4 Harmonising a scale

Harmonising a Scale

So once we have a scale under our fingers, we can use this in a number of ways. Of course we can create melodies to our hearts content, but there is one thing we can now do that we wouldn’t before and that is making chords. 

When we have a scale, all the notes will fit together as they belong to a “Key” (which we will discuss later). If we take the notes in a scale we can layer them on top of each other and this will give us chords that will work with that scale. We’ll use the Major scale as it is easiest to understand with this one, we can look at another scale after just incase.

Major Scale

Root   M2   M3   P4   P5   M6   M7   Oct.

  C       D      E     F      G     A     B     C

           W     W     H     W    W     W     H  Whole/Half steps

            2      2      1      2     2      2           semi-tones between intervals

            2      4      5      7     9     11          semi-tones from root note


In the key of C, these are all the notes. One of the mist popular ways to make chords is by using the formula we use for major and minor chords and that is called “stacking thirds”. Basically, we jump up 3 scale degrees (including the one you are on) and play that interval with the root. We do the same thing starting on the 3rd we landed on and then add that to the Root and 3rd.

This picture might make things a little clearer:

[insert picture here of stacking thirds]

We can do this as many times as we would like, but usually doing it enough to get 3 or 4 notes per chord is fine. We can then do the same thing for every note in that scale, and we should have something that looks very similar to this:

[insert picture]

You can see now that we have a lot of notes, but together they make individual chords. The special thing is, these chords will always work with that scale no matter what you do. For the major scale it may not seem that interesting, but If you have a scale like the Harmonic Minor that can sound very dark and you want the song to sound equally as dark, you can. This method means that all the notes will always work together and give you a set of chords that will sound as great as the scale. Let’s break down the harmonic scale in to its chords by stacking the 3rds

[insert pics of harming minor]

[insert pics of moving the 3rds over there]

[insert pic of full harmonic minor harmonised]

Try it yourself with the natural minor scale!

Natural Minor Scale

Root   M2   m3   P4   P5   m6   m7  Oct.

           W     H     W     W    H     W     H  Whole/Half steps

            2      1      2      2     1      2           semi-tones between intervals

            2      3      5      7     8     10          semi-tones from root note