The Motivation

Music theory and the theory of harmony (harmonics) are two emotive words, that help you flaming up every music related forum in the interwebz. Once these terms are mentioned, people come up with "whatever sounds good, sounds good" or "just use your ears and practice" statements, while others start raging into countless philosophic discussions, wether this is a Cmajminb7no5thb13add9-Chord or just a C5. So if you want to be able to play in this ballpark, you should read further. :D
Ah yea, and apart from that, there might also be the better music you can make with some theoretical background, fighting those moments when your creativity stucks. However, in which way you will use this is up to you, but i would be happy if you enjoy the ride and get something useful out of it! That is the only intention, giving something back to the community..cheers!

But let us streamline this and focus on the basic question first:

Why music theory at all?

Let's do a simple comparison, you can learn how to drive a car without ever visiting a drivers school, and if you only drive you car in the desert, this would be absolutely fine. But as soon as you wanna visit Berlin or London with your car, you might want some theory to avoid certain problems. So the theory we learn while doing our drivers license will let us communicate to each other on the streets and will lead us to use the environment in order to reach our goal safe and fast. The connection to music theory here is especially the ability to communicate to other musicians (even on the streets) and having a universal set of rules which guides us and let us step away from a "try and error" approach to a more focused workflow. Similar to all the knowledge out there about car tuning and different rules of driving in each country, there are heaps of different approaches to music theory. The following content will cover at least the basics and will explain the common vocabulary and the meaning behind it, but it is certainly impossible to cover each and every aspect which might be possible or not. However, we will look into harmonics and music theory from a bass playing aspect which is also very suitable for every electronic (mouse)-musician and such who want to start out on leaning this.

Why this?

It is a tough choice wether to start with lots of practical examples or the fundamentals of the theory. Since practical examples are nice to have, easy to follow and will come at one point, we are better off learning the theory first to actualy be able to understand the examples and whatever nice follows then.. Things like chords, scales, intervals and how to build and use them are the main ingredients in every musical soup. So before we cook up our five-course dinner, we will focus on the appetizer to come up with our basic skills until we reach new realms. This might be a little tedious at first, but if you manage to hang on, it will make your stay in the kitchen way more fun and inspiring. Maybe i will stick with this cooking analogy lol, just to give you a better picture and make you hungry for more.. For the grand chiefs this pages will probably not provide anything new, but as a beginner you will be able to explore the more complex material out there in the wild after reading.. At least it will be harder and frustrating to learn an instrument or to get into music production without these things.

Chords for bass heavy music? At all..?

Ok, one or two of you might have heard about chords and think, isn't that more like something for guitarists playing at the beach or bonfire? Sure guitarists for example build up their chords based on the scales they play in, while bassists are playing bass-lines and riffs based on chords. There are at least two ways of using chords:
1: playing certain notes at the same time based on a scale
2: building single note bass-lines based on chords

Well, you would usually still be in an environment which uses chords based on scales and therefore the 2 ways are related to each other, but we will cover this later. This all sounds not too familiar for the beginner, but it will get clear hopefully during this course.. Just for now, chords are build with a few individual notes that have an explicit harmonic relation to each other. Scales contain several notes with sometimes very complex relations. And here comes the first "be proud of smart ass knowledge terminus" The chordal versus the modal approach of music theory.
Chordal approach:
As the name implies, you build your songs based on chords.
Modal approach:
This means you focus on scales.

Your role and direction?

Chords are way more easy to handle and to remember compared to full scales, and that is why we will focus on them. We choose the chordal approach for learning the theory of harmony instead of the modal, since we are in the role of a bass player or doing bass heavy (dance) music instead of playing saxophone or singing. This is not a new idea, it has been done before.. Every musician would focus on different aspects of music theory based on his role in a band or ensemble context. That is why we do it..and not because it is the ultimate best way, just the one suitable for us. While a drummer provides the skeleton of a band with rhythms, a bass player would try to connect the rhythmical with the harmonic parts of a song and should provide the fundamental song structure by delivering orientation and ground to step onwards. By fulfilling the role of a supporter in a song context, we urgently need to know about the harmonic fundament and how to glue everything together. This is also possible using the try and error method, but it is certainly harder. By understanding this role as a supporting bass (gluing parts together), it will be easy to focus on the activities, because the limitation will open single options to expand, instead of directly open all doors simultaneously. Even a bassist can write full songs or solos, having this knowledge in mind.

What we need..

So as it has been said, we are now up to dive into the theory basics, since that is what we need to interact with other musicians and going forward. First we will talk about the basic scales, then we check out intervals and move on to chords after that. Ok? here we go

Basic knowledge of scales

The one everybody might have heard about in school or elsewhere is the C major scale.

Standard Notation

The standard notation will be used in this course to describe relations and dependencies but wherever i can or whenever it makes sense, i will try to use midi notation, just to let you know..

And since this is kind of a basic tutorial, we'll only cover what we really need from the standard notation, if you want to dig further into a full documentation on standard notation, there are books or even the wiki page.

DAW Notation

The DAW notation in the midi editor looks like the following. Especially whatch the keyboard on the left, which shows that the C major scale is build by using all white keys available.

This one will guide us for quite some time now, since it is easy to remember and has quite important information that we will rely on for further tasks. You can see that in a scale there are seven notes available. This is just to illustrate the view from the note edit view in Bitwig Studio.

As you can see in the image on the left, we got one bar, which is devided by 4. This is our time signature, in this case 4/4. There are also other time signatures available for sure, this relates to certain styles of music or other creative purposes. We might cover time signatures at a later stage, using polyrythms for example. What i try to show here is just, that the standard notation relates to certain lengths of the midi notes. A whole note on the top for example would extend the whole bar and so on..


  1. The names of the notes go from A to G, just like in the alphabet.
  2. A scale is a sequence, is an array of notes following a defined pattern.
  3. This scale sounds friendly and open, because it is a major scale.
  4. A scale reaches from one note to the next one above with the same name, here the note C.


This is one of the most important terms from the whole story. Without clearing this up and understanding it, we cannot go any further. 

An interval is the distance from one note to another note. Even the distance from one note to the same note is an interval, with the distance of zero. We measure the distance of two notes in steps. If you watch the picture above there is the lower C, then there is a black key and on the next white key, there is the D. From C to D we got a distance of one whole step, while one whole step contains two half steps.

So whenever we need to use this terminology, we might also use the short form:

W = whole step 

H = half step

Voila! We now know 3 basic intervals:

  1. half step
  2. whole step
  3. octave

An octave consists of 12 half steps. For example from C1 to C2 as seen in the picture above. There are certain names for note intervals, like an interval of zero half steps is called unison, an interval of 2 half steps is called a major 2nd, 12 half steps an octave and so on..this will be covered later with a nice list, which you could print out for further reference. It will become second nature for you soon as we go along (hopefully).

How to build major scales?

As this interval stuff may sound a little bit abstract, let's have a look on our keyboard and the C major scale. In a table it looks like this:

In your DAW it should look like this:

So what do we learn from this now? We do know now, that the C major scale is build with the following pattern of intervals: W-W-H-W-W-W-H This is actually true for ALL major scales! Ok now we got the ruleset to build each and any major scale on this planet.

Now it's your turn, please try to build the major scale for the root note D instead of C by following this interval ruleset. You will see, that we need a few more notes compared to the C major scale, since we now do need to use some of the black keys in addition.

More notes in the chromatic scale!

Ok, with the content of ABCDEFG, we cannot build the D major scale. To be able to do this, we need to know, that the major scales are a subset of the chromatic scale.

The chromatic scale is the mother of all scales in western music, because it contains each and every note available in western music.

Due to the fact that we only got 7 note names (ABCDEFG), we need to apply a certain procedure to access the other notes.


  1. A note, which is a half step above a root note (ABCDEFG) will be attached with the word ' sharp' and in standard notation extended with a ' #'.
  2. A note which is a half step below a root note (ABCDEFG) will be attached with the word ' flat' and in standard notation will be extended with a ' b '.
  3. Attention: In between the notes E - F and B - C we do not have a half step, there simply is no note and we move straight to the next note, so an E sharp would be an F for example.
  4. This means for example that between C and D, we can find the note C sharp and also the note D flat. In standard notation this would be C# or Db.

This is the full chromatic scale:

Ok nice, but what is the difference between for example F# and Gb? For us there is none! Wether we step up from F or step down from G, we do get the same note. Because this is the way it is, we gotta call it the enharmonic equivalent. You can also look that up for further explanation here.

So we got one note, but two names, and we will need those two names at a later stage. But which ones do we want to use from now on? We will see that later, when we come along building other scales, but generally if somebody asks you to play this or that, you would use the sharp version. The only exception would be Bb, which would be preferred over A#, with no special reason.

Creating new major scales

We now do have everything on hand to build every major scale we want by choosing a root note and applying the interval pattern W-W-H-W-W-W-H following the notes on the chromatic scale. For our example with D major this would be D-E-F#-G-A-B-C#-D. But there is also another way of building scales, which will bring up new terminology and insights. This will be useful for our next visit in that music pub talking to this pointy-headed jazz pianist..

Let's cook it up like a meal:

First you grab your C major scale and split it right in the middle. Now we got two parts of the scale, which are known as tetrachords since they contain 4 notes. (greece: tetra = four)

So if you look at the second tetrachord, you will notice that the interval pattern is the same as in the beginning of the major scales. Nice isn't it? Now let's complete the second tetrachord with the notes that would naturally follow in the C major scale.

As we look into the interval pattern, we notice that something is not as expected. We are looking for the W-W-H-W-W-W-H pattern and not W-W-H-W-W-H-W.

But nothing more easy than that, we simply lift up the F one half step to F sharp (F#) and we got our major interval pattern back.

Now we do have the G major scale..tadaaa! :)

We can continue with this method now, by dividing the G major scale again into two tetrachords, adding up the missing notes as before, check the interval pattern and correct it as we did before. We would have the F# in the first tetrachord and we would need to lift up another note in the second. This goes on and on until it gets scary, since with every new split into tetrachords, we would need to add one '#'. That is why we apply the enharmonic equivalent as soon as a sharp note reaches the root note of the scale. In other words, as soon as the '#' note becomes the first note of the scale, we change it over enharmonically to the equivalent other note name, which would be one with a 'b'. From then on, we continue to work with flat notes instead of sharp notes, and whenever we divide the scale into tetrachords, we would introduce new flat notes to accomplish our major interval pattern.

You can look up this table to see how it's done (coming soon):

By doing so, we can see that the amount of 'b's will be reduced with every new tetrachord division until we reach back to C. 

Ok you might ask now, but whats the deal? Well, this is how the mystical Circle of Fifths is build.

It works like this:

On the top of a circle, we do write the note C for the C major scale. For every new scale out of the tetrachord method, we write down the name like on a clock. Magically we get a separation of 12 and end up on C major again. On the opposite of every major scale, we write down the root note of the so called parallel minor scale. That one is always the sixth note of the corresponding major scale (we will cover that later).

For C = 1 it would be A = 6, just written in minor. Finally we write down the amount of '#' and 'b' . That is the Circle of Fifths. What can we see now?

1. we got 12 steps, like in the chromatic scale

2. on the 6th step there is the change over from sharp to flat

In standard notation we often find the accidentals in front of the new lines. For example, if there are 3 '#', we are either in the scale of A major or F# minor and so on..We won't look any much deeper in the Circle of Fifth for now, but it should have been mentioned at this stage.

A Sad story..

As we looked deeply into the major scales, we now profit from this knowledge and can shorten this part quite a bit. We should cover this scale nonetheless, since it might even be more important than the major scales in popular music (especially techno n stuff..) You might anticipate it already, it is..

Minor, also known as natural minor

As we realised with the C major scale, that the sound of a certain scale essentially comes from the notes that has been used in it (well, not such a big surprise i know..). However, just to recap this, we said that the notes selected for a certain scale are ruled by the interval pattern.

For the C major scale it was this pattern:

Due to our James Bond style of thinking, we can see that a different interval pattern, should lead us to different scales, different notes and this would finally result in a different sound.

For the minor, or better said the natural minor, or to be 100% exact the Aeolian scale, we use a different interval pattern compared to the major scales. The one we use now is W-H-W-W-H-W-W for ALL minor scales.

Now we apply this to something different than the root note C, that we used before. The reason why will be clear very here it is: A minor

The notes are the result from starting with the root note A and following the interval pattern on the chromatic scale we already talked about. But might say..those notes in the A minor scale are the same as in the C major scale. So how comes, that when you play those scales next to each other, it actually sounds different? Well, it is not only about the notes that create a certain sound, but also on the interval pattern, that is being used. The half step from B to C, E to F and the whole step from G to A are forming the minor sound.

Solving the miracle

So why do we have the same notes in A minor and C major? This might sound weird but it isn't as we will see later in more detail talking about modes and stuff.. The truth is, that natural minor basically isn't a discrete kind of a scale. As you can see, natural A minor is created by playing the C major scale from the 6th note until we reach the A again. But thats it for now, we will cover more about this in a later chapter. If you look back one chapter on the circle of fifths, you can see that A minor is the parallel minor scale to C major. Generally all you need to remember from this chapter is the new interval pattern for the minor scales W-H-W-W-H-W-W.

Sorry, but until we can really dig into chords, we should talk a little more about scales. Just because we need one or two little things in addition and because those two topics are somehow related. 

Here we go:

Sure we do remember the C major scale and the corresponding interval pattern for major scales, but just to visualize it again..

So, if this interval pattern is characteristic for major scales, then it would be pure logic that other interval patterns relate to other scales. And that's what it is about..

How many scales exist?

A lot, and more..actually there are heaps of them, some of them got 7 notes, others 5 or even 10. The one typical thing for every scale is its interval pattern. We will stick to the scales with 7 notes for now and concentrate on the different modes of the major scale. These modes are like the natural minor not discrete, which means that they are deduced from the major scale.

The 7 modes are used very often in popular music. And because the major scale has 7 notes, there are also 7 modes.

So how do we build them..?

Starting with the C major scale, and watching a range of two octaves, then we build a subset of 7 (with octave 8) notes on each of the notes in the major scale. Now we get 7 new scales, with different interval patterns. Those 7 scales (modes) are labeled with greek names.

Ionian mode (also known as major)

Dorian mode

Phrygian mode

Lydian mode

Mixolydian mode

Aeolian mode (also known as natural minor)

Locrian mode

Check out the sound examples (coming soon) and you will hear the differences. Some sound darker, some more asian. Also you can see that the natural minor is basically just a mode (a subset) of the major scale.


  1. Scales are defined by their interval pattern.
  2. Modes are a subset of the major scale.

The Motivation

At first some basics again: We already know 3 intervals, the half step, the whole step and the octave. To be able to build chords and to understand how to use them, it is essentially essential and very much super important to learn about intervals.

It might be a little boring to read at first, since it is pure theory and no groovy bass line to listen to, but it is the bread and butter for every musician. 

It is like learning the alphabet, if you want to write some text. No much fun, but you can write awesome music theory courses and stuff like that afterwards.. ;) We need them to understand chords, construct nice bass lines, for communication and for songwriting as well. You will see that it will become your second nature, but it needs some training as well. If you listen to your music from now on, after you read this, try to listen carefully and try to sport intervals. That way you will become familar with the concept and more important the emotional effect they introduce and this would lead you to actualy make use of them.

So what's the deal now?

An interval is the distance between two notes. Two! Not three, not four, not eight, not is always about two notes. We could compare a scale with ladder, and on every step there is a note. So the distance between two of those steps is an interval..ok? Sometimes the distance between two notes is also called a diad (..or dyad), but an interval means a little bit more. It determines a specific relation between two notes. I mentioned the scale above, but a scale and an interval at first are two complete different things, just to confuse you..;) 

An interval is used to describe the distance of two notes with a name. They are pure definition of names for distances, not more and not less.

And last but not least, intervals also got an emotional aspect! Don't believe me? We'll see..

But let's go straight into the definitions:

A few conditions need to be said here:


  1. The interval direction by definition is generally from the lower to the higher note.
  2. Intervals with the same distance but with two different names are called enharmonic intervals, just like in the scales with sharp and flat notes. As an example, look at the augmented 5th or minor 6th, that is an enharmonic interval.

So why do we need those two names again?

Well, it depends from which point of view you look at the intervals. If you look at the scale, there is a good chance that one would call an interval a #4 for example, because it could make sense in the harmonic context to talk about a relation of perfect 4ths. But if we look at chords, it could be that the same interval is called b5, since we look at a relation of perfect 5ths. This will be covered later, but just bear in mind, that there are different situations, that might require different names for the same thing.. 

Well done..!

These were the most important points regarding intervals. It really is that easy as it looks. An interval is a distance between notes, measured from the lower note to the higher one. A major 2nd interval for example consists of 2 half steps, while a perfect 5th has 7 half steps. There is one more aspect to see, sometimes an interval is called melodic and sometimes it is called harmonic. This is not about the distance of the notes, it's just a picky consideration, wether the two notes building the interval are played at the same time (harmonic) or one after another (melodic)..whoever needs to know that.. 

Inverted Intervals

When you take a random interval and move the root note (usually the lower one) one octave up, then you will get an inverted interval compared to the original one. The new inverted interval will obviously be a different one. If you originally had an interval of a perfect 5th, you will now get an interval of a perfect 4th. Here is a little presentation for better visualisation..

Original Interval

Inverted Interval

The math:

These inverted intervals are with one exception always new intervals with a different note distance. Can you tell me which interval stays the same or has the same name, even inverted? If you do the maths, you can calculate, that the source interval + the inverted interval will always have 12 half steps. This is why the inverted interval is also called the complementary interval. This is because the two fellows will always complement each other to a full octave. While looking deeper into inverted (complementary) intervals, there will appear a few interesting highlights!

Play em:

If you did not play around with the different intervals yet, now it is the time to do it. In fact, it would be best as a musician if one trains the ear to be able to recognise different intervals. A lot of computer ear training programs cover this interval training, you might wanna check that will help for sure.

There is a very nice one called Golden Ears..It covers even more and is designed for audio engineers.

The emotional aspect:

The sound of the intervals can be associated with certain emotions. 

So let's see what the intervals are supposed to transport to the listener:

Minor 2nd:

The distance between 1 and b2 is pretty narrow, that is why the minor 2nd sounds jarring or cutting. It is a very dissonant interval, which introduces a lot of tension.

Major 2nd:

This one is still dissonant, but not that much as the minor one. Still it is one of the more tensional intervals.

Minor 3nd:

.. is simply just sad, which is why it will be essential for all following minor scales we will cover. Just like its sister, it will make every scale affiliated with minor.

Major 3nd:

Here we got a charming one, it sounds like the nice girl/boy next door almost a little slimy. No surprise that this one is characteristic for the major scales, in which a lot of songs for children are written and this folk..whatever :D . All scales containing the major 3rd are major scales.

Perfect 4th:

Not as neutral as the perfect 5th, but still quite a harmonic interval.

Diminished 5th:

Every Heavy Metal's sounds skewed and brutal, they love it..It has an enormous impact of tension, which results from its placement in the middle of the scale. It doesn't know whether it should go up or down. It is also called: The Tritone which you should try to remember for later reference.

Perfect 5th:

This one is very neutral and objective and also very  harmonic.

Augmented 5th:

Almost like the one 2 halftones below..

Major 6th:

Wether fish nor meat, the major 6th is a wobbly interval. It is quite a disorientated one.

Major 7th:

Also quite a lot of tension, but not that skewed. Because of its placement at the end of the scale it can resolve the tension to the next root note quite nice. It is an interval that the Jazzers love..

Intervals and Scales

Finally we look at a relation between intervals and scales. With our knowledge now, we can proceed working with scales, since we now can analyse the relationship between the notes of a scale in a better way. We already spoke about the interval patterns in the previous lectures, while building different scales. And now now now we can also interpret the interval patterns with emotions.

Lets have a look into the C major scale again. We will watch the different intervals in relation to the root note C. In addition, we will declare the different notes with roman numerals, in order to generalize our new insights: 

Look there..the major scale consists of only 'pure' (or some call it 'just') intervals. No minors, no augmented ones. That is why major scales sound this open and friendly, since the intervals that sound sad or with lots of tension are not present. You can imagine the impact of the intervals now hopefully. Try to make such a sheet with minor scales for example. You will get different intervals, that make the typical minor sound.

Grouping of Intervals

Perfect intervals = Unison, perfect 4th, perfect 5th and octave. Perfect intervals become perfect intervals again when inverted.

Major intervals = these really change when inverted, major intervals become minor.

Minor intervals = same as the major, they change over major when the test yourself ;)

Augmented/diminished intervals = Important are #5 and b5, in scales there is also #4. Try to invert them, they are flipping around.. #5 becomes a major, while b5 becomes b5 again.

Who calls the names..?

One last thing we need to cover with the intervals, and this one is quite important to understand as well, is the naming convention of the notes involved in an interval. If you think back into the scale lecture we had this situation where a note could have two different names. This was called enharmonic equivalent. Here this issue will become clear. 

Read the scale chapter again if you want to be sure about this.

Let's take the root note C and a minor 3rd as interval:

Following the rules of the enharmonic equivalent, we now do have these two notes available, which are D# and Eb. So which one is the right one now? 

Here is the rule:

We use the note that is related to the position in the scale. Have a look at the picture above with the roman numerals for the positions. We will use those to determine which note name we'll be using.

So let's see..the C is on position I and the minor 3rd is related to position III. Therefore we use the note name which is chromatically on position III and that is 'Eb'.

D# would be related to D and one position away. For the major 3rd it is automatically correct. A minor 2nd would be Db and not C# and so on..


This chapter was a hard one, but if you got it..your theory skills have already drastically improved and from now on building chords will be pretty easy!

A few things you could do for training:

Keep it going:

  1. Learn the intervals!! Check the tables, learn the names and the distances in half steps. Also the positions.
  2. Train your ear: look for famous songs, and search for intervals that are characteristic. Deep Purple riffs, Metallica or the Beatles..analyse and try to remember the interval quality and emotion.Other examples would be Smoke on the Water/Deep Purple, Paranoid/Black Sabbath or the british national anthem, which starts with a perfect 4th for example. Try to find the intervals of the beginning of those songs..
  3. Take a dice, choose a random root note upfront, then throw the the interval and which note it is.

Chord Basics

Ok we got it..Yes we can now start building chords. We know stuff about scales and about intervals. That was already quite a lot, wasn't it? Up until now we looked at different scales, which means we've been in the realms of melodic theory. Now that we make the change over into chords, we will cover the harmonic theory aspect. 

That leads us to these two definitions:

Melodic theory = scales and chains of notes

Harmonic theory = intervals and chords

Sometimes these areas cannot be divided clearly, for example while building melodies with chord notes, but generally the harmony is seen as the theory of chords. Try not to ask why is this and why is that, just accept the fact that this is the ruleset of western music and the reason why it seems to work like it does. It's the miracle of music..

So what is a chord..?

A chord is a combination of at least 3 different notes. These 3 notes can be played simultaneously or one after the other. The chord defines the rules, how the single notes are build.

Like in the definition, a chord can consist of 3, 4, 5 or even more notes. Following this rule, it becomes clear that the so called 'Powerchords' used by these guitar players, which only got 2 notes, are no real chords per definition. But that is philosophy.. For our music theory course, we will focus on the 3 and 4 note chords.

The four chords everybody should know:

For the creation of chords there are a lot of figures. The one we will look at is the principle of the stacked triads. This means that we take a root note and stack triads on top of them. Either a minor or a major 3rd. For the first triad, our root note will be the lowest note. The highest note of the first triad, will be the lowest note of the second triad, which will be stacked and so on..

The stacked triads:

Some text:

So we do have two of these triads (thirds), the major and the minor one in this picture. As already mentioned the second triad gets stacked over the first one. While the higher note of the first becomes the base for the second.

If you think about it now, you can imagine, that while we got two different kinds of thirds which we will combine, there are four different variations of basic chords. This is a theoretic aspect, but it helps to understand the creation of chords..we will see soon!

Just to remember, this has nothing to do with scales, it's just about intervals and chords.

Tadaa.. now we got our four basic chords!

Can you recap those chords? Number 3. and 4. are major and minor chords. But what about 1. and 2.? Let's have a closer look into them..

For the root note C, it would look like this:

 (remember the minor 3rd has 3 half steps, the major 3rd has 4 half steps):

We constructed them while stacking the triads on top of each other, which gives us 4 different variations. Now let's take our knowledge about intervals and look at the created notes, not using the two triads but relative to the root note C. 

It looks like this: 

Now we can see, what is strange about the basic chords 1. and 2. above. Major and minor chords contain a perfect 5th, but the 1. and 2. chord do contain an augmented and a diminished 5th. That's why they sound like they sound and where the name is coming from.

Constructed are these chords by stacking triads. But the interval structure relative to the root note is as distinct.

Here is a little tool for you, which you could print out: The Chord Clock (coming soon)

The relative view has an advantage, since you can calculate the two intervals directly in relation to the root note. That is how the Chord Clock is doing it, and how it's usually done actually..

The structure of chord is declared by the intervals relative to the root note.

For major this is 1 - 3 - 5, for augmented it is 1 - 3 - #5.

The perfect 5ths play an important role in chords, since they determine the sounds quite drastically. But the major/minor 3rds also got a lot of balls. The difference between major and minor chords are coming from the 3rd's. The sound of a chord is determined by every single note, just like the sound of band is determined by its musicians.  Sometimes the one has a bigger impact than another.

And what about the order..?

Good question, one could assume these chord notes should always be played in the order we worked out above, but that isn't the case..The quantity of notes are fixed. A C major chords has a C, an E and a G. But it is just important that these notes (..and just these notes) are being used. From which direction you play them, or in which order doesn't matter at all, it will always be a C major chord. You could play them as an arpeggio, or even in different octaves several will always stay C major. 

Ok, this was all quite a lot..let us now have a look at the notation..

Chord notation:

To complete this chapter, let's have a look on some common names and terms accociated with chords.

Chordnames: The name of a chord consists of two elements. The root note and the tonality (which is also called the gender sometimes). Major would relate to masculine then, and minor to feminine stereotypically.

Structure: The structure is directly related to the tonality, which means that one would directly see and know the tonality from the chord structure, 1 - 3 -5 or 1 - b3 - b5.

Rootnote: That is simply given, if you want to sing in C major, you should also play a C major chord (at least in the beginning..)

Chord tokens: short names for the chords which we will see in the following list now:


  1. Chords consist of at least 3 different notes.
  2. The basic chords are constructed using stacked triads, from that we get the 4 different flavours: major/minor/augmented/diminished.
  3. Chord structures are displayed as interval lists relative to the root note.
  4. The construction of a chord is independent of a scale, every note of a scale can be a root note of a chord.
  5. The four basic chords got the interval structure Major = 1 3 5, Minor = 1 b3 5, diminished = 1 b3 b5 and augmented = 1 3 #5
  6. The order of the notes is not essential to create a chord, you can play them like you want, just do not add other notes in between.

Diatonic Scale Harmonization

Scale what..?

Sounds dangerous? But it isn't. It is just a transfer application of our already gained knowledge. We will slowly connect the scales with chords now, while formerly we were looking at these things separately. On a side can do nice things with this!

The Beauty and the Beast: A scale and its chords

The chapter about harmonization isn't too difficult really, but it has a major potential in a lot of directions. You will profit while songwriting the same as you can profit while constructing lines on any instrument. And last but not least, it is the foundation for chord cadences (progressions) which is the base for a big amount of successful songs. Cadences will come exhaustively in the next chapter!

Ok let's get started:

It all starts with a simple idea. What if..we grab a major scale and on every note, we build up a chord, which only consists of notes from the same scale. Does that make any sense? Do drummers understand?

Here is a picture:

How do the chords look like then?

Step #1:

We take our C major scale and we'll stack triads on top of every note in the scale. But in the end we are only allowed to use notes from this scale, ok?

Step #2:

The procedure is always the same, and it is kind of a tedious job. Here it is made for C, D and B. Maybe try it yourself, it is a pretty good practise for learning the notes and intervals. If you do not want to do it yourself, you can have a look into my songwriting toolbox. There i've built all those diatonic chords for a quick reference.

In a simpler view it would look like this:

This is what is meant by harmonization of the C major scale. To be precise it's called diatonic harmonization, because we only use notes from the given scale (=diatonic).

And now?

Some results:

  1. At numeral I, IV and V we get major chords
  2. at numeral II, III, VI we get minor chords
  3. at numeral VII we get a diminished chord.

And this is true for all major scales..if you do not believe, just try.. ;)

Preview of the songwriting toolbox:

These results are very well playable..just use the chords and make arpeggios out of them and you will hear the harmonic effect. In other words, all major and minor chords to have a perfect 5, the difference in between them relates to the third (either minor or major third). The diminished chord can be set in relation to the minor chord, both contain a minor third and the difference is in the fifth.


  1. Scale harmonization means, we build a chord on each note of a scale, only with the notes of the given scale.
  2. For major scales the numerals I, IV and V are major chords, minor ones are on II, III and VI while the diminished stays on VII.
  3. The chords on the numerals can be set in relation to their positions. This is the foundation for cadences (progressions). 
  4. A so called full cadence is I - IV - V - II - V - I.
  5. I - IV - V for C would be the chord sequence C - F - G, while the rest of it would be II - V - I with D min - G - C.

Special 3 note chords

So what is left now?

There are actually some more topics that we briefly touched but which we should cover deeper.


Let's take a chord, it has 3 notes i.e. the root note, the third and fifth (relative to the root note). We also said, that the order of the notes is not important, which means a C major chord can be played as C - E - G or E - G - C or G - E - C. It will always still be a C major chord.

But the sound of the chord will actually change! We got a term for that, it is called chord-inversions. The original form of a chord is 1 - 3 - 5, while the root note is the lowest note. That is the so called root position. If we now move the '1' to the end, or in other words raising the root note by one octave, we will get the first inversion 3 - 5 - 1 . Doing the same now with the '3' (one octave up) we will get the second inversion 5 - 1 - 3 .

The original form is called the root position, while the first inversion is called the third position and the second inversion is called the fifth position. This is because of the lowest note and their original relation to the root note.

Later, when we look into more details of the harmonic theory (after our stomach has recovered), this inversions will play an important role. For now, we will only look into a few triggers of thinking. 

By looking at the first inversion, one could define the third as a new root note and relate the intervals to this new root note instead of  the original one. You will then get new intervals, not the ones from the original major chord in this case. 

Example: G major in the second inversion the new structure would be (eh..who knows it already...?) 

D -> root, G -> 4, Bm -> 6. That would be a Dsus46 chord (no perfect 5th), a pretty exotic one. Also the first inversion with 1 - b3 - #5 looks pretty strange, but what all of these do have in common is...they sound usable! This leads us to the insight, that also non stacked third chords can sound harmonic and useful.

Inversion does work for all kind of chords, should be clear i guess.

Are there even more 3 note chords?

Sure! Look at these interval structure, they are all not build by using stacked thirds.

Chord Interval Structure Full Name
Asus2 1 - 2 - 5 suspended 2nd
Asus4 1 - 4 - 5 suspended 4th
Asus47 1 - 4 - 7 suspended 4 7
Asus4b7 1 - 4 - b7 suspended 4 b7
Asus46 1 - 4 - 6 suspended 4 6

The Asus4b7 is actually not 100% correct, it is defined as 1 - 4 - 5 - 7, but it is often used the way i wrote in the table, because the resulting 2nd (between 5 - 7) sounds a little uncomfortable. But that is just a sidenote, don't worry too much about it.

Can we get something with more power?

Yep, now we look at the so called power chords, without any guitarist couldn't live. They are created by using the root note and a perfect 5th (sometimes a third instead of the fifth). But they are not really chords, rather a so called double stop. There even is a chord symbol for them x5 (while x= A ..G#). Since there is no 2nd, minor 3rd or perfect 4th involved in these so called chords, they do not have a tonality (major or minor). This means they could be played to basically every scale without unwanted interferences. There is also a physical reason for that, since the root note and the perfect 5th stay in an even relation to each other, when watching their frequencies. They can be played without much worry, even thru heavy overdrive machines.

Sometimes these double stops are also called fractal chords, because they are just pieces of a real chord.

In addition you could have a listen to these songs, which make heavy use of chord invasion:

The Police So lonely and Message in the bottle
Led Zeppelin Stairway to heaven
Rolling Stones Start me up
Jimi Hendrix And the wind cries Mary
Dire Straits Money for nothing

Inversion...again :)

Intervall-1 = ??? 

This chapter isn't the most important one actually, but it is a nice look deeper into music theory for those who are interested. We already learned about the inversions in a previous chapter, but now we look into the inversion of a single interval. Sure it has influence of the whole chord structure, but let us concentrate on the single intervals for now.

# Original-Interval Target-Interval
1. C - C# = 1 - b2 C# - C = 1 - 7
2. C - D  = 1 - 2 D - C  = 1 - b7
3. C - D# = 1 - b3 D# - C = 1 - 6
4. C - E  = 1 - 3 E - C  = 1 - #5/b6
5. C - F  = 1 - 4 F - C  = 1 - 5
6. C - F# = 1 - b5 F# - C = 1 - b5
7. C - G  = 1 - 5 G - C  = 1 - 4
8. C - G# = 1 - #5/b6 G# - C = 1 - 3
9. C - A  = 1 - 6 A - C  = 1 - b3
10. C - Bb = 1 - b7 Bb - C = 1 - 2
11. C - B  = 1 - 7 B - C  = 1 - b2

Basically it is pure arithmetic, but we can also create some rules for the inversion.


  1. major intervals become minor
  2. pure intervals stay pure intervals
  3. diminished intervals stay diminished
  4. 2 becomes 7, 3 becomes 6 and 4 becomes 5 (also inverse)

Four rules, which enables you to recalculate every chord inversion. Just one point stands out, the diminished ones stay diminished when inversed, because they are in the middle of the scale. It is that place, where we changed over the circle of fifths into flat notation, the tritone.

Ok, honestly we avoided this topic a little too long, but having the chords in place is a good thing and now we can look into rhythms. Rhythmics and harmonics go along like Salt & Pepper.

It's all about timing 

The common understanding of timing in a musical context is to be able to play a strict rhythm including the given breaks. While playing in a live context, this might be a tricky thing. As long as we stay in the box, with all these tools, we can set it all up to be in a perfect timing. But let's see..

The idea:

Generally if we talk about harmonic theory, we try to describe which notes to play, in which pitch and in which context. The rhythm theory tells us where, when and how long we play those notes. Salt & Pepper..

What is the rhythm?

1. The tempo we play in:  usually defined as the bpm = beats per minute
2. The time signature: We split an array of notes into similar pieces of time.

Time Signature 

Each of this similar pieces is called a beat or a bar (let's call it a bar now). This bar can be splittet in smaller parts again.

The time signature or measurement describes how many notes go into one bar. Frequently this is set to quarter notes (or crotchets). So lift your feet and imagine, that every time you drop it on the ground, a quarter note is played. 3 drops in a bar would be 3/4 measure, while 4 would be a 4/4.

4/4 3/4 2/4
This is the most simple one, which is why it is used most often. Rock, Pop, and basically all dance music is made in this signature.
4 to the know ;) It is even used in classical music. Check out the midi file and keep a closer look on the bass line. That is a walking bass line, because it is always set to straight quarter notes.
Not that widely spread but still pretty wide. Think about the famous waltz dance or in lots of folk music. Three quarter notes build up one bar, which is why the biggest note, could only be a half note. A whole note would have four quarters. This one is even easier than the 4/4. Just remember it as Bumm - Tschak, which is often found in Boogie, but can also be found in Rock, Blues or Ragtime.
5/4 7/8 2/2
It is not that ugly as it looks at first. This is often a combination of 2/4 and 3/4.Check the song Dave Brubeck: Take Five check the wiki for that one.. This one is often used in faster music, where the 4/4 is hard to count.
6/8 12/8
Basically just an extension of the 3/4 but more precise. Fast rock anthems use that sometimes (Queen - We are the champions is in 6/8). This is the best signature for shuffle, see below.

The length of the notes is called note value. In standard notation the note value is written like this:

And when there is light, there is also shadow. So here are the breaks:

Since these note values are created by dividing themselves with 2, they are also called the binary divisions.
What does that tell us? Yes, there are also other divisions.

Some maths:

The separation of one bar into different note values can be done pretty well by simple counting. We use the time signature as a limit and separate the spaces with syllables. Capital letters mean the strong measures:

3/4 in quarters: ONE - TWO - THREE
4/4 in half notes: ONE - and - TWO - and
4/4 in quarters: ONE - TWO - THREE - FOUR
4/4 in eighths: ONE - and - TWO  - and - THREE - and - FOUR - and

For those who prefer to listen to this, here is a small collection of these note values. We look at a tempo of 80 bpm in a signature of 4/4 and we listen to 4 bars. (coming soon)

Hit me with your rhythm stick:

Yea, this is something easy to grasp for you now. In a time signature one also separates between notes with strong and weak emphasize.

  • Example 4/4: 

    Here the emphasize is strong on the 1, while 2, 3 and 4 are weak. But it could also be like:
  • Example 4/4: 

    Here the 1 would be very strong, while 3 a little less strong and 2, 4 would be weak. How you set the emphasize also depends on the music you make. 

If it would be that easy^^

We further got some special cases, so stay tuned ;)

Case #1: dotted

As musicians tend to be a lazy bunch, they invented the dotted notes.

A dot after a note means that this note is extended by half of its own note value. Two dots extend a note by one half and one quarter value, relative to the given note.

Here is a midi file which shows it. The secret is not about changing the base rhythm, but more about not having to write that much notes in standard notation. In sequencing and sound design, these dotted notes often result in interesting modulation sources, as can be seen with lfo timings for example. Midi (coming soon)..

Case #2: shuffle, shuffle, shuffle

A special case as well are the triples. These are created by splitting a quarter note in three eighth triplets instead of 2 eighth notes. In this case we do not talk about binary splitting anymore, but about ternary splitting.

It isn't too much i hope, actually we can help us out here:

4/4 in triplets:  ONE - and - then - TWO - and - then - THREE - and - then - FOUR - and - then

Wanna listen? At first we listen to the pure triplet, more precise eighth triplets (coming soon):

And now we do something very intelligent: Lets get rid of the middle note and fill in a break of the same length. Then we get this nice rhythm, which is widely known as shuffle. First the original one, then the alternative with the break (coming soon).

And if there are eighth triplets, then there are also half note triplets and others. So if you like the pain, you can check those out..

Case #3: ties between notes

Ties between notes make it possible to create note values, that are not defined in standard notation. It just means that two or more notes got tied together. As an example, if you connect a quarter note with an eighth note with a tie, then the quarter note would be played like a dotted quarter (...remember what that was?)

You could say, well we could just use the dotted one then right? Not quite. First you could combine any given note values with a tie, while a dotted would always extend the given note with half of its own value.

And second is, that tied notes can extend a bar over its border, which a dotted note never can (it's definition).

This is more about standard notation. I will now try to show all that via midi as well to make it clear for you in a DAW context (coming soon).

Rhythms Part II

If we consider the harmonics and melodics as the space in the universe of music theory, the rhythm would be the time. We covered the basics of rhythm in the previous chapter, what follows now is a practical approach and how we apply variations and some technics. We look into the rhythmic creation of song parts, polyrhythms, tempo changes and so on..

Considering the wide range of harmonic theory, it is surprising that the rhythms have such a junior state in comparison. Without rhythms, a lot of styles like reggae/ska, DnB, techno couldn't be defined.

 We use the rhythm as a design medium now, and what is it, that we are always aiming for in this course?
Yes..tension and release!

A good joke builds up an expectation in the listener and guides the common sense in a certain direction, while finally releasing in a total different direction. It leads the sense of reality into confusion (a good laugh), which creates tension and release. We will try the same with rhythmic variations.

Let's dive straight into it!


We could translate this word with counter rhythm maybe. Syncopation happens when:

1. the accentuation within a beat changes (accent off the beat)

2. introduction  of 'silence instead of accent'

3. emphases and structures within a a beat are mixed (mixing of accents)

All three variations introduce tension by dashing the expectation of the listener. It is not happening, what we would expect from the previous beat for example due to the variations. Syncopation means to confuse the listeners expectation.

Let's have a closer look into the three variation we just talked about.

Accent off the beat

In the previous chapter we talked about the different time signatures and their common sets of accentuations.

  • 4/4

    The 4/4 is strong in the first and third, and less strong in the second and fourth.
  • 3/4

    In the 3/4 we got a decreasing accentuation, which gives a rolling impression (Hump-ta-ta-Hump-ta-ta ...)
  • 2/2

    Not much choice with the 2/4 (Bumm-tschak-Bumm-tschak)

What all of these signatures got in common, is the strong emphasis on the first measure.

Ok, this would be the regular case. By syncopating we simply move the emphasis to other elements. For example making the first weak or the last one strong and so on. This could be done in an intro, in a bridge or whenever you want to catch the listeners attention. This is what is meant by the counter-rhythm.

But we not only can move or remove the emphasis, we can also set it off the beat. 

Here the third emphasis lies in between the quarter and eighth note. In summary we get a 4/4 but it sounds more impelling than the usual 4/4. Check the midi (coming soon).

Silence instead of accent

By skipping a few notes here and there, we are also syncopating. The listener expects the next hit, but there isn't one. As soon as this happens we probably got the listeners attention. 

Mixing different accents

Both of these mentioned ways of syncopating can be realized with a single instrument. For this method now, we need at least two instruments if you do not want to break your fingers. 

While mixing different emphases, the instruments create different accents. We can listen to an example, in the beginning of Roxanne by The Police. There we got mixed accents (coming soon). 


This is a style, that usually requires different instruments or voices as well. Let's say the bass player plays a bass line in 3/4, while the guitarist plays his riffs in 4/4. Both start at the same time..

On the next beat, they would be in sync anymore, but when will they be synced again? Some simple maths is needed to answer this question. We need to find the least common denominator of the root note. Considering the measurement (3, 4) it would be 12. So in quarters it would need three bars until both signatures sync up.

This would be one fundamental form of polyrhythm, a simple one.

The goal is to create the impression of something that is running across the expected measurement. It is a topic of a cross-pulse or cross-rhythm, which creates tension, and the release is done at the point, when both voices are in sync again. (hard to explain..let's see)

The math definition:

A polyrhythm is given, as soon as the used signatures do not have a common divisor.

Ok, some think this hurts maybe. How about a little test?

By watching the definition above, would you think this is a polyrhythm?

midi file(coming soon)

Nah, doesn't sound like it..the voice on the top is in quarters and the one below is in eighth notes. So the rhythmic relation of the signatures is 4:8, or 2:4. Because 2 and 4 do have a common divisor, which is 2, this is not a polyrhythm (per definition=.

What about this one then?

This is one yea! The voice on top is written in eighth triplets and the one below in eighths. We remember the base for triplets is ternary and the base for simple eighths is binary. In numbers it would be 3:2. Since 3 and 2 do not have a common divisor, so this would be a polyrhythm.

We do have other values to experiment apart from eighth triplets, eighths or quarters. Maybe check out quarter triplets as well and so on..

The key fact is usually the different signature base, like ternary and binary. Everything that could adapt to a 2 and 3 in the different voices.

Variations with shuffle or repeating parts or syncopation in general, will lead to further ornamentation... 


Wether clearly a polyrhythm nor syncopation alone, are the rhythmical changeovers. This is also a nice design medium. Here we would change over the signature in a sequence. First 3/4, changing over to 4/4 and back or from 3/4 to 5/4 or from 7/8 to 8/8 like in the intro of the song Seven To Eight.

sound and midi example (coming soon)

If this is combined with polyrhythms and syncopation , we can write songs like the Roxanne intro (coming soon).

And you would know, that this is a ternary polyrhythm syncopated in an interesting way, wouldn't you?

Cadences or Progressions

Does progress belong to music?

Sometimes yea..we now want to talk about cadences (ital.: cadenca) or also called progressions (engl.:progression). This is a very nice chapter and very useful for songwriting and music in general. And because so many people talk about cadences, we will also do it here..

What is a cadence?

Musicians tend to (same as medics or computer specialists) make a lot of mumbo-jumbo out of simple things. So this chapter is such a one, that causes confusion resulting from technical terms. To say it simple, a cadence is nothing else as sequence of chords, while this sequence is built with the roman numerals (scale degrees).

Well, let's be a little more precise here:

We do remember the chapter about intervals and that we talked about certain emotions that are characteristic for them (minor third = sad, major third = happy). The minor third is related to the whole minor family while the major third is related to the major family. The major 7th has a strong vibe for the root note in the next octave to be released. The perfect 4th and 5th are somehow the relaxing ones in the middle of the scale and are very harmonic.

We then built the roman numerals (scale degrees) while looking into the diatonic harmonization. There we realised that in a major scale the degrees I - IV - V belong to major chords, while minor chords belong to other degrees..let's call them diatonic chords, because they are build on the roman numerals and only contain notes out of the given scale, ok? It is scientific applesauce, but a useful scenario, when we apply the same quality to the diatonic chords as we do to the intervals of a scale. Since also the diatonic chords can transport a certain emotion to the listener. Now we simply sequence the diatonic chords which gives us a cadence instead of sequencing random notes of a scale which would give us a melody.

A cadence is a sequence of diatonic chords.

I use the term diatonic chords, just to clarify what we look at know..the chords built up on the notes that reflect the roman numerals while stacking triads on them: I - II - III - IV - V - VI - VII - VII.

T and R theory!

While using these diatonic chords we can accomplish the world famous principle of tension and release, which can capture the listener or results in a desired expression.

The composition of tension is created by the tonal effect of the notes in a chord and their sequence.

But not just that..

It is good to know that a cadence has nothing to do with a so called key change. If you play in E major and change over to A major for 97 bars, while then going back to E major, you will not have a progression. This is simply just a key change, with the random fact that A major is a diatonic chord of E major on the IV degree. Fundamental to every cadence is that the goal of every sequence is the release on the tonic (root chord). Does that make sense..? It will soon, if not already!


As we looked into the scale harmonization, we attached some roman numerals to the notes of the major scale. Then we learned that we can build chords on these numerals. In a new flavour, we write these numerals a little different. We will write down the numerals of major chords in capital letters and the ones of the minor chords in lower case letters. This is an important thing to understand now, since we will use these more precise labels from now on.

The notes on this degrees also do have their own names:

And now, we can categorize them again:

The tonic chords are the chill out zone of a cadence, because either the cadence has been released (I) or the tension is at it's lowest point (vi). A little more tension is possible with the subdominant chords but the real pressure to the release comes from the dominant chords. This is a good thing to remember when writing songs.

In the literature there are different suggestions how the chord on the degree iii should be called. We allocate that chord to the dominant chords because the relationship in the major scale is bigger to the dominants. In other scales this relationship and therefore the allocation can change.

So let's have a closer look at the intervals that build these diatonic chords:

What do we learn from this?

  1. I and vi contain the interval I - III
  2. IV and ii contain the interval VI - IV
  3. V and iii contain the interval V - VII

All these pairs of chords do share a common note. It is the third, and chords that share a same interval of a third, even with different roles are related to each other. That is why C major/ A minor, F major/ D minor and G major/ E minor are related to each other since they do share the same interval of a third. Let's call them third relatives, ok? (not sure if this is the right term in english, but i hope it is clear what i mean by that)

Generally: Chords of a scale, with a distance of a third, are related to each other. Same counts for fifths or fourths.

More on the practical side:

From now on, when we talk about cadences, we mean a sequence of chords which reflect the degrees of a scale. One of the most used cadences is I - IV - V, which is C - F - G for C major. The tension build up is related to the specific notes that are used.

The second chord creates a movement away from the tonic, which is considered as a resting (chill out) chord. The third chord not just creates a further movement away from the tonic but also holds the leading tone, which creates a lot of tension to release the tonic again. Finally the return to the tonic C maj creates the release of the tension. Such a cadences also called a full cadence. Some kinds of cadences often appear, so let's list them here:

For your information:

  1. A cadence with the sequence I - IV - V - I is a full cadence
  2. always when the dominant releases on the tonic, it is called an authentic cadence ... - V - I
  3. A cadence which is ending on the V would be half cadence ... - V
  4. A cadence which leaves the V out and which ends in IV - I would be a plagal cadence ... - IV - I
  5. The effect that the subdominant can be released with the minor chord is also called plagal ... - IV - vi - I
  6. A cadence that is released on the tonic is a full cadence ... - I
  7. A cadence that is released on the dominant is called a half cadence ... - V
  8. Is a cadence not released on the tonic but on the parallel minor chord, it is called a false cadence
  9. If you step from any degree in a distance of a 5th or a 4th, you will get a full cadence and you will always end up on the tonic I - IV - vii - iii - vi - ii - V - I Note: you would always need to use the 5th or 4th which is in the actual chord, could be diminished, perfect..). See, from vii to IV it is a diminished 5th. Other wise it doesn't release on the tonic.

From notes to songs:

The principle of tension and release is an important factor to make songs interesting and engaging.Tension can be created by certain intervals (dim5th and augm5th), with cadences (I-IV-V, ii-V-I) or from whole song structures (intro - weak verse - weak refrain - strong verse - strong refrain - coda). Also vocals can force the tension.

We will get back into cadences in the chapter about chord substitution, there we will need the logic behind the third relatives and fifths relatives between the diatonic  chords.

Yea..modes again! 

Yes, we will have another look into the modes, because now we can combine our knowledge about cadences and diatonic chords with them.

What do we know so far?

The modes are created by watching two octaves of the C major scale and building new scales on sections of the C major by starting  on each of the seven notes from the first octave. This results in a different interval patterns than the normal major one.

Then we looked into the harmonization and diatonic chords, which are built by creating chords on every note of scale by just using notes of the given scale (diatonic harmonization). By sequencing these diatonic chords, we will get a cadence.

The correlation:

While building the diatonic chords with notes of the given scale, the modes are also built with these notes, since they are a section of the given scale.

Lets have a quick listen here (coming soon):

Diatonic Chords and Modes Listening test1:

Well, that sounds suitable. No we go crazy.. if that works for the root position chords, does it also work for the higher realms of the chords *the 7ths*?

Diatonic Chords and Modes Listening test2:

Nice isn't it? 

So what about this?

Lets assume the following:

1. The cadence of ii - V - I for c major consists of the chords Dm - G - C  (true)

2. By following that, one could suggest that the corresponding scales would need to be played then, which are D minor, G major and C major (false)

So why is the second assumption false then? Because on the position ii there is the dorian mode and not D minor. The position V is related to the Mixolydian mode. We would get D dorian and G Mixolydian, which would be correct regarding the harmonization and the creation of modes. Remember, the diatonic chords do have the notes of the given scale C major, while the scale of D minor wouldn't.

This is maybe still not clear, but i hope it will be soon. Let's have a listen to that second assumption now. 

First the correct way, then the false way (coming soon):

Oh, what's that? Something is wrong there in the second part..

And now? Is it actually true, that we were playing it wrong for so many years? Would Stairway to heaven need to be played in six different modes? no no..

Cadences in detail again:

A cadence is sequence of diatonic chords of a given scale. And it doesn't need to be a major scale, it is also possible to harmonize minor scales or any other  scale, but.. :

A cadence is sequence of chords, but not every sequence of chords is a cadence.

An example:

1. Asus2 - F#7 - G7  is a sequence of chords, but no cadence

2. C - E - F is a cadence, it is I - IV - V of C major

3. A5 - C5 - Bb5 isn't even a sequence  of chords, since power-chords are no real chords.

The example 1. therefore does not follow the logic of chords & modes. A little more precise, a cadence got a tonal center (the  tonic) on which the movement is heading. All cadences are moving ahead and away from the tonic, which is how tension and release are formed. Not every sequence of chords does have this attribute, which is why in those cases the modes do not play an important role.

In the song Stairway to Heaven, there is no obvious cadence, which is the reason why we do not need to take care about modes then. 

In a cadence it should be clear to you, that the modes represent relative scales. They are relative to the given scale they are built from, here C major as the tonic. So while you play a chord of a cadence you could play a connected mode in addition in parallel.

From the cadence to the song:

Ever wondered how some of the famous chord progressions were created? It is not any mysterious happening or plain luck, it is about modes and cadences. Especially the full cadence.

A full cadence is built by starting from the tonic and moving up in constant intervals (for example in perfect 4ths) until one reaches back to the tonic an octave above. For perfect 4ths, it would look like this:

I IV vii iii vi ii V I
C F Bdim Em Am Dm G C
Cmaj7 Fmaj7 Bm7b5 Em7 Am7 Dm7 G7 Cmaj7

Instead of an interval of perfect 4th, one could also choose perfect 5ths or major/minor 3rds. That way one can create enormous tension and release settings and a lot of other cadences can be cutted out of such a full cadence. Watch the last part of the full cadence above, it is ii - V - I, a famous jazz cadence. Two songs come to mind which make use of this principle 'full cadence + modes' Still Got The Blues by Gary Moore and the american Autumn Leaves(see Adam Nitti's Walking Bass Lines).

And this is how it sounds like:

Full cadence C major and modes(coming soon):

Full cadence C major and partial modal walking bass line(coming soon):

Hopefully it is clear now, why the modes are useful.

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