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Scale Harmonisation

Scale What?

I want to insert this chapter to give you a practical approach for the basic chords we had in our last session. So some more experienced players could wonder a little bit because this topic usually comes later. However, it gives some room for more practical experiments and it gives us a little break before jumping into chord specials.

So what the hell is scale harmonisation?

The Beauty and the Beast: A Scale and its chords

This again starts with a simple idea: what happens if we use each note of a scale as root note for a chord, doing our triad stacking? How will the chords look like? Does this give us any new idea for songs? Will the drummer recognize what we are playing then?

I have to admit: this is more essential than we think, and we have to introduce some other preconditions before doing that. What we will do now is harmonizing a scale. And when he have finished you will know what SH is. And you will see what you can do with it.

Step #1: Selecting a scale to harmonize

What's our most favourite scale? Yeah, the C major scale:

C major scale

So we will take every note as a root note for our basic chords. Now for the preconditions: we will build chords, but the same time we are working in and with a scale, so we can only use notes which are in our underlying scale. So lets start:

Step #2: Building the chords

The procedure is always the same, so I will only show it for C, D and B. It's up to you to do it for the rest of the scale. Please do it, it is a good exercise. Make a table with the notes and the steps between them to count up and down.

Chords for 'C':
root 1st triad interval 2nd triad interval resulting chord this is:


b3 = D#, not in scale,
3 = E, is in scale
E + b3 = G, is in scale,
E + 3 = G#, not in scale
(3 b3 => 1 3 5)
C major

Chords for 'D':
root 1st triad interval 2nd triad interval resulting chord this is:


b3 = F, is in scale,
3 = F#, not in scale
F + b3 = G#, not in scale,
F + 3 = A, is in scale
(b3 3 => 1 b3 5)
D minor

Chords for 'B':
root 1st triad interval 2nd triad interval resulting chord this is:


b3 = D, is in scale,
3 = D#, not in scale
D + b3 = F, this is in scale,
D + 3 = F#, not in scale
(b3 b3 => 1 b3 b5)
B dim

Even if this is a lot of work this is really easy to do. Ask our little helpers (e.g. the Cmajor scale table and the Chord Clock) for some support to count intervals and find which notes are in C major or not.

Now, I am sure that you have done it for all the other notes of the C major scale, so I can present the complete table here:

















C major

D minor

E minor

F major

G major

A minor

B dim

C major

Now we have made the harmonisation of the C major scale. Great staff. To be correct this is the diatonic harmonization of this scale because we have only used notes from the underlying scale, here: C major.

So what?

This shows us some important results:

Believe it or not: this happens with every major scale we select, from C to Bb. Try it if you dont believe it :-)

And now?

We can play this! And now we can apply our chords to bass, in the correct harmonic way. We can do it in two ways, with full chords, which is not very useful on bass, or as arpeggios. An arpeggio is a chord where all notes are played one after the other, not at the same time.

There is even one more possible way, now leaving harmonic correctness. The fifth in the chord is not that important. The most important notes are root and the third (why?). So here are some scales to play, up and down, left to right, day to night ... :-)

Not to forget: some more tab symbols here: '/' means slide up

Harmonized C major scale, no fifths:

G ----------------------------------------------------------
D ---2-----3-----5-----7------9-------10-------12-------14--
A -3---3/5---5/7---7/8---8/10---10/12----12/14----14/15-15--
E ----------------------------------------------------------

When we want to use the fifth in our chords this could be a little bit difficult. But the sequence of notes does not alter the chord, so instead of notes on the high G string we can use the notes on the E string.

Harmonized C major scale with fifths:

G -------------------------------------------------------------
D -----2-----3-----5-----7-------9-------10-------12-------14--
A ---3-----5-----7-----8------10------12-------14-------15-----
E -3-----5-----7-----8-----10------12-------14-------15--------

('G strings are for strippers ...'  Tony Levin)

Now you may say: "I play these sequences sinces years!". But did you know why?


Yes, we cant avoid these silly famous last words:

We will now return to the chord theory. There's a lot more with simple three note chords, three-note-chord-specials ...


1.) You should really do the SH on some pieces of paper. It helps to remember scales and gives a feeling for intervals.
2.) Playing chords related to SH is good practice for fingers and fretboard feeling.