Harmonized Scales

Harmonized scales, when explained using traditional music theory terms, refer to the process of building chords using the notes of a scale in a systematic way, such that each note of the scale becomes the root of a chord. This creates a series of chords that are harmonically related to the scale and to each other. The harmonized scale forms the foundation for chord progressions within a key, contributing to the harmonic structure of a piece of music. Here’s a more detailed explanation using traditional terms:

  1. Scale: A sequence of notes ordered by pitch, such as the major scale or the minor scale. Each scale is defined by a unique pattern of whole steps (tones) and half steps (semitones).
  2. Triad: The simplest type of chord, consisting of three notes: the root, the third, and the fifth. Triads can be major, minor, diminished, or augmented, depending on the intervals between the notes.
  3. Harmonizing a Scale: To harmonize a scale means to build triads (or more complex chords) on each degree (note) of the scale. This is done by stacking thirds from the scale: you start with a scale note, skip the next scale note, add the next one, skip another, and add the next. This pattern creates a triad.
  4. Degrees of the Scale: Each note in a scale is assigned a degree, numbered from 1 to 7 (in a seven-note scale like the major or minor scale). These degrees are also given Roman numerals, which help to denote the chord built on that degree and its quality (major, minor, diminished).
  5. Harmonized Major Scale Example: In the key of C major, the scale is C-D-E-F-G-A-B. Harmonizing each note using triads gives us:
    • I: C major (C-E-G)
    • ii: D minor (D-F-A)
    • iii: E minor (E-G-B)
    • IV: F major (F-A-C)
    • V: G major (G-B-D)
    • vi: A minor (A-C-E)
    • vii°: B diminished (B-D-F)

Harmonizing scales is a fundamental aspect of traditional Western music theory, providing a systematic approach to creating chord progressions that are coherent and musically satisfying within a given key.

In this exercise we see the C major scale on the first line. The second line is harmony in thirds and the bottom line illustrates the harmonized scale in the key of C.

Below we have various ways to play the harmonized scales as we discussed in the previous lessons on triads.

Root position triads
First Inversions Second  inversions


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