Tip #160 – Cheat-Sheet for Pairing Scales and Chords Together

Many times I hear among jazz musicians the idea of what scale(s) should go with what chord harmony.

It makes sense to understand what scale works best with what harmony so that you know which pitches to chose from when constructing a melody, improvisation, counterpoint, etc.

Below is a lengthy (but not perfect) cheat-sheet for multiple kids of scales, and what chords work best:

Note that this graph is turned on its side so that it can fit your screen better. To turn it, simply download the picture and edit it with a rotation app.

To read this cheat-sheet, find the scale you want starting on the right scale degree of the key that you are in. From there, look at the harmonic possibilities as the Roman numerals relate to the key that you are in.

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Tip #159 – Reframing Thoughts on Eight-Part Chord Structures

Say that you are being extravagant and want to incorporate a chord like this into your composition:

This is a D7(b9 b13) chord with the doubling of the root at the top.

Instead of thinking of this as one big chord, you can divide it in half and get this result:

Now, you have a D7 chord on the bottom with an Ebmaj7 chord above it.

Thinking of large chords at a micro level can help with voicing. Now that we know that the D7(b9 b13) chord is really just a combination of the two chords (D7 and Ebmaj7), we can essentially “divide and conquer” with solving how we want to voice the chord harmony:

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Tip #155 – Building Four-Part Closed Fifth Clusters

Once again, the title of today’s tip might sound a bit intimidating… but it is a lot more simpler than you think.

Today, we will be talking about building clusters that span over the harmonic interval distance of a perfect fifth by using only four different pitches.

Basically, to build a closed fifth cluster, you take a melody and harmonize underneath it by a perfect fifth interval. Then, you “fill in the middle” with the diatonic minor third of major fifth. So, now you have a bunch of triads. Finally, you add a note a perfect fourth below the melody note. And there you go, harmonization built from closed fifth clusters:

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Tip #154 – Cheat-Sheet for Four-Part Fourth Structures

Okay, the title may seem really confusing, but this is what it is:

This post is about how to create fourth structures (harmonies built on intervals of fourths) with four notes.

To read the cheat-sheet below, take a melody note and decide what function is it in relation to the chord. Then, you add three remaining chord member notes below it. Finally, you analyze the chord in relation to the melody note being the tonic:

So, say that I have the note A, and I want it to be the m3 of a chord:

Because A is the m3 of the chord, that means the notes below it (from highest to lowest) are E as the b7, B as the 11, and F# as the root 1. We can thus analyze this as vi 11 in the key of A major:

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Tip #151 – Using Fourth Structures in Harmonization

Continuing with a topic discussed the other day, we are going to take a look at how we can harmonize a melody using these fourth structures.

First, start off with a melody:

Then, add the diatonic fourth below the melody (this can either be a P4 or a tritone):

Now, we are going to do a closed fourth voicing, which means that we will add a third below the melody note. However, for the harmony that has a tritone, we are going to add a third ABOVE the bottom note:

If we instead wanted to do open fourths, we would need to stack two intervals of a fourth on top of each other. So, that simply means adding another fourth below the fourth from the previous example:

But, notice how the one with X’s have a tritone in them. Technically, that does not exactly fit the definition of an open fourth structure. To edit this, we use chromatics to adjust the harmonic intervals:

And there you go!

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Tip #150 – Difference Between Open and Closed Fourth Structures

Just like triads (tri- three) that are made of thirds, you can construct chords out of the perfect fourth interval.

Simply, and open fourth structure is a chord built from two P4 intervals on top of each other, spanning a m7 interval. A closed fourth structure is one that spans an interval of a P4 with a third below the melody note (either m3 or M3 depending on the diatonic scale)

However, in the case that the interval of the diatonic closed fourth chord is a tritone, the best way to reharmonize it is to create an interval of a third between the bottom note instead of the top:

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Tip #149 – Cheat-Sheet for Using Definitive Triads

The concept of definitive triad – while not commonly known – is very easy to understand and master.

It is using two adjacent diatonic triads of piece of music’s scale or mode to harmonize an entire melody.

Each melody note will be harmonized be either one of the two definitive triads in relation to its chord tone. Of course, there will be one remaining pitch that will not have a direct harmonization to one of the two definitive triads. In a simple exemption to the rule: use any diatonic triad containing that note to harmonize.

Below is a cheat-sheet on what chords within their respective scales or modes work best as the two definitive triads for harmonization:

So, a melody based in the mode of B Lydian will use the I and II chords… the B major triad and C# major triad. Because of the combination of those two chords { B , C# , D# , E# , F# , G# }, the A# is the note left-out… and thus, can be harmonized by any triad of your choice that is diatonic to the B Lydian scale.

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Tip #148 – Reducing Dominant Chords to Three-Note Harmonies

Tailgating on the idea of being limited to a three-part harmony; you are going to have to make some choices if you want the sound of a dominant chord, but can only voice three notes.

To remind: a dominant chord is a major triad with a b7 interval above it (and is usually decorated with extra upper extensions as well as tension tones).

So…

Whenever the root, 9, b9, #9, 11, +11, 13, or b13 is in the melody – support it with the 3rd and b7th of the chord underneath it.

Whenever the 3rd or 5th is in the melody of the dominant chord – support it with the b7th, and the remaining 5th or 3rd.

Whenever the b7th is in the melody – support it with the 3rd and 5th underneath it.

Whenever there is an alternation or substitution in the dominant chord – keep it, but make sure the distance between the two upper notes is not a m2.

And more so…

Keep this in mind as you plan how to do a harmonic arrangement and support of your musical work.

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Tip #147 – Cheat-Sheet on How to Substitute in Extensions into Triads

Say that you only have three melodic instruments – so only three notes for are harmony are possible. However, you want the harmony to be more than just a triad.

What do you do?

Below, I have created a cheat-sheet on what note of the triad to drop-out and substitute in an upper extension to create a feeling of a larger harmony:

This works best when the substituted note is the highest note in the melody, but you are free to experiment.

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Tip #144 – Chord Tone for Two-Part Density

If you are like me, you sometimes struggle to find a cool contrapuntal line – or at least, another additional melodic line – to a two-part density effect in the main melody.

Well, here is one very simplistic way that you can make another melodic line to obtain two-part density.

Start with a melody and a basic harmony like the example below:

Then, add a stagnant melodic line in the same rhythm above at the closest chord tone of the written harmony WITHOUT touching the main melody (that is why a D was chosen instead of a Bb):

And there you go, a simple way to create two-part density while still maintaining the harmony .

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