Harmonizing Scales

Being able to harmonize a scale can be a great help in writing and learning songs. Simply put, harmonizing a scale involves building chords by stacking thirds on each scale tone or degree. Using these chords in a given key will pretty much always sound good – which is why many (perhaps the majority) of songs are written using these chords.

A great example of an incredibly popular harmonized chord progression is the basic 1 4 5 progression used in many genres including blues, bluegrass, and rock among others. This progression generally means to use the 1st, 4th, and 5th chord from the harmonized scale – so in C that would be C F and G. Because these chords are used so often they can be really helpful when learning a song by ear too.

Of course like all things music – there are certainly exceptions to this where chords out of the harmonized scale are used (like in Old Home Place where the major 3 is used or in Big River where the minor 2 is used).

The below chart shows the harmonized major and minor scales.

Here’s a few different practices for the harmonized scales as well

I’d suggest creating some flash cards to memorize these progressions as well. On one side, the key. On the other, the harmonized scale.

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