Harmonized Scales Will Solve Everything.

Well, not really everything.
Far be it from me to engage in music theory hyperbole.
But I do think harmonized scales are a deep well of information for guitarists. You can extrapolate (yes, I’m working on my vocabulary skills- this was today’s word & I had to use it in a sentence…. mission complete) so many things from working them out on guitar… theory, technique, compositional material, and more.

Even if you don’t understand the fundamental music theory behind them, you can benefit immediately from practicing them just as a vehicle to master your fretboard navigation & technique.

Here’s a crash-course in the harmonized scale:

If you take a scale and add notes on top of each note of the major scale, you get chords.
Now, you can’t just throw any old notes on top of each scale note… they have to be notes from that same scale.
And all the notes need to be stacked in a consistent manner. This consistency is based on the distance between the notes in each chord.
I can tell you that the intervallic names for these distances but the likelihood is that it wouldn’t help your understanding at all, so let’s just stick to basics here.

Let’s look at a C Major Scale…

C   D   E   F   G   A   B

Let’s stack every other note on top of each scale note, three notes high. That looks like this…

G     A     B     C     D     E     F
E     F     G     A     B     C     D
C     D     E     F     G     A     B

So you have seven chords now…

C major    D minor    E minor    F major    G major    A minor    B diminished

You know what?… I think it would be a good idea for you to play a harmonized scale for yourself.
I can guarantee that you will hear it & recognize it as something familiar to you.

You could play this on the guitar in myriad ways (that was another extra credit vocabulary word- myriad).
Here is one possibility…

Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 1.34.15 AM

Hey- did you notice that the C, F & G major chords are the same shape?… and that the Dm Em & Am are the same shape? That kind of observation helps the brain & the fingers learn new stuff.

Believe me, I am totally aware that this is a gross over-simplification of this subject matter. I am leaving out tons of information out right now. It is intentional on my part. I know when I observe others teaching, I can be judgmental of how the information is presented and if it is too much or too little. So what I am striving to do here is to just “plant the seed”. If you have never even heard of such things as harmonize scales, then this will get you started.
As with most concepts that are this deep & this complex, it is realistic to expect that in order to come to a complete understanding, you must have multiple experiences with it. Consider this a first step towards your goal of learning more about this particular aspect of music theory.
Remember, that’s one of the cool things about this instrument… you don’t have to know what you are doing to have fun & create (But you do have to put your fingers in the right spots for each chord, of course, so take this slo00000wly).

As always, there’s tons of info on harmonized scales out there on the internets so be brave & go forth & explore. Remember, it’s okay to initially be overwhelmed by large amounts of information. Give it time & it all eventually all falls into place.
Trust me.

1 Comment

  • Mikey LaSusa

    Reply Reply March 11, 2015

    Awesome blog Matthew! This explains theory for people that are just beginning to dive into theory. Keep these blogs coming!

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