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  • Chris Anderson

GCSE Music Revison - Melody Part 8 - Chords 2

In the previous blog I wrote about the basics of chords. In this blog we’ll talk about adding chords to a melody.

Adding Chords To A Melody

I touched on this briefly in the previous blog in so far as I talked about what each degree of the scale contained. Here I want to go into a bit more detail.

Every note of the scale can have a triad. All you need to do as stack alternate notes on top of each other. One way of remembering this is line-line-line or space-space-space. That is to say, you stack notes on top of each other using the next line if the root is on a line or space if the root is on a space. In root position there’ll be no change in whether it’s on a line or in a space within the same chord.

Major Scales

First let’s write out the scale. I’ve used D major in this example. Notice each note has its own name. It’s important to learn these. You’ll also notice the Roman numerals below; these need to be learnt too. Remember though that you only use a capital Roman numeral for a MAJOR chord; minor chords use lower case. At the moment they're all major as we don't have a chord yet!

Next what you’ll do is add a note on top of each one. It is the next but one, ie if you’re on note 1 the next one will be 3, note 2 the next will be 4…and so on. The numbers in the boxes indicate the note numbers that have been used to create the chord. The “+” after some of them indicates it’s that note number an octave higher - this is my code to help you!

Next you add another note on top. This time you miss 4 notes from the lowest note. In other words, chord one will add the fifth note so it becomes 1, 3, 5…

This picture shows the quality of each chord (major or minor). Every single major chord will follow this same pattern of major and minor.

Minor Scales

As you know there are three types of minor scales. If you need to refresh your memory do so here. The process is exactly the same, so I’m not going to do a picture for each stage. Instead you’ll get the completed diagram for each scale. I’ve used E minor for the example.

The Natural Minor scale will use exactly the same notes and chords as the major scale, just in a different order. Remember the bottom note of each triad is the root.

E natural minor triads

The Harmonic Minor raises the seventh note (of the natural minor) so you get some different chords. It is important to remember that all instances of the seventh note will need to be adjusted.

E Harmonic Minor Scale With Triads

The Melodic Minor raises the sixth and seventh note (of the natural minor) so you get more different chords. Again you need to remember that all instances of the sixth and seventh notes need to be sharpened. Remember on the way down the melodic minor is the natural minor. It’s also worth bearing in mind that the melodic minor tends to be used for melody which is why some of the chords are “interesting”.

E Melodic Minor (Ascending) Scale With Triads

Choosing Notes

As a rule a chord in the harmony should include the note it’s accompanying. For example a G could be accompanied by G major (GBD), C major (CEG), E minor (EGB) or G minor (GBbD). Using the previous exercise as a guideline can help you. It may be long-winded, but writing out the scale and triads available is a good starting point.

Once you’ve got the main harmony notes (notes within the triad) in place, you can add something called an unaccented passing note. This is a note that is not part of the triad but come between each note. For example in C major the triad is made up of C E G so the passing notes will be D and F. You can use sharps or flats as well to make it more interesting.

It’s important to understand the theory behind all this but, theory should never get in the way of creativity. Of course you need to demonstrate you know the “rules” of music but a little deviation for creative purposes is fine.

Next blog I’ll revise inversions.

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