Learning to harmonize a major scale will help you a great deal in knowing the right chords to play,
- While you are doing an accompaniment for a song on a particular key – with your band while jamming
- Or on stage
- Or if you are trying to learn a song off a record
Harmonization is the process of creating a chord (or harmony) from each note on a scale.
Harmonization is done by taking each note on the scale and counting the 3rd and 5th note from that root to build the triads or chords.
Then compare it to its major scale of origin and adjusting the corresponding notes to the notes of the scale being harmonized.
Confused? Don’t worry! You will have a clearer picture of what I am talking about if you read through, so read on!
Believe me, it’s pretty interesting and easy to follow!
Here you will learn how to harmonize a Major Scale using the C Major Scale.
By applying the Major Scale formula W W H W W W H we can easily build a C Major Scale as
C – D – E – F – G – A – B – C
After harmonizing this scale, we would have 7 chords from each note on the scale, starting with C and ending with B.
Before you can fully understand the process of harmonizing, I would urge you to check out these 3 lessons on building Major Chords, Minor Chords, and Diminished Chords from this blog – as ‘harmonizing a major scale’ is all about building these different chords or Triads.
Deriving the 1st Chord
Let’s build the 1st chord by picking the first note “C”, and then picking the 3rd and 5th notes of the scale counting from the root i.e. C.
And those notes are C – E – G
Now we must compare these notes with its major scale of origin, which in this case is C Major, so there is no need of any interval adjustments.
So we could easily build the first chord of a harmonized C Major Scale as C Major Chord (also denoted as C) or a C Major Triad.
The notes of the C Major chord are C-E-G.
Deriving the 2nd Chord
Now pick the 2nd note of the scale, which is D, and pick the 3rd and 5th notes from the root (now the root is D). The 3rd and 5th counted from D are F and A.
And we got the notes for the second chord as D-F-A
Now we need to compare this Triad with the 1st, 3rd and 5th notes of its original scale, which is D Major.
D Major Scale notes are D-E-F#-G-A-B-C#-D, and its 1st, 3rd and 5th are D-F#-A
Now when you compare the notes picked up from the C Major Scale (D-F-A) to the notes from its scale of origin (D-F#-A).
Then you can see that the C Major Scale has a natural F, whereas it’s original scale, i.e. D Major Scale has a raised or sharpened F or F#. So in order to bring the F# to a natural F, we need to lower it a half step.
This ultimately gives us a Minor Chord formula, 1-b3-5.
Now, apply this formula to the notes (D-F-A) of the C Major, and we get the 2nd chord of the harmonized C Major Scale as D Minor or Dm (D-Fb-A).
Deriving the 3rd Chord
Now take the 3rd note (E is the root now) and count along the scale to pick up the 3rd and 5th notes G and B from that root.
So the notes for the 3rd chord from C Major Scale are E-G-B
Now pick the corresponding 1-3-5 notes from its original scale, which is an E Major Scale.
The E Major Scale is E-F#-G#-A-B-C#-D#-E whose 1-3-5 notes are E-G#-B
Now compare them.
We can see that the G note from the G Major Scale needs to be flattened to make it a G Natural note, which again gives us a Minor chord formula which is 1-b3-5.
Appling this formula to the notes that we picked from C Major Scale gives us an E Minor Chord or Em – E-Gb-B as the 3rd chord of the harmonized C Major Scale.
Deriving the 4th Chord
The 1-3-5 notes from the 4th note of C Major Scale are F-A-C
Scale of origin for the root note F is an F Major Scale – F G A Bb C D E F
The 1-3-5 notes from F Major Scale are also F-A-C.
So both the sets have equal intervals; so there is no need to adjust any notes from the F Major Scale, which gives us a Major chord formula 1-3-5.
Applying this gives us the 4th chord of the harmonized C Major Scale – an F Major Chord(also denoted as F), F-A-C.
Deriving the 5th Chord
For ease of counting the 1st, 3rd and 5th notes from the 5th note G of C Major Scale, it’s recommended to rearrange the notes of the C Major scale starting from G in this format G – A – B – C – D – E – F – G (since otherwise you need to count the 5th note by starting all the way from the beginning of the scale).
Now it’s easy to pick the 1st 3rd and 5th notes starting from G which are G-B-D, whose scale of origin is G Major – G A B C D E F# G
The 1-3-5 notes from G Major Scale are also G-B-D.
So once again, both the sets have equal intervals; so there is no need to adjust any notes from the G Major Scale, which retains the Major chord interval.
This ultimately gives us the 5th chord of the harmonized C Major Scale, as a G Major Chord (also denoted as G), G-B-D.
Deriving the 6th Chord
Just like the previous chord, for ease of counting the 1-3-5 notes from the 6th note A of C Major Scale, it’s advisable to rearrange the notes of the C Major scale starting from A in this format A – B – C – D – E – F – G – A (as you may find it confusing to count the 5th note all the way from the beginning of the scale).
Now it’s easy to pick the 1st 3rd and 5th notes from A which are A-C-E whose corresponding original scale is A Major – A B C# D E F# G# A and it’s 1-3-5 notes are A-C#-E.
Now you need to flatten (or lower) the C# by a semi-tone to make it a natural C note as the C Major scale, which gives us a Minor Chord formula 1-b3-5.
Apply this formula to the 1-3-5 notes (A-C-E) of C Major Scale. This gives us an A Minor Chord or Am (A-Cb-E) as the 6th chord of the harmonized C Major Scale.
Deriving the 7th Chord
Following the same rule from the previous step, let’s rearrange the notes from the 7th note B of C Major Scale in this manner B-C-D-E-F-G-A-B making it easier to pick the 1st, 3rd and 5th notes – starting from B.
The 1-3-5 notes from B are B-D-F, and it’ scale of origin is B Major Scale B C# D# E F# G# A# B
The 1-3-5 notes of B Major Scale are B-D#-F#
But here we need to flatten or lower both the 3rd and 5th notes of the B Major Scale by a semitone each, which ultimately gives us a Diminished Chord formula – 1 b3 b5.
Now apply this formula to the 1-3-5 notes of C Major Scale (starting from B) which are B-D-F giving us a B Diminished Chord as B-Db-Fb.
So the 7th and final chord of a harmonized C Major Scale is B Diminished or B dim.
A fully harmonized C Major Scale will look like this,
C – C Major Chord
D – D Minor Chord
E – E Minor Chord
F – F Major Chord
G – G Major Chord
A – A Minor Chord
B – B Diminished Chord
I hope I was able to convey the concept of harmonizing a major scale effectively.
If not, you can also refer to this additional resource that I stumbled upon on the web.
Hopefully, now you can easily harmonize other major scales by using this lesson as a template.
Please do leave your feedback as a comment. I will be eager to know how you found this lesson.