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Chord-Melody 101:part 1:Getting A Grip

Robert Strait (6660) · [archive]
Style: Theory/Reference · Level: Advanced · Tempo: 160
Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

On this page I will demonstrate how you can use the harmonized major scale voicings in a modal context (of course, the major scale itself can be considered a mode - the Ionian mode).

The sequence below is the opening phrase from a popular jazz tune which is based on the D dorian scale. The underlying bass part is simply playing a walking, quarter-note bass line on a Dm7 chord. The melody notes are harmonized using chords from the C major scale (D dorian is the second mode of C major).

This is a somewhat different situation from the previous exercise. In this example, we are working with a composed piece of music, with an already established tonality: D dorian. We still have harmonic choices, but we are confined to the existing tonality.

Are these the best chord voicing choices for harmonizing this particular melody? Maybe not, but they do work because they are all diatonic to the D dorian mode. If you were to analyze each chord against a D root note, you would also see that each chord can function as some sort of "D" chord. For example, the notes of B-7b5 are B-D-F-A. If you analyze those notes against a D root, you have the 6, R, b3, and 5 of D, which spells a Dm6 chord.

Do you see how much mileage can be squeezed out of the harmonized major scale? This is the backbone of many of the concepts we will discuss over the course of this lesson. If you have made it this far (and man, do we still have far to go!), you already will have a quick and dirty way to harmonize diatonic melodies...just grab chords from the harmonized major scale!

Next, we will start to get into the real meat and potatoes of chord-melody arranging! Are you ready?
Chord-Melody 101:part 1:Getting A Grip - Page 3