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tutorials

An Easy Guide To Understanding Harmony.

Tutorials > Theory

submited by julyshredder

If you are looking for a way to learn songs fast, guess the chords correctly when playing by ear, start writing your own songs or play your own solos you will like this one.

Hi there, how is it going? In the Easy way to learn and see chords on the guitar fretboard series we have gone through the CAGED system for major and minor triads.
You have also learned to locate and play C and Am scales. In the How can I play it by ear? lesson we have started with learning to identify intervals and I promised to show more fun ways to use what you already know after some more explanation in the next lesson. So here it is.

So why do you need scales? Also why songwriters use certain chords and sequences of chords and not the others? How do you decide on which chord to use apart from "like" or "dislike"?

In fact, this is a start to a whole new universe called Harmony.

From The Guide To Chord Theory on this website you could have learnt various types of chords.

How is it going to help you play by ear or write a song?

Let's play and listen all of the basic triads first (for example from the root C), paying attention to the mood they produce and any other sound characteristic making them different from one another.

E|---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
B|---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
G|---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
D|--5------5------4------6------5------5-------------------------------------------
A|--7------6------6------7------8------5-------------------------------------------
E|--8------8------8------8------8------8-------------------------------------------

C Cm Cdim,Co Caug, C+ Csus4 Csus2
1 3 5 1 b3 5 1 b3 b5 1 3 #5 1 4 5 1 2 5


You might have noticed the following:
major triads sound overall positive, jolly;
minor triads - sad, depressive;
dim - harsh;
augmented - weird;
sus2 and sus4 are vague in the mood with a certain tension that needs to be resolved - followed by a certain major or minor triad.

With this in mind now you can listen to a song, figure out the melody, when the chords are changing and how they sound (the mood / character). It is also easy to hear the lowest note of a chord. Here you go, all you have to do is try a few possible options and hear which one fits)
This is the basic algorithm you can try and start practicing. There are of course more things to learn which will improve your results and make the process faster and more efficient, so keep reading)

If you remember the below pic from the An Easy Way To Visualize Notes On The Guitar Fretboard lesson, we started talking about C major scale and that you would need it later for many cool things. OK, now is the time. It is sad to admit, I have seen kids who hated scales just because they had been forced to practice them day and night without explanation of the whole perspective of what they could do with them or why it was necessary apart from the technical reasons. So here is the inspiring part first)

How would it feel to be able to learn songs faster, guess the chords correctly when playing by ear, start writing your own songs or play your own solos?


nut I III V VII X XII XV XVII
1E|| F | - | G | - | A | - | B |*C*| - | D | - | E | F | - | G | - | A | - | B |*C*|
2B||*C*| - | D | - | E | F | - | G | - | A | - | B |*C*| - | D | - | E | F | - | G |
3G|| - | A | - | B |*C*| - | D | - | E | F | - | G | - | A | - | B |*C*| - | D | - |
4D|| - | E | F | - | G | - | A | - | B |*C*| - | D | - | E | F | - | G | - | A | - |
5A|| - | B |*C*| - | D | - | E | F | - | G | - | A | - | B |*C*| - | D | - | E | F |
6E|| F | - | G | - | A | - | B |*C*| - | D | - | E | F | - | G | - | A | - | B |*C*|


If you build triads from all the degrees (notes) of the C major scale, in a way that they only contain the C major scale tones, you will get the following sequence of triads of different types:

E|---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
B|---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
G|--0------2------4------5------7-------9-------10------12-------------------------
D|--2------3------5------7------9-------10------12------14-------------------------
A|--3------5------7------8------10------12------14------15-------------------------
E|---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

C Dm Em F G Am Bdim C
C E G D F A E G B F A C G B D A C E B D F C E G
1 3 5 1 b3 5 1 b3 5 1 3 5 1 3 5 1 b3 5 1 b3 b5 1 3 5
I IIm IIIm IV V VI VIIo I
Tonic Subdominant Dominant Leading Tone Tonic
T S D
T

For convenience, let's also number the scale degrees. As a matter of fact, this formula will be the same for any major scale. The I , IV and V are major triads, and are often called primary chords. Also for the purposes of this lesson, let's quickly run through the names of the scale degrees based on their function and to their position to each other on the scale: the Tonic (T) is the primary tone, the Subdominant (S) is below the Dominant (D), and the Leading Tone "leads" to the Tonic.You can generally think of I, III, and VI as tonic, II and IV as subdominant, and V and VII as dominant. Although the strength of the functional characteristic for each chord is different.
And here is why. The 1,3 and 5th degrees of the scale which form the tonic triad are the most stable, all the rest require to be resolved as shown on the diagram below.

I <<- II -> III<- IV->V<-VI VII->> I
C D E F G A B C
__1___1_1/2__1__1__1__1/2__


Depending on which scale degrees form the chord, it gets D,T or S characteristics or a combination of them (see the chart below) and have different function depending on the musical context.

ATTENTION, THIS IS NOT A TAB))) Supposed to be a staff with a treble clef and the second one with the bass clef and the numbers are major scale degrees (see proper images on my website)


|--------------------------------------------4---------
|---------------------------------------2----2---------
|----------------------------------7----7----7---------
|-----------------------------5----5----5--------------
|-----------------------3-----3----3-------------------
--1-----1--
--6--
VI I III V VII
T T T
S S S D D D
--1--
|------------6----6------------------------------------
|------------4----4------------------------------------
|------------2-----------------------------------------
|------------------------------------------------------
|------------------------------------------------------
II IV


So why do we need this? Remember in the beginning I said that there is a certain logic in the way songwriters put the chords in the songs? Here it is!
Here are some of the most common harmonic progressions:

I - IV - V - I
IIm - V - I
I - VI - IIm - V - I
I - IIm - IIIm - IV - V - I

Have you noticed what all of them have in common? Exactly. The main harmonic functions rule: T - S - D - T. There are more variations and rules which

Once you know the logic, isn't it easy to identify which chords are most like to be used in the song you are trying to play by ear?
.
Exercise 1: Harmonize major scales from different roots (D, E, F, G, A, Bb) with triads following the formula: I IIm IIIm IV V VI VIIo
Play them.

Exercise 2: Write down and play the following progressions in different keys (C, D, E, F, G, A, Bb)
I - IV - V - I
IIm - V - I
I - VI - IIm - V - I
I - IIm - IIIm - IV - V - I

Exercise 3:
Pick 3-5 songs you already know or are learning at the moment and analyze them. What are their key signatures? What harmonic progressions are used? Write them down with numbers - like the ones in the previous exercise.

Have fun! More lessons to follow)

The tutorial was written and submitted by
http://www.julyshredder.com - Guitar gear & software reviews, demos, lessons
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