Harmonized Major Scale Basics

What is a Major Key?

A major key is made up of the notes of the major scale, with the first note being the same note as the key. For example, the key of C is made up of the notes of the C major scale, which starts on the note C.

The Major Scale “Formula”

The “formula” that describes the distances between the notes of a major scale as a sequence of steps and half-steps is: 1, 1, 1/2, 1, 1, 1, 1/2.

The Harmonized Major Scale is…

…a series of chords built from the notes in a major scale by creating triads (1,3,5) from each of the notes of the major scale using ONLY notes from that scale, which determines the quality of chords.

The Quality of the Resulting Chords

The quality of the resulting triads varies depending on which type of 3 (third interval) and which type of 5 (fifth interval) are dictated by using ONLY notes from the major scale. The naturally occurring triads for ANY major key are the same:

I – Major, II – minor, III – minor, IV – Major, V – Major, VI – minor, VII – minor flat five.

Harmonized Major Scale “Guidelines”:

  1. Note names of ANY major key ascend step-by-step through the musical alphabet, cycling A through G as needed. (Note: This clarifies when accidentals occur whether to call a note sharp or flat.)
  2. Major scale formula ALWAYS applies from “key” note: 1, 1, 1/2, 1, 1, 1, 1/2.
  3. I, IV and V chords are Major, the rest are minor, and the VII chord is minor with a flatted 5.

Common Notation:

There are various ways the Harmonized Major Scale may be referred to. For one thing, Roman numerals can be used instead of Arabic numbers to avoid confusion regarding things like whether “7” means the seventh chord of the harmonized major scale, or in reference to chord structure, or quality, like A7, or Gm7b5 and so on. Roman numerals have been the traditional standard. In what’s now called “The Nashville System” Arabic numbers are the standard. So, here are some ways both number systems might be used, depending on who’s using it.

  1. I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII or 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 – When assuming the user understands Guideline #3 above the numbers can be used on their own. When playing I chord it’s Major, when playing a II chord it’s minor, etc..
  2. I, IIm, IIIm, IV, V, VIm, VIIm(b5) or 1, 2m, 3m, 4, 5, 6m, 7m(b5) – This system retains the numbers but adds the chord quality of each chord.
  3. I, ii, iii, IV, V, vi, vii(b5) – In this scenario a capitol letter designates Major and small case means minor.
  4. Other combinations of the above may occur as well. The main thing is for the writer/speaker and reader/listener to be using the same system.

Key of C:

I – C, IIm – Dm, IIIm – Em, IV – F, V – G, VI – Am, VII – Bm(b5)

Key of D:

I – D, IIm – Em, IIIm – F#m, IV – G, V – A, VI – Bm, VII – C#m(b5)

Key of E:

I – E, IIm – F#m, IIIm – G#m, IV – A, V – B, VI – C#m, VII – D#m(b5)

Key of F:

I – F, IIm – Gm, IIIm – Am, IV – Bb, V – C, VI – Dm, VII – Em(b5)

Key of Bb:

I – Bb, IIm – Cm, IIIm – Dm, IV – Eb, V – F, VI – Gm, VII – Am(b5)

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