• Proven: It Takes Only 5 Major Chords To Harmonize The Major Scale In Three Related Keys

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    It takes only 5 major chords to harmonize the major scale in three closely related keys.

    If you stick with me for the next seven minutes or so, I’ll show you, step-by-step, how this works. But before we get into all of that, let’s look at the primary chords in the following keys:

    C major

    F major

    G major

    …and then we take off as soon as we’re done.

    The Primary Chords In C Major, F Major, And G Major

    The primary chords in any key are the chord of the first, fourth and fifth tones of the major scale.

    In this lesson, we’re focusing on the following keys:

    C major

    F major

    G major

    So, let’s take a look at the primary chords in these keys.

    Primary Chords In C Major

    In the key of C major:

    …the first, fourth, and fifth tones of the scale are as follows:

    C:

    F:

    G:

    …and when we form major chords on each of these tones, we have the primary chords in the key:

    C major:

    F major:

    G major:

    “Here Are The Primary Chords And Their Inversions…”

    The C major chord:

    Root position:

    First Inversion:

    Second Inversion:

    The F major chord:

    Root position:

    First Inversion:

    Second Inversion:

    The G major chord:

    Root position:

    First Inversion:

    Second Inversion:

    Although we’re NOT necessarily using all these chords in the key of C major, but they are worth knowing because (as you’re going to find out) these chords repeat in closely related keys.

    Primary Chords In F Major

    If we do the same thing in the key of F major:

    …where the first, fourth, and fifth tones of the scale are as follows:

    F:

    Bb:

    C:

    The primary chords in the key are going to be:

    F major:

    Bb major:

    C major:

    Now, can you see that two out of the three primary chords in the key of F major:

    …have already been covered in the key of C major:

    Can you tell me the primary chords that C (that we already learned) and F (that we’re learning) share in common?

    Well, that’s F major and C major:

    F major:

    C major:

    …and we’re not going to learn them all over.

    “The Bb Major Chord And Its Inversions…”

    Now that we are already familiar with two out of the three common chords in the key of F major, let’s just add the Bb major to the list.

    The Bb major chord:

    Root position:

    First Inversion:

    Second Inversion:

    Primary Chords In G Major

    In the key of G major:

    …where the first, fourth, and fifth tones of the scale are as follows:

    G:

    C:

    D:

    The primary chords in the key are as follows:

    G major:

    C major:

    D major:

    …and once again, we have already learned two chords (out of the three on the list) and they are:

    G major:

    C major:

    The G major chord is the 5-chord in the key of C major and now it’s the 1-chord in the key of G major. Also, the C major chord (the 1-chord in the key of C major) is now the 4-chord in the key of G major.

    So, we’re NOT re-inventing the wheel; rather, we’re just going to learn the new chord on the list and that’s the D major chord.

    “The D Major Chord And Its Inversions…”

    The D major chord:

    Root position:

    First Inversion:

    Second Inversion:

    Here Are The 5 “Unique” Major Chords

    Altogether, we’ve covered only 5 major chords in three keys.

    Now, it’s mathematically¬†correct to think that we’re going to have 9 chords total and this is because 3 primary chords in each key would give us a total of 9 chord.

    But in music, the relationship between major keys:

    …off the circle of fourths/fifths, makes it possible for keys neighboring on the circle to share chords in common.

    So, it takes only 5 unique chords (3 per time) to harmonize in these three closely related keys:

    C major:

    F major:

    G major:

    …and you’ll find them neighboring on the circle:

    C is at the 12 o’clock position

    F is at the 11 o’clock position

    G is at the 1 o’clock position

    Once you understand this relationship between keys, playing in all the keys would be a lot easier.

    Harmonization Of The Major Scale Using Primary Chords

    Here’s how to harmonize the C major scale using the primary chords and their inversions:

    C:

    D:

    E:

    F:

    G:

    A:

    B:

    C:

    …and we only used three out of the 5 major chords we’ve learned so far.

    If we go ahead and harmonize the F major scale:

    F:

    G:

    A:

    Bb:

    C:

    D:

    E:

    F:

    …you’ll see that we’re using the C major and F major chord we already used in the harmonization of the C major scale and then, the Bb major chord (which is a unique chord).

    The G major scale:

    G:

    A:

    B:

    C:

    D:

    E:

    F#:

    G:

    …is harmonized by the G major and C major chords and the only new chord we’re adding to the list is the D major chord.

    Final Words

    Altogether, it doesn’t take more than 5 chords to harmonize the major scale in 3 closely related keys and I’m glad you’ve seen how this works.

    I recommend that you put this to work from key to key until you’re able to play in all the keys.

    I am grateful to Jermaine Griggs, my mentor and role-model, for the opportunity to share this with you and I’m open to questions and contributions in the comment section below.

    See you in the next lesson.

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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.




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    { 2 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 happy wheels

    I take a deep breath every time I pass your door
    I know you’re there

    Reply

    2 red ball

    I have learned about it but not much, thanks for your information

    Reply

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