Have You Ever Harmonized a Scale?
Oooh, I just love big words. Harmonizing a scale is just a fancy way of saying we’re playing more than one note of the scale at a time. For our purposes here today, we’ll harmonize using chords.
Pulling chords from scales is really easy. Just line the notes of the scale up and play every other note together as a chord.
(See Section 1 download 1 Video 2.1 – Getting Chords from Scales)
A harmonized E Major Scale gives us a E Major, F# Minor, G# Minor, A Major, B Major, C# Minor and D# Diminished.
(See Section 1 download 1 Video 2.2 – Harmonizing E Major)
Harmonizing an E minor scale, we get an E minor, an F# diminished, a G major, a A minor, a B minor chord, C major and finally a D major chord.
Let us peruse the major and minor scales.
See the pattern? If we start on E, we take the first, third and fifth note of each scale to get the chord. If we extend that chord one more note to the seventh note of the scale we get either an E major 7 or an E minor 7.
Pretty sweet, huh?
Most of the chords will keep the same quality when we extend them into the second octave of the scale. Majors will still be major and minors will still be minor.
However, there wouldn’t be a rule without the exception.
The fifth chord of the Major scale and the seventh chord of the minor scale will become dominant chords, while the seventh chord of the major scale or the second chord of the minor scale will be either diminished or minor 7(♭5).
You might be asking how you know the fifth chord of the major and the seventh chord of the minor become dominant.
Some of them will be named a little differently, but they serve the same function.
You could ask the same of the seventh chord of the major and the second chord of the minor.
And you would have a very good question.
To answer that question, let’s look at the B Major scale.
Just like the E scale, we can take the first, third and fifth note of the B scale to get a B chord.
If we add the seventh note of the B major scale, we get a B major 7 chord just like we did for the E major 7 chord.
Looking at the E major scale, A is not sharped like it is in the B major scale. So, in the E major scale, we don’t have a B major 7 chord, we have a B7 (or B dominant 7) chord.
The same thing happens when you look at the E minor scale. D is the seventh chord. The D major scale has a C# while the E minor scale has a C.
To get the idea on the diminished chords and the minor 7(♭5) chords, you would need to look at the diminished and major scales.
In E major, starting on D# and taking every other note gives you a D# diminished but adding the C# on top of that gives you a D#m7(♭5).
A D# diminished 7 would have a C on top, not a C#. Let’s keep all of that chord joy rolling.
By extending the entire scale another octave, we can keep extending the chords to 9, 11 and 13.
And now that you have a taste for harmonizing diminished scales, let’s do it!
Oh, Those Crazy Chords
The diminished scale is kind of like the mad scientist of musical scales.
In an E Minor scale the E Minor chord would be made up of the notes E, G and B. In an E Diminished scale we have options.
The E and G stay the same but we have an B♭ instead of a B, which gives us a diminished chord. That’s not too surprising.
We would expect a diminished chord to come from the diminished scale.
But we also have an C or a B# in the scale.
Whoa! What’s this B#/C thing going on?
Another of my favorite big words. Enharmonic Notation.
Every note has multiple names. An F# is the same as a G♭ and a C is the same as B#.
Putting E, G and B#/C together, we get an E Minor (#5). Dig those funky chords!
Actually, it’s not really that funky at all. Minor (#5) chords are nothing to be afraid of. As a matter of fact, you probably already know this chord. You just know it under a different name. It’s a C major.
I really used to freak myself out learning Jazz chords until I realized I already knew the chords as something else.
Taking the diminished chord one note further to C# gives us an E Diminished 7.
Now moving onto F# things get really interesting. From F# we can pull a major chord, a minor chord, a diminished chord, a 7 chord, a minor 7 chord, a 7 flat 5 chord, a minor 7 flat 5 chord, a 7 sharp 9 chord, a 7 flat 9 chord, a 6 chord, a minor 6 chord and…
…wait for it… F# Major (♭5).
And that, my dear guitarists is more chord candy then you can probably handle right now.
If you’re anything like me, you already can’t wait to try the new chords, so let’s break it down.
Looking at an F# major scale and taking the first, third and fifth notes we get F#, A# and C#. That gives us an F# major chord.
If we look at the E diminished scale we have an F#, an A# (or B♭) and a C# in that as well. We also have a C. If we put the F#, A# and C together, we get an F# Major (♭5).
Of course, have a E in the E diminished scale. So, if we tack that E onto our F#, A# and C# we get an F#7 chord and using that C again gives us a F#7(♭5).
The G functions as a flatted second or a flatted nine (if we move it up an octave) so if we tack the G on top of the F#7, we get F#7 flat 9. Putting an A on top of F#7 gives us F#7(#9).
OK, you may have had some trouble following that one. Let’s look at the F# Major Scale.
See the A? Well, enharmonic notation goes beyond F#/G♭. A G (G-double-sharp) is the same as an A. So when we sharp a G#, we get A. Now, now – stop drooling, it wasn’t that complicated.
Putting the D# from the E diminished scale on top of the F# gives us an F#6 chord. Stacking D# and E gives us the…you guessed it… F# 6/7 chord.
Oh, but the fun doesn’t stop there, Chord Fans! I mentioned a bunch of minor chords a little while ago, so I want to be sure that we know how to do all the minor versions of those chords.
The easiest shortcut is to take the A#/B♭ in all of the F# chords above and make it an A.
If we take the F# Major chord, flat the A# turning it into A, we get an F# Minor chord. Add an E on top of that F# Minor chord we have an F Minor 7. D# on top of F# Minor chord gives us an F# Minor 6.
Turning the C# from F# Minor into a C gives us an F#Diminished chord and putting the E on the F# Diminished gives us F# Minor 7(♭5).
Moving the E on top of the F# Minor 7(♭5) down to a D# gives us an F# Diminished 7.
That gives us a ton of different chords over which we can play an E diminished scale.
And since the diminished scale is completely symmetrical, the pattern repeats on every other note. So, when we move to the G, it follows the same chords that we had with the E. The A follows the same chords we had with the F#.
And on and on she goes.
User Friendly Versions of the Chords We’ve Been Learning
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Until next time, Play in the Key of YOU!