In music theory, I see that a triad is a chord built with three notes. Take Emaj in example; it is built with E,G#,B. But why when we strum all the six strings of the guitar does the harmony still work?

  • Playing more than three notes at a time to form a triad is common in other instruments, too, like piano and harp. – Todd Wilcox Sep 28 '15 at 11:53
  • @ToddWilcox - if one plays more than 3 notes at a time, does it cease to be a triad, and just get called a chord? Or is it still called a triad because it has only 3 different note names in it? I really don't know! Help! – Tim Sep 29 '15 at 12:33
  • If it only has three different note names in it, it's a triad, even if some of the note names are repeated, either in different octaves or as unisons (unisons are not uncommon on guitar, but are impossible on piano). The accepted answer explains this for guitar, showing an E chord with the same note names used in different octaves. – Todd Wilcox Sep 29 '15 at 12:56
  • The point behind my comment was that it's not only guitar in which we see triads built with more than three notes - with some of the note names repeated. In fact on both guitar and piano it's more common to see at least one repeated note name than to only have exactly three notes played. – Todd Wilcox Sep 29 '15 at 12:58
  • @ToddWilcox - looking through dictionaries, most state that it's a root, with two stacked thirds, basically. So if it's close harmony, fine. But the minute you put a 10th in, for example, the 'stacked thirds' goes out of the window. Maybe it's just my pedantry... – Tim Sep 30 '15 at 7:52

Because the notes might be 3, but they are repeated. For instance, here is an open E major chord:

enter image description here

As you can see, the notes are only 3 (E,G#,B), but the root (E) and the 5th (B) are being played twice.

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There is of course nothing stopping you from playing any number of the notes in the full six string chord. You don't even have to play the fifth as just root and the third will already give a reasonably clear tonality.

It just gives the guitar a fuller, richer tone to play as many octaves as possible of the notes in the chord but as I say it does not always have to be the case.

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