[Lesson] Basic Scale & Chord Construction

Discussion in 'The Sevenstring.org Workbench' started by Metal Ken, Aug 16, 2004.

  1. Metal Ken

    Metal Ken Hates the Air Contributor

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    Basic Chord & Scale Construction.​


    The most important aspect of music is the Major (ionian) Scale. Everything is derived from this, all chords, all scales, everything. They can be traced back to the Major Scale.

    The Major scale is constructed of a repeating patteron of Whole steps and half steps, Whole, Whole, Half, Whole, Whole,Whole, Half. When you start it on C, it is C D E F G A B C. For the majority of this lesson, i'll be using C Major since its the best for explaining, with no sharps and flats. Now once you this know this, the concept of modes is really basic. A Mode is just a major scale with a different altered note to give it a different sound.

    In C Major, your modes are:

    C Ionian - Major
    D Dorian - Minor
    E Phrygian - Minor
    F Lydian - Major
    G Mixolydian-Major
    A Aeolian - Natural Minor
    B Locrian - Half Dimished

    That's pretty simple. If you know a C Major scale and emphasize a different note, you get that respective mode. If you play a C major scale from E TO E,
    You get a phrygian mode, which is minor and pretty egyptian sounding, so its cool. You can also apply a Formula to make modes from the major scale, to see
    how each mode relates to each other.

    The FORMULAS for modes are:

    Ionian - Straight Major
    Dorian - 1, 2, 3b, 4, 5, 6, 7b
    Phrygian - 1, 2b, 3b, 4, 5, 6b, 7b
    Lydian - 1, 2, 3, 4#, 5, 6, 7
    Mixolydian - 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7b
    Aeolian - 1, 2, 3b, 4, 5, 6b, 7b
    locrian - 1, 2b, 3b, 4, 5b, 6b, 7b

    Now what this means is if you take a major scale and apply that chart to the above notes you'll get that scale, For example, you start out with an A Major scale:

    A B C# D E F# G# A

    Now you take the Aeolian formula, which you flatten the 3rd,6th and 7th notes. In The A Major scale, those are C#, F# & G#. So You flatten those notes. What do you get?
    A B C D E F G A. Thats an A Aeolian/Natural Minor scale!

    Now for the chords. Once again, as with scales, Major is the basis for all of our chord construction. The most basic chord you can have is a Major triad. A Triad is simply 3 notes (And a Dyiad is a harmonic relation, like a power'chord'). A triad is the smallest possible chord. A Major triad is simply the 1st, 3rd and 5th note of any major scale.

    For example:
    A C Major triad is simply the first, third and fifth note of a C Major scale, So:

    Our Major Scale:

    C D E F G A B
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7

    Our chord will be 1-3-5, so:

    1(C)-3(E)-5(G). On guitar that looks like:

    E----
    B----
    G-0--
    D-2--
    A-3--
    E----
    B----


    The Minor Triad/Chord formula is ALMOST the same as the Major, except you take the 1st, FLAT 3rd and 5th of the major scale.
    So for A Minor, you have your major scale:

    A B C# D E F# G#
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7

    Our Chord is 1-3b-5, so:

    1(A)-3b(C)-5(E). The C# becomes a C Natural. On guitar that looks like

    E----
    B----
    G----
    D-2--
    A-3--
    E-5--
    B----

    Extended chords are just as simple. A Seventh chord is just the 1st,3rd,5th, and SEVENTH note of a major scale.
    So lets take a look at a C Major 7th chord.

    Our Major Scale:
    C D E F G A B
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7

    Our chord will be 1-3-5-7, so:

    1(C)-3(E)-5(G)-7(B). On guitar that looks like:

    E----
    B-0--
    G-0--
    D-2--
    A-3--
    E----
    B----

    So here's some chord formulas:

    Chord Type Formula
    Major - 1, 3, 5
    Major7th - 1, 3, 5, 7
    Major9th - 1, 3, 5, 7, 9
    Major11th- 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11
    Major13th- 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13

    Minor - 1, b3, 5
    Minor7th - 1, b3, 5, b7
    Minor9th - 1, b3, 5, b7, 9
    Minor11th - 1, b3, 5, b7, 9, 11
    Minor13th - 1, b3, 5, b7, 9, 11, 13

    Later on if anyone wants, i can write about Augmented, Dimished,suspended & Dominant Chords. this is just a brief skim over the stuff i did up by request of
    Goliath, so i hope he enjoys if no one else. If anyone has any questions feel free to ask.
     
    seanchud, arweryn, 8string and 5 others like this.
  2. telecaster90

    telecaster90 Smokestack Lightning Contributor

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    Good post.

    What's the deal with Augmented, Diminished, Suspended and Dominant? Isn't Dominant a major triad with b7?
     
  3. Metal Ken

    Metal Ken Hates the Air Contributor

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    Pretty much. a Dominant will naturally fall on the V chord of any key as well.
    Augmented chords a stacked triads of major thirds, Dimished are stacked triads of Minor 3rds. Sus chords are chords like 1-2-5 or 1-4-5 instead of 1-3-5. You suspend the third in favor of anothe scale tone.

    Theres a whole other mess of rules for usage of Augmented and Diminished in chord substitutions and all kinds of stuff. If you want, message me on AIM andi can break it down for ya.
     
  4. telecaster90

    telecaster90 Smokestack Lightning Contributor

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  5. macalpine88

    macalpine88 SS.org Regular

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    as hatebreeder said it is 2 major 3rds stacked on top of each other, instead of the normal major 3rd than minor 3rd. diminished is 2 minor 3rds.

    a few scales you can play that have an augmented 5th are, lydian augmented,1-2-3-#4-#5-6-7 which is the 3rd mode of the melodic minor scale, Ionian #5 same as the scale above except without the #4th, it is a mode of the harmonic minor scale. and the whole tone scale which is 1-2-3-#4-#5-6-b7, it is composed of all whole steps. chord construction is 1-3-#5

    diminished chords are usually viio unless your in a minor key than its iio. some scales you can play over a diminished chord are locrian - 1-b2-b3-4-b5-b6-b7 which is a mode of the major scale, locrian natural 2nd and locrian b4 which are modes of the melodic minor scale.locrian natural 6th and alterd double flatted 7th 1-b2-b3-b4-b5-b6-b7 which are modes of the harmonic minor scale, and a very dissonent sounding one is the Locrian bb7 which comes from the harmonic major scale. the triad is 1-b3-b5 depending on the sound you want you can use any of these scales over it.

    sus2 and 4th are not minor or major but you can play i minor, major scale or any scale with a 1-2-4-5 in it

    dominant chords are built off scales like lydian dominant(1-2-3-#4-5-6-b7 and mixolydian(minus the #4) the usually are 1-3-5-b7 you can add a #4 and it is the so called Hendrix chord

    holy hell i can ramble on, if i over complicated somethings i can correct them i
     
  6. Drew

    Drew Forum MVP

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    Not to call you out, but, well, er, I guess I'm gonna call you out on that. ;) The "Hendrix" chord is actually a 7#9, not a 7#4. The voicing everyone knows is the one from Purple Haze:

    |---|
    |-8-| G - augmented 9th
    |-7-| D - minor 7th
    |-6-| G# - major 3rd
    |-7-| E - root
    |-0-| E - root
    |---|

    It's an incredibly tense chord because, enharmonically, a #9 is the same pitch as a b3, so you're playing a dominant chord with both a major and a minor third.

    As such, it makes an awesome turnaround - check out Jimi's "Villanova Junction" at the end of thr Woodstock album, an Am jazzy blues groove, where in one of the turnarounds, he arpeggiates that voicing. It sounds beyond badass.

    -D
     
  7. macalpine88

    macalpine88 SS.org Regular

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    ooops, sorry. it was late when i wrote that and i wasnt thinking properly :scratch: i just remember it was derived from the melodic minor scale
     
  8. Drew

    Drew Forum MVP

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    You can also see it as a natural extension of the blues scale and blues harmonic context: essentially, blues harmony can be understood as dominant chords functioning as tonic chords, so in a minor blues you're seeing a harmonic context that implues 1-3-5-b7 over a chord that'd normally be 1-b3-b5. If you wanted to distill this tension down to a single chord, then a 7#9 is about as pure as you're going to get. ;)

    -D
     
  9. 7StringofAblicK

    7StringofAblicK Contributor

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    i really need to learn how to read music effectively, more music theory. I've been playing for 7-8 years but never took the time to really undergo the theory.

    nobody lives near northern kentucky who wants to give free lessons do they? :)
     
  10. Drew

    Drew Forum MVP

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    No, but we're more than happy to oblige here... ;)

    If HB'er ever gets off his ass and sends it over to me, he's contributing a chord theory lesson to our lessons page (http://www.sevenstring.org/forum/view.php?pg=lessons). If not, I'll just write one up myself. :agreed:

    I've been meaning to start writing theory lessons, but busy as fuck at work lately...
     
  11. 7StringofAblicK

    7StringofAblicK Contributor

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    Sweet. I'd LOVE to get in on it. I took one class in high school, but I don't remember much. I have a scales and modes poster that I practice but I'm not sure if they are in A or G or whatever. I know the frets well and I can move around on the board fine, just can't look and talk about it without saying fret numbers and not actual notes. sucks, been playing for so long and haven't taken the initiative (i hear it's easier to learn when younger anyways).
     
  12. The Dark Wolf

    The Dark Wolf Contributor

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    Just to give a little more detail on suspended chords. ;)

    Simplest definition of a suspended chord is to replace the 3rd note of a chord with the 2nd or (much more commonly) the 4th note of that scale.

    This gives the chord a tense, unresolved feel, hence 'suspending' the feeling of anticipation. (This is an old term from back in the days of counterpoint harmony, music like Vivaldi and Bach, where they used a lot of these 'suspensions' as hanging tones, particularly in cadences, or endings, if you will, of musical passages. Like the famous 'Amen' chorus "AHH-ah-ah-mehhhn.") Play an E major chord, but instead of the g# (3rd string, 1st fret) fret the a (3rd string, 2nd fret). You'll immediately feel/hear that neat sense of pretty, almost melancholy 'tension'. (The note A is the fourth note in the key of E- e, f,g, A, b, c, d, e- hence a sus4 chord!)

    As stated, sus chords can be used in major or minor keys, as they are neither- they are harmonically 'neutral' I guess you could say. They make a neat transition from maj to min as well! ;)
     
  13. Durero

    Durero prototyping... Contributor

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    Hey folks,
    I'm relatively new to the site and I don't know if there's anyone still following this thread but I thought I'd add a little nitpick to Ken's otherwise excellent, concise, and accurate info.

    in the list of basic triad chords the half-diminished term only applies to half-diminished 7 chords. a 1-b3-b5 triad is just called diminished.
    half-diminished 7 is 1-b3-b5-b7 which distinguishes it from diminished 7 which is 1-b3-b5-bb7.
    also half-diminished 7 is called m7b5 in jazz theory.

    anyhow, as I said Ken's post is excellent - you sound like a good teacher Metal Ken.

    cheers,
    Leo
     
  14. Leon

    Leon {##[====:::. Contributor

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    i just read this for the first time. thanks for bumping it, Leo!
     
  15. Metal Ken

    Metal Ken Hates the Air Contributor

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    Thanks for the bumps and comments.
    But.. Which part were you talking about, Leo? The only point which i mentioned half diminished was in usage with the locrian mode. and locrian fits in the m7b5. Is that what you were referring to? i was going to correct it but wasnt sure where it lies.
     
  16. Durero

    Durero prototyping... Contributor

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    Hi Ken,
    on second read I see that I may have misunderstood your intent on this part:

    I assumed that you meant to list the 7 modes with the basic triad they go with beside them. Like this:

    Mode (goes with) Triad

    C Ionian - C Major triad
    D Dorian - D Minor triad
    E Phrygian - E Minor triad
    F Lydian - F Major triad
    G Mixolydian - G Major triad
    A Aeolian - A Minor triad
    B Locrian - B Diminished triad

    But your mention of half-diminished suggests 7th chords, as in:

    C Ionian - Cmaj7
    D Dorian - Dm7
    E Phrygian - Em7
    F Lydian - Fmaj7
    G Mixolydian - G7 (G Dominant 7)
    A Aeolian - Am7
    B Locrian - Bm7b5 (or B half-diminished)

    On re-reading your original post I noticed that you listed "A Aeolian - Natural Minor" which suggests you may have intended to list scale qualities/types and not chords. So it's just that list of modes with major/minor listed after them that seems unclear to me.
    Hope that's useful.

    As I said before, your post is excellent with lots of great info. When I was learning this stuff I found it very useful to read info like this to re-enforce the terminology and scale/chord relationship concepts.
    cheers,
    Leo
     
  17. cvinos

    cvinos Banned

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    Nice writeup. I have to say though that I find myself in disagreement with your first sentence. I do not think everything is derived from the major scale. One can certainly think like that, but I don't. And also if you really only look at the major scale itself, you could miss a whole lot of other scales that are not directly related to it. But that should already be clear, and, you could say that things outside the major scale are still derived from it.

    Let me add a bit of stuff that is outside the major scale and address some general concepts:

    Three important scales that are different from major are:

    melodic minor 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, j7
    harmonic minor 1, 2, b3, 4, 5, b6, j7
    harmonic major 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, b6, j7

    These scales can be compared to the major scale. However, they are not necessarily derived from it, say by lowering on or two tones of the major scale. They are separate scales with all their properties. Like they define chords. Each of them has seven modes again. Together with the modes of the major scale this makes 28 different modes already.

    Note that harmonic minor and harmonic major not only consist of half-tone and whole-tone steps. They also contain one minor third step between the b6 and the j7.

    Just a thought here, you would have a "new" structure if you cannot find an already defined scale that contains your structure. It should be clear that scales with 7 or less then 7 tones can be contained in one of the above scales that have been defined. Or lets say that have been given a name. But there are of course still structures left that are not contained in them. For example picture a scale with five tones like this:

    1, b2, 2, b3, 3

    The structure here is just four half-tone steps and then a big minor sixth step. The only named scale I can think of right now that contains this structure is the chromatic scale, which does not count here though, because it contains all twelve tones and thus contains all structures, in this sense here.

    By the way, I have heard of scales that span two or more octaves.

    For more info see

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Musical_scale

    Note in the wikipedia article there is a distinction mentioned, a distinction made between a scale and a scale type. 'C-major' or 'D-harmonic minor' would be different scales, 'major' or 'harmonic minor' different scale types. Musicians however just call both things scales. In the first case, the keynote and the structure are given (and thereby all contained tones). In the second case, just the structure is given.


    Edit: One more thing that my guitar teacher told me and that I also found in a good book:

    On the technical side of guitar playing (note this can be applied to other instruments as well), do not start practicing modes without having in mind that they are just a scale started from a specific level. In fact, it is best to just practice the main scales, major, melodic minor, harmonic minor and harmonic major (if we let other scales aside for a moment) in the root mode first (i.e. in Ionian, MM1, HM1 and harmonic-major-1, respectively). Then, when you are firm with these, or one of these, start playing modes by starting the scale at a specific level. Your feeling for the fingering remains the same as with the main scale, you just have the additional information that a specific tone is the keynote or tonal center. This way, you just have to learn four layouts on the fretboard (with several fingerings each for every position on the fretboard though). With only four layouts you be able to play 28 different modes.
     
  18. Durero

    Durero prototyping... Contributor

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    terminology question cvinos:
    what does the 'j' in j7 stand for?
     
  19. cvinos

    cvinos Banned

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    j7 = maj7 denotes the interval
     
  20. scab

    scab SS.org Regular

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    thanks for the great post.. i was reading it and you said something about phrygian being "egyptian sounding".. so i set out about 2 feet away and grabbed my guitar and i have to say.. it sounds a little egyptian, but i'd like it to sound more like it.. is their any notes to the phrygian scale that i can stress besides the root to make it sound more "egyptian like"??
    Thanks Again!!
    Scab
     

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