Harmonizing

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Lead Guitar Made Easy

Gold Level Lesson

Guitar Chords and Guitar Scale Harmonizing

Most harmonized lines, whether guitars, horns, strings, tuned percussion playing them or sung by a vocalist, are built on notes known as chord tones. Chord tones are the root, 3rd, 5th and the 7th of any given scale. In the illustrations to follow, we will learn how to harmonize in thirds in the A major and A harmonic minor scales. We will stay within the diatonic structure of each scale and cover up to 3 octaves. Recall that diatonic means to stay within the scale, or use just the notes of a particular scale.

The illustration below outlines the notes of the A major scale. The red line shows where the 2nd octave begins and the first ends. From the (Root A to the next A 7th fret would be the 1st octave. Look below and notice the first A note and second A note, this is the first octave. By playing the 2nd A note to the third A note would be within the 2nd Octave, etc….  

Look at the illustration once again, this time notice the notes that make up the A major scale. The notes are from the (Root A), B, C#, D, E, F#, G#. The diatonic major scale has 7 notes, with the 8th note the same as the 1st and repeating in sequence. Each note following the root goes higher than the next. The root note is the lowest note in the key. For Example, the A note is the root note for the key of A major, but the lowest note can only be the root note. The C would be the root note in the key of C major, but it would be the lowest C note.

The two illustrations below will illustrate the key of A major covering two octaves. The bottom illustration is the same major key, but is shown in tablature.

Under each of the notes above are the abbreviations for each of the intervals of the major scale. We will not go into depth in this lesson, but a brief explanation will do for now. We will cover each of the intervals down the road. What we’re concerned with in this lesson is the (Major 3rd and the Minor 3rd). The Major 3rd is abbreviated above as ma3. In the key of A major the C# would be the major 3rd. Look above and notice the ma3 under the C# note.

The major 3rd is always the third note in any major key. The major 3rd is always the 3rd note in a Major Triad. Recall that a Triad is a chord, which uses 3 notes.

The major 3rd note is (2 whole steps) or (4 half steps) away from the root or 1st note. Count the notes from the A below to the C#. You would use all the notes including the sharps. (From the A note you would have, A#, B, C and the C#) This is where the four half steps come from. Recall that a 1/2 step equals one fret and a Whole step = 2 frets. So, four half steps = 2 whole steps. The Major 3rd note is 2 whole steps away from the root.

The minor 3rd would be 3 half steps or 1 and ½ whole steps. We know that in the key of A major the A chord is the A major chord. The B chord in the key of A major is the minor chord. Notice that the D note is only 3 half steps from the B. This would be a minor 3rd.

The chords in the key of A major are, A, Bm, C#m, D, E, F#m, G# diminished. Look at the illustration below and find the D note. The distance from the D to the F# would be 2 whole steps, so the F# is a ma 3rd to the D. The notes in the D chord are D, F# and A.

If you had a D minor chord, the notes would be D, F and A. Notice that the F is a minor 3rd now.

At the present time we are only concerned with the major and the minor 3rd. Even the G# diminished chord above has a minor 3rd. The notes of the G# diminished chord are, G#, B and D. By knowing this, it is possible to harmonize with any chord using the 3rd interval. The 3rd interval will be either major or minor. The major 3rd is 2 whole steps from the root and the minor 3rd interval is 1 and ½ steps from the root.

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