A chord is a set of simultaneously sounding notes. A triad is a chord with three notes, which are its root, third, and fifth. There are four basic types of triad which are built according to the following rules:
If we take 'F' as the root of a triad, we can therefore form the following:

Note that the circle and plus signs are abbreviations which are commonly used to indicate diminished and augmented triads, respectively. F minor is commonly abbreviated to Fm, and F major is abbreviated to F.

F major
root position1st inversion2nd inversion


The notes of a triad can be placed in any position - this does not change the name of the triad. For example, we can write F major as F, A, C, or as A, C, F, or as C, F, A (or any other ordering of those three notes). If the lowest note is the root the chord is said to be in root position. If the lowest note is the third the chord is in 1st inversion, and if the lowest note is the fifth the chord is in 2nd inversion.

A Chord Test

Here's an applet that tests your skill at naming a triad and the position that it's in. Press the Show Answer button to display the name and position in the text area. Press the New Triad button to display a new triad and clear the text area.