Mike Robinson Land

How are chord progressions formed?…Harmonizing a scale

Posted in Music Theory by mikerobinsonland on December 7, 2009
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So now you know how to build basic Triads, you might ask how do we build chord progressions. It really is just as simple.

First you need to decided what key you want the progression to be in. What parent scale you uses depends on what key you decided to choice.

Diatonic– Means basically to stay with in the bounds of a parent scale. So if your playing in the key of C the only notes that are diatonic are C,D,E,F,G,A and B.

To keep things simple lets build a progression in the key of C.

When learning how to build major triads we took the Root, the 3rd and the 5th. We practice the same thing here, only when building progressions we use the same parent scale for every chord to stay diatonic to the key. This process is called harmonizing the scale.

Here is the C major scale…

-The first chord we take the Root, 3rd, and the 5th

C D    E F    G A    B

We are left with a C major C, E, G. We call this the I chord

-Next we build the II chord…same process only we are starting with the D.


II chord= D minor D,F,A

-III chord…same thing again starting with the E.

C    D E F G A B

II chord= E minor E,G,B

-IV chord

C D    E F G A B

III chord= F major F,A,C

-V chord

C    D E    F    G A    B

V chord= G major G,B,D

See its not that hard… Two more left.

-VI chord

C D E F    G A B

VI chord= A minor A,C,E

-VII chord

C    D E    F G    A     B

VII chord= B major B,D,F

So to play diatonicly in the Key of C we use the following chords

I= C major C, E, G

ii=D minor D,F,A

iii=E minor E,G,B

IV=F major F,A,C

V=G major G,B,D

vi=A minor A,C,E

vii=B major B,D,F

Notice im using lower case roman numerals now, for minor chords. This is a common notation to show a minor chord when talking about chord progressions.

This same process is used for all major keys. The outcome is always I, ii, iii, IV, V, vi, vii

Try it in another key.

Coming soon Haromonising the minor scale and 7th chord harmony