The Harmonic Major Scale is probably the least know of the 4 main heptatonic scales (Major, Melodic Minor, Harmonic Minor, Harmonic Major). As we've done with the other scales listed above, in this article we'll look into the chords of the Harmonic Major Scale!
We'll look mostly at triads and seventh chords but will stray away from tertian harmony to in order to include some other interesting chords of the Harmonic Major Scale.
Let's get into it!
So What is the Harmonic Major Scale?
The Harmonic Major Scale is defined by the following scale degrees:
1 2 3 4 5 ♭6 7
Or, Alternatively by the following intervals:
*w = whole step // h = half step // wh = whole step+ half step*
The Harmonic Major Scale is different from the Major by one scale degree: its flat sixth (♭6).
And the Harmonic Major Scale is different from the Harmonic Minor Scale by one scale degree: its major third (3).
This one changed note in the Harmonic Major will yield different harmonization and chords than its two similar heptatonic scales.
To build the chords of the Harmonic Major Scale more easily, let's first look at its modes. By looking at the modes, we can re-calibrate our scale degrees and build chords based on new “tonics” (1s). This makes it easier to identify our thirds, fifths, sevenths, and other chord tones compared to the root note!
Here are the modes of the Harmonic Major Scale:
We are able to build chords out of each of these modes. The chords we create will all be part of the Harmonic Major Scale.
Let's start by building the triads and seventh chords made from tertian harmony.
the tertian Chords of the Harmonic MAJor Scale
Tertian chords are built by stacking thirds. These thirds can be either major (interval of 4 semitones) or minor (interval of 3 semitones). Let's see how many tertian chords are in the Harmonic Major Scale, starting on each of its scale degrees. We will only cover triads and seventh chords here. Extensions can be added at your own will 🙂
To make things easy to conceptualize, we'll cover the chords of the specific C Harmonic Major Scale. Made of the following notes:
C D E F G A ♭ B
Here are the triads along with their modal scale degrees. Check back on the modes presented earlier for clarification:
The Harmonic Major Scale provides us with all four types of triad: diminished (dim), minor (min), major (maj), and augmented (aug).
It's interesting to note the enharmonic modal scale degrees that make up the triads. The 1 ♭3 ♯4 that makes the F diminished triad, or the 1 ♯2 ♯4 that make up the A♭ diminished triad. These exact chords are built on the same scale degrees of the Harmonic Minor Scale.
We'll notice as well that there are 3 augmented chords (C, E, andA♭) that all contain the same notes. That's a characteristic of the augmented triad. If you have one augmented triad, you automatically have two more since stacking three major third intervals brings us to an octave!
Much like the Harmonic Minor Scale, the whole-half step (minor third interval) between the Harmonic Major's 6th and 7th scale degrees (A♭and B in the case of C Harmonic Major) give us some interesting harmonic options!
The Harmonic Minor Scale has 3 more triads within it than the Melodic Minor and 5 more than the Major Scale. It has the same amount of tertian triads as the Harmonic Minor Scale.
Let's now look at the tertian seventh chords of the C Harmonic Major Scale:
The Harmonic Minor Scale yields 12 tertian seventh chords. The same amount as the Harmonic Minor Scale, and 5 more than both the Major and Melodic Minor.
By tertian, we mean they are chords built by stacking only minor and major thirds (more on tertian harmony here).
An interesting chord I'd like to point out in the full diminished chord (dim7). Full diminished chords are built by stack only minor thirds. Notice how there are 4 of them in our list of seventh chords above, and that they all contain the same notes?
In the same way that if you have 1 augmented triad, you automatically have 3. If you have a full diminished seventh chord, you automatically have 4. These are called symmetrical chords.
So there's a lot of potential for harmony with the chords of the Harmonic Major Scale. Let's look deeper into the possibilities and check out some of the non-tertian chords!
Non-tertian chords of the Harmonic Minor Scale
As we calculated in the Chords of the Melodic Minor article, any heptatonic scale has 99 unique chords (not including different voicings of those chords):
35 three-note chords
+ 35 four-note chords
+ 21 five-note chords
+ 7 six-note chords
+ 1 seven-note chord
= 99 unique chords
Going through all these chords would be very tedious to write out and probably as tedious to read through. So instead of doing all that, I'll provide some common 3 and 4 note chords I like to use.
Here are some triads and pseudo-triads:
With the true triads in bold.
I've colour matched chords that are the same but with a different voicing. For example, Csus2 contains the notes C D G and Gsus4 contains the notes G C D. They are indeed the same chord, only voiced differently.
The “modal” pseudo-triads are built as follows:
- Phrygian “triad” = 1 ♭2 5
- Lydian “triad” = 1 ♯4 5
- Locrian2 “triad” = 1 ♭2 ♭5
- Locrian4 “triad” = 1 4 ♭5
And here are some seventh chords:
With the tertian seventh chords in bold.
I've tried to simplify these chords as much as possible. Note that these are examples of “seventh chords” and do not cover most of the 4-note chords that are possible. They all fit with C Harmonic Major harmony. Try harmonizing, arpeggiating, and composing with the chords above and experiment with building more of the 35 total 4-note chords 🙂
Chord-scale relationships are very interesting to study and compose with.
Here are the modes of the Harmonic Major Scale once again:
I have included the Roman numerals with each mode and have listed them in order. Try matching up the Roman numerals between modes and the chords listed above and dive into the chord-scale relationships in the Harmonic Major scale.
An interesting exercise is to look at the series of chords based on a scale and how we can use them in compositions.
For example, of the four main heptatonic scales I talk about (Major, Melodic Minor, Harmonic Minor, and Harmonic Major), the Harmonic Major is the only scale to have a dominant seventh chord on one degree and an augmented-major seventh chord on the degree a half step above (the 5th and 6th degrees).
Composing with these chord-scale relationships in mind, we could alternate between G dominant 7 // A♭ augmented-major 7 and build a melody out of the C Harmonic Major Scale. It would work perfectly!
The above exercise often works best with two adjacent tertian seventh chords, since they will contain within them all the notes of the scale!
As I stated before, there are far too many chords to list out, but the ones featured in this article are a good starting point for building the chords of the Harmonic Major Scale. Try adding extensions to the seventh chords I've listed, try secundal or quartal harmony rather than tertian harmony. See what you come up with, there are definitely some awesome chords I have failed to mention.
It's not often that we build chord progressions out of the Harmonic Major Scale, but learning its chords will prove to be invaluable in your study of theory, I promise you!
As always, thank you for reading and for your support,