1. Learning how to harmonize scales allows you to understand how groups of chords derive from a single scaleFor a given musical scale, we can derive a set of chords. Once you understand this for one scale, you can apply it to any scale. This will help you recognize sets of chords as coming from a particular scale, which then helps you when you want to improvise and helps you recognize how to create certain moods or emotions by using chords from different scales.
2. Learning how to harmonize scales allows you to understand the function of each chord, and how chords are related to each otherWhen you are looking at how chords interact with each other, an E minor chord is not simply a minor version of an A minor chord (unless you are referring to a piece of music composed entirely of a single chord). Each chord within a given key has a specific function, and chords from a certain key, when played in a certain order, create a predictable emotional / musical effect. By learning how chords fit into keys, you will know the emotional impact of a chord progression that you write before playing it. A great skill for composers!
3. Learning how to harmonize scales improves your composition abilityHave you ever found yourself writing a song or a piece of music and struggling to work out the next chord? You know what you want but you don't know how to make the music do that? When you know your scale harmonization, you know which chords "fit" together, i.e. you get a "master list" of chords that will work together.
So when you are stuck for the next chord, you can go through this list with trial and error until you find the right chord - there aren't that many chords for each key (diatonic keys only have seven chord per key), so you will find the right chord quite quickly. Of course, if you are writing some crazy prog music, you may need a wider chord vocabulary.
4. Learning how to harmonize scales allows you to work out what scales you can use to compose or improvise withLet's say you have figured out a chord sequence you like, or you are in a band situation and someone has given you a chord sequence and they want you to play a solo over the top. When you know your scale harmonization, you can reverse engineer the progression to figure out what scale the chords have been derived from. This will then tell you the scales that you can use to solo with or improvise with over the top of the chord sequence. Understand this and you will never be stuck and unable to work out which key you are playing in.
5. Learning how to harmonize scales allows you to understand how triads and sevenths are relatedBy understanding how scales are harmonized, you can understand how to interchange triads and sevenths, for example, you could take a folk song, such as "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" by Bob Dylan, and rewrite it as a jazzy version.
6. Learning how to harmonize scales is a pre-requisite for understanding more complex theory concepts, such as modulation and cadencesUnderstanding scale hamronizations is a pre-requisite for being able to understand slightly more advanced subjects such as cadences and modulation, which are great tools for songwriting. These more advanced concepts save you a lot of time when writing music by giving you a "tool box" of chord patterns... But if you don't understand scale harmonization, these concepts won't make any sense!
7. Arpeggios!Arpeggios are the notes of a chord played in rapid succession, either ascending or descending. By understanding scale harmonizations, you will also know what arpeggios you can use, whether you want to sweep pick them, tap them, or play them in other ways. Vital knowledge for any lead guitar player!
So how do we harmonize a scale?Hopefully you already understand how chords are constructed. For the purposes of this article we will look at three tonalities of chord:
Major: 1 3 5
Minor: 1 b3 5
Diminished: 1 b3 b5Let's use a scale of C major as an example to work with. C major:
C D E F G A BTaking the first, third and fifth notes we get:
C E GWhich are the notes that make up the chord C major (C∆). To find the second chord in the scale, we are going to pretend that the second note, D, is now the first note:
D E F G A B CAnd again we take the first, third and fifth notes:
D F AWhich makes up the chord D minor (D-). Now, to find the third chord in the scale, we are going to pretend that the third note in the scale, E, is the first note:
E F G A B C DAnd by taking the first, third and fifth, we get the notes:
E G BWhich are the notes in the chord E minor (E-). Let's follow the same process for the fourth through to seventh chords:
F G A B C D E1st, 3rd and 5th:
F A CThese notes make the chord F major (F∆).
G A B C D E F1st, 3rd and 5th:
G B DThese notes makes the chord G major (G∆)
A B C D E F G1st, 3rd and 5th:
A C EThese notes make the chord A minor (A-).
B C D E F G A1st, 3rd and 5th:
B D FThese notes makes the chord B diminished (Bo).
So to recap, we started with the scale C major:
C D E F G A BAnd by working out the chords from each note, we created the following set of chords:
C∆ D- E- F∆ G∆ A- BoAnd now you know how to harmonize a scale! You can apply this principle to any scale.
You can get all the scale patterns, harmonization (triads and sevenths) and modes for this scale and also the harmonic minor and melodic minor scales in your free eBook, "The Ultimate Guide to the Modes of the Major, Harmonic Minor and Melodic Minor Scales," which will help you take these concepts and apply them to your guitar, which will give you the freedom to compose, improvise and shred in a whole range of awesome sounding scales! There is also has a whole range of appendix tables and diagrams to help you see how powerful this concept is and the different ways that it can be applied.
By Sam Russell