• You Can Learn How To Harmonize The Octatonic Scale In 15 Minutes

    in Chords & Progressions,Experienced players,Improvisation,Jazz music,Piano,Scales,Theory

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    In today’s lesson, we’ll be learning how to harmonize the octatonic scale.

    The octatonic scale is not among the traditional scales we covered previously, consequently, it is mostly used by classical, jazz, and advanced gospel musicians. Nothing much was heard of the octatonic scale until the nineteenth and twentieth centuries where it was used extensively.

    We’ve made attempts in previous lessons to learn the definition, formation, and application of the octatonic scale and in today’s lesson, we’ll be learning how to harmonize it.

    We’ll be getting started with this study by doing a review on the octatonic scale.

    The Octatonic Scale

    The term octatonic can be broken down into oct and tonic. The prefix ‘oct’ is commonly used to denote eight, terms like octopus, octagon, etc., are all associated with eight, while the term tonic has to do with tones.

    In a nutshell, the octatonic scale is basically an eight-tone scale.

    The octatonic scale can be formed by alternating between whole steps and half steps. Consequently, the octatonic scale is said to be symmetrical because it can be divided into equal and identical parts.

    There are two known variants of the octatonic scale; the octatonic whole-half and the octatonic half-whole. In the octatonic whole-half, a whole step comes before a half step, while in the octatonic half-whole, a half step comes before a whole step.

    “Let’s take a look at C octatonic whole-half scale.”

    Starting from C:

    …the C octatonic whole half is formed by an alternation of whole steps and half steps until the octave is reached.

    A whole step from C:

    …is D:

    Half step from D is Eb:

    Whole step from Eb is F:

    Half step from F is F#:

    Whole step from F# is G#:

    Half step from G# is A:

    Whole step from A is B:

    …and half step from B is C:

    So altogether the C octatonic scale whole-half scale:

    “Let’s also take a look at the octatonic half-whole scale.”

    From C:

    …a half step from C is C#:

    Whole step from C# is D#:

    …half step from D# is E:

    Whole step from E is F#:

    Half step from F# is G:

    Whole step from G is A:

    Half step from A is Bb:

    Whole step from Bb is C:

    Altogether, here’s the C octatonic half whole scale:

    Now, both of these scales can be harmonized. However, we’ll be focusing on the harmonization of the octatonic whole-half scale. But before we do that, here’s the octatonic whole-half scale in all twelve keys…

    C octatonic whole half scale:

    C# octatonic whole half scale:

    D octatonic whole half scale:

    Eb octatonic whole half scale:

    E octatonic whole half scale:

    F octatonic whole half scale:

    F# octatonic whole half scale:

    G octatonic whole half scale:

    Ab octatonic whole half scale:

    A octatonic whole half scale:

    Bb octatonic whole half scale:

    B octatonic whole half scale:

    The Harmonization Of The Octatonic Scale

    The octatonic whole-half scale is also known as the auxiliary diminished scaleĀ  and is one of the scales that produces the diminished chord. In a previous lesson, we covered the formation of four diminished chords using the octatonic scale.

    A knowledge of the harmonization of the octatonic whole-half scale can help you to harmonize the diminished scale and ideas that are related to the diminished quality.

    We’ll be using the C octatonic whole-half scale:

    …to breakdown thisĀ  harmonization.

    A closer look at the C octatonic whole half scale shows four diminished triads…

    C diminished triad:

    D# diminished triad:

    F# diminished triad:

    A diminished triad:

    There are also four diminished seventh chords…

    C diminished seventh chord:

    D# diminished seventh chord:

    F# diminished seventh chord:

    A diminished seventh chord:

    …and four diminished major seventh chords…

    C diminished major seventh chord:

    D# diminished major seventh chord:

    F# diminished major seventh chord:

    A diminished major seventh chord:

    It is a knowledge of these chords that can help you to harmonize the octatonic scale. The reason why we’re using diminished chords in the harmonization of the octatonic scale is because the octatonic scale has a diminished outline.

    “Here’s How To Harmonize The C Octatonic Whole-Half Scale”

    The harmonization of the octatonic scale sounds amazing in the descending direction. So, we’ll be harmonizing it in its descending form starting from the C diminished major seventh:

    The C diminished major seventh chord:

    …harmonizes B:

    …while the C diminished seventh chord:

    …harmonizes A:

    The A diminished major seventh chord:

    …harmonizes G#:

    …while the A diminished seventh chord:

    …harmonizes F#:

    The F# diminished major seventh chord:

    …harmonizes F:

    …while the F# diminished seventh chord:

    …harmonizes Eb:

    The D# diminished major seventh chord:

    …harmonizes D:

    …while the D diminished seventh chord:

    …harmonizes C:

    That’s basically how you can harmonize the octatonic scale.

    Altogether, here’s the harmonization of the C octatonic whole-half scale:

    …in descending fashion.









    Submission: The strict spellings of diminished seventh and diminished seventh chords were not used.

    Final Words

    For advanced gospel and jazz keyboardists, the harmonization of the octatonic scale would prove very useful to you especially if you understand how diminished chords are related to the dominant chords family.

    For instance, F diminished:

    …over G on the bass:

    …produces the G dom7b9 chord:

    …that resolves to the Cmaj9 chord:

    So a knowledge of the F diminished seventh chord:

    …and how it can be used to harmonize the octatonic whole-half scale can help you actually improvise over the Gdom7b9 chord:

    Harmonizing the F octatonic whole-half scale:

    …over G:

    …on the bass is a creative way of improvising over the Gdom7b9 chord.

    “Here’s how it’s done…”









    In another post, we’ll learn other ways of harmonizing the octatonic scale and how to play outside using the harmonization of the octatonic scale.

    See you then!

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    Onyemachi "Onye" Chuku (aka - "Dr. Pokey") is a Nigerian musicologist, pianist, and author. Inspired by his role model (Jermaine Griggs) who has become his mentor, what he started off as teaching musicians in his Aba-Nigeria neighborhood in April 2005 eventually morphed into an international career that has helped hundreds of thousands of musicians all around the world. Onye lives in Dubai and is currently the Head of Education at HearandPlay Music Group and the music consultant of the Gospel Music Training Center, all in California, USA.

    Attention: To learn more about this, I recommend our 500+ page course: The "Official Guide To Piano Playing." Click here for more information.


    { 2 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 Richard Powell

    Very interesting, but it would be much more useful with the stuff written out in the usual way on staves. I just can’t be bothered with pictures.
    But good that you made the effort to put this online.


    2 Joseph M Gomila

    Great introduction to harmonising the Octatonic scale. I recently carried out an analysis of both modes of the scale and found many more chords. Without going beyond 7th chords there are; dim 7th, dim maj 7th as you suggest, and also maj 7th, dom 7th, min 7th
    Keep up the goo work.


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