Music Theory For Guitarists: Harmonizing The Major Scale; Triads, Tetrads, Stringset Positions, Practical Applications
Harmonizing a scale forms the chords in that scale. For the major scale, the procedure is quite simple. Start with the major scale and form triads (three note chords), by adding the third and fifth above the root. If the root is on a line, the third and fifth will be found on adjacent lines above the root note. If the root is on a space, the third and fifth will be found on adjacent spaces above the root note. The chords formed are always the same shapes corresponding to the intervals of the major scale: Major, minor, minor, Major, Major, minor, diminished, Major.
The C Major Scale
This is quite simply, Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti Do. The key of C Major has no sharps or flats, the notes are all natural: C D E F G A B C. A standard way of notating intervals is with roman numerals I II III IV V VI VII VIII.
Triads In The Key Of C Major
When the C Major scale is harmonized to form triads, the resulting chords are: C Major, D minor, E minor, F Major, G Major, A minor, B diminished, C Major. These are the chords in the key of C Major. This means that the C Major scale can be used over any of these chords for improvisation or composing purposes. This is also a strong song writing tool, as many pop and rock songs are diatonic (contained within one key). Play these chords in any order, and the resulting sound is very pleasing to the ear. The song, Runaway Train, is a perfect example of a song that is strictly diatonic. There are no chords outside of the key of C Major. The ever popular, One Four Five progression is found here. The One chord is C, the Four chord is F and the Five chord is G. For every Major scale the shapes and order of the chords are always the same Major, minor, minor, Major, Major, minor, diminished and Major (octave higher) . I have notated both the scale and the chords along the fifth string for clarity, but they do not have to be played this way. Any voicing of the chords will work
4 Note Chords In The Key Of C Major
To form four note chords, simply add one more note onto the triads. Follow the same procedure: if the notes are on lines, add one more note above the triad on the adjacent line, if the notes are on spaces, add one more note above the triad on the adjacent space. The resulting chords are C Major 7, D minor 7, E minor 7, F Major 7, G7, A minor 7, B diminished 7, C Major 7. All of these chords are seventh shapes and have a strong jazz sound. Once again, I have notated all the chords with the root along the fifth string. Some of these shapes are very had to play with these voicings. Try normal voicings for these chords, the results will be the same. The C Major scale will fit with all of these chords. In fact, it will sound better, because some of the notes from the scale that are commonly passing tones will sound much more pleasing. For example: across a C Major chord, the B note is normally used as a passing tone, because it will clash with the root C, but over C Major 7 the B is contained in the chord. A very serene sound.
Harmonizing Scales In All Keys
I have transcribed all the sharp and flat keys on recurring string sets. Obviously, working out all the triads for each key on ALL strings sets is a monumental task. Try to memorize one key and one string set per day. Then try to mix and match the same key on different string sets (I have included an example for G Major). This is a huge study and requires a lot of work, but will open up the fretboard for improvisation and composition.
Harmonization Of All The Major Scale Sharp Keys
Harmonization Of All The Major Scale Flat Keys
God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman Chord Melody
I know it is the wrong time of year for this tune (I definitely do want to rush the cold weather), but this arrangement puts the triads to work. They can be extremely valuable in chord melody composition. It is not all that hard when you have this knowledge. Voice the melody note as the highest note and build the triad underneath. Not that easy to play or memorize and it will have you running all over the fretboard. With enough practice, you might master it in time for the festive season.
© 2013 Lorne Hemmerling