Harmonising the Major Scale

We can make chords out of every note of the major scale by adding triads on to each note in the scale, using only the notes in that scale. For example, if we take the A major scale: We know that the root note (A) becomes an A major chord when we add the 3rd (C#) and 5th (E) notes to it and play them simultaneously. If we … Read More

Harmonising the Minor Scale

So what happens if we want to harmonize the (harmonic) minor scale? Lets have a look (the harmonic minor scale is the basis for harmonies in a minor key). As an example we will use the A harmonic minor scale: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 A B C D E F G# A (root) (octave) Notes of … Read More

Four Part Harmonies

We can extend the idea of harmonizing the major and (harmonic) minor scales with triads to include four part harmonies. This means each note of the scale will produce a chord consisting of the triad plus a seventh. In any Major key, we get the following 7th chords: The chord built on the 1st note of the major scale is a MAJOR 7thThe chord built on the 2nd note of the major … Read More

Chord Progressions

To discuss chord progressions, we label each note of a scale with a roman numeral, for example: I II III IV V VI VII VIII A B C D E F G# A (root) (octave) Notes of the A Major Scale I-IV-V PROGRESSIONS By far the most common chord progression in blues, pop and rock music is the I-IV-V progression. This means … Read More

Chord Progressions (continued)

II-V-I PROGRESSIONS II-V-I progressions are commonly used in jazz music, but also can be found in many pop and rock songs. If the progression appears in a jazz context, the chords are often played as seventh chords with extensions and alterations. The II, V and I chords of a key are very good at helping our ears identify the key … Read More

12 Key Chord Exercise

This chord exercise is based on the II-V-I chord progression and spans 12 keys, following the Circle of Fifths anti-clockwise (so after each line the key will change by a fourth). This is a good exercise in finding chords in different keys on the fretboard. Note that, on the last line, we have ended up in the same key we started with … Read More

Modal Interchange

We can create some more interesting and unusual chord progressions by using major chords which are derived from the major key’s parallel minor scale. This is simply the minor scale that shares the same root note as the major key you are playing in. So, if you were playing a song in the key of G major, the parallel minor … Read More

Chord Substitutions

Sometimes chords can be substituted for others, as long as they remain in the same mode (major, minor or dominant). Usually (but not always) these chords are just extensions of the triad. I SUBSTITUTIONS The I chord is major, and is commonly replaced by a major 7, major 6 or major 9 chord, especially when you have several bars of the same chord and want to make … Read More

Tritone Substitution

A substitution used a lot in jazz, the tritone substitution is where we follow a dominant chord with a similar dominant chord which has a root note three tones higher than the original root. This means that the chord will be a flat fifth higher than the original. This interval is referred to as a tritone, also known as ‘Diabolus … Read More

Passing Chords

Passing chords are used to link chords together in a progression. It is common to use diminished chords and minor 7 chords for this purpose. Diminished chords are perhaps the most useful of all the substitutions, since they can be inserted between any two chords, and one diminished chord will cover four different keys (see Diminished Chords). Furthermore, when we have a I-V progression, any diminished chord will fit in between. Here are … Read More