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Music Theory:
Harmonizing the Major Scale



The foundation of diatonic harmony is triad harmonization of the major scale. To begin researching this topic - take a moment to learn a few important definitions.

- DIATONIC: The term diatonic is the opposite of chromatic. Since chromatic is non-selective movement between notes, diatonic is obviously selectively moveing in a specific way from one note to another.

- HARMONY: When we combine notes in third intervals one on top of another we achieve harmony from a scale. For example; if we had a C Major scale, all notes being natural, and we moved up a 3rd from C - we would land on E. Another 3rd after that would give us G. Therefore the notes of C, E and G are all in harmony.

- DIATONIC HARMONY: When we stay inside of a scale and play the chords found within that central tonality, we achieve Diatonic Harmony.

Since; pop, rock, country, folk and other popular styles are generally created from a single harmonized scale, it is vital that we fully understand this process.


This concept is also vital in understanding the relationship between melody and harmony. Since without an understanding of the chords which fit with specific scales, a musician would have great difficulty matching chords with melody lines.

Let's take a look at harmonizing the key of C Major into a series of Triads:

The Scale:
C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C

Each step of the scale can be stacked in thirds and this would create a harmony.


The chords from the harmony found in the key of C Major would result in:

C Major | D Minor | E Minor | F Major
G Major | A Minor | B Diminished

For practice, write a progression using the chords found in the key of C Major. These chords will all sound well with each other, since after all, they share all of the same notes.