Modal Harmony: An In-Depth How-To Guide

How to write and play with modal harmony? That’s a good question! Once we grasp the sounds of the modes, how do we actually use them in our compositions and improvisations?

Over certain chords in a functional, tonal chord progression? Sure, that works. “The Dorian mode goes over the ii chord and the Mixolydian mode goes over the V7 chord.”

But we can tap into a mode’s true sound by playing modally or playing within modal harmony. This article is an in-depth How To Guide to writing and playing with modal harmony!

Continue reading “Modal Harmony: An In-Depth How-To Guide”

Understanding Tertian Triads and Seventh Chords

Tertian harmony describes music and chords constructed with thirds. Based on the diatonic scale, and the basic concept of intervals, these thirds are either minor (an interval of 3 semitones) or major (an interval of 4 semitones). Tertian harmony forms the 4 triads of music as well as 8* of the most common seventh chords.

*There are 8 tertian seventh chords, but only 7 that contain four distinct notes. We’ll get to this later in our matrices.

A closer look at Tertian Harmony

A common way of describing tertian harmony is with the scale degrees of the Diatonic/Major Scale.

So let’s look at the C Major Scale to get a better idea of what tertian harmony is:

Continue reading “Understanding Tertian Triads and Seventh Chords”

Diatonic Thinking when Composing and Producing

When learning music theory, the term diatonic will undoubtedly come up. Let’s discuss what it means and how was can think about it when composing and producing our music!

What does diatonic mean exactly? When I was first told about diatonic playing, I thought it meant picking a scale and playing only the notes from that scale. Which it does, but you can only pick one scale when you’re playing diatonically. The diatonic scale.

The diatonic scale is defined as a heptatonic scale (having 7 notes) with 5 whole tone intervals and 2 halftone intervals, in which the halftone intervals are spaced as far apart as possible (three whole tones and two whole tones separated by half tones) . This doesn’t give us much choice in creating diatonic scales… We are left with only one scale with the following intervals:

Continue reading “Diatonic Thinking when Composing and Producing”