowd out there and one with a much simpler chord structure! The whistle tones that start this song are a broken F major triad! (C, F, A, F) Give it a listen and see what I mean!
Concerto No. 3 in F major, Op. 8, RV 293, “Autumn”by Antonio Vivaldi
Yet another song to lift the mood! This third movement from Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons” might not be as recognizable as the more popular “Spring”, but it’s worth a listen all the same and it’s played in the key of F major! This Baroque piece predates the piano, but it does feature its older cousin, the harpsichord! You’ll want to watch a recording with video to get the full effect!
Congratulations! You’ve got another triad down and you’re steadily moving along on your piano playing journey! Now that you’ve learned the F major triad and you’ve got some songs to aspire to, all that’s left is to play!
Play as much as you can, for yourself or for anyone who will listen! It takes some time and practice to build up skill on the piano, but it is definitely something that is worth the work! Enjoy your practice time, make it fun for you!
And when you’re ready, we will see you in the next article!
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Triad – three notes, consisting of any given note combined with the notes three and five notes higher in the corresponding scale.
Root – note that establishes the tonality of a musical key, chord, or scale and gives it its name.
Scale – graduated sequence of notes dividing what is called an octave
Major – tonality based on a major scale, the 3rd tone being a major third above root. “Happy” sounding.
Minor – tonality based on a minor scale, the 3rd tone being a minor third above root. “Sad and Melancholy” sounding.
Fingering – the placement of fingers in the most suitable and efficient way to play a series of notes.