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Two harmonizations of "Yankee Doodle"
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Harmonized C major scale Play (help*info)
: I, ii, iii, IV, V7, vi, vii. Harmonized scale.png
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In music, harmonization is the chordal accompaniment to a line or melody: "Using chords and melodies together, making harmony by stacking scale tones as triads". [2]


A harmonized scale can be created by using each note of a musical scale as a root note for a chord and then by taking other tones within the scale building the rest of a chord. [3]
For example, using an Ionian (major scale)

Using the minor (aeolian mode) one would have:


Reharmonization is the technique of taking an existing melodic line and altering the harmony that accompanies it. Typically, a melody is reharmonized to provide musical interest or variety. Another common use of reharmonization is to introduce a new section in the music, such as a coda or bridge.

Reharmonizing a melody

A melodic tone can often be harmonized in a variety of different ways. For example, an E might be harmonized with an E major chord (E – G - B). In this case, the melodic tone is acting as the root of the chord. That same E might be harmonized with a C major chord (C – E – G), making it the third of the chord. This concept extends to ninths (E would act as the 9th if harmonized with a Dm7 chord – D – F – A – C – E), fifths (E would act as 5 on an A augmented chord – A - C – E), and a wide array of other options.

Typically however, reharmonizations involve not just a single melody note, but a melodic line. As a result, there are often several melodic tones which might occur over a harmony, and all of these must be considered when reharmonizing.

For example, if a melody composed of E - F and G was originally harmonized with Emaj7, choosing D7 as the reharmonization chord might not be the best choice, since each melodic tone would create semitone or minor 9th dissonance with chord members of the supporting harmony. Experienced arrangers might decide to use these kinds of highly dissonant chords when reharmonizing, however handling this dissonance requires a good ear and a deep understanding of harmony.

Jazz reharmonization

In jazz, the term is typically used to refer to the process of reharmonizing some or all of a tune, whereby an existing melody is refitted with a new chord progression. Jazz musicians often take the melody from a well-known standard and alter the changes to make the tune sound more contemporary or progressive. Art Tatum was a pioneer of reharmonization, and later on John Coltrane, Miles Davis and Bill Evans were among the first to seriously explore its possibilities, and since then the technique has become an essential tool for the jazz musician and jazz arranger.

Chord substitution

One of the most common techniques in jazz reharmonization is the use of substitute chords, through a technique known as tritone substitution. In tritone substitution, a dominant chord is replaced by another dominant chord a tritone above its tonic. This technique is based on the fact that the third and seventh degrees of a dominant chord are enharmonically the same as the seventh and third degrees of the dominant chord a tritone away. For example, B and F, the third and seventh of a G7 chord, are enharmonic equivalents of C and F, the seventh and third of a D7 chord. Since the tritone is a distinguishing feature of the sound of a dominant 7th chord, [5] a D7 chord may thus replace G7.

Tritone substitution works very well on standards, because the chord progressions typically utilize the II – V – I progression and the circle of fifths. For example, a jazz standard using a chord progression of Dm7 – G7 – Cmaj7 could easily be reharmonized to Dm7 – D7 – Cmaj7, (G7 is replaced with the dominant 7th chord a tritone away, D7). The new progression has a more contemporary sound, with chromatic bass motion and smooth voice leading in the upper parts.

Tritone substitution is also possible with major seventh chords, for example Dm7 – G7 – Cmaj7 could become Dm7 – Dmaj7 – Cmaj7. Thad Jones sometimes uses this type of substitution in his big band writing. [6]

As opposed to the classical approach to tonal harmony, in jazz there are only three functions: tonic, subdominant and dominant. Therefore, chords can also be substituted for congruent functions: for example, the second degree can be substituted for the fourth degree, the tonic can be substituted for the sixth/third degree and so on. The fourth degree in major may be substituted for a seventh chord to create a "bluesy" sound. In a progression going up a fourth, if the first chord is a minor seventh chord, it can also be substituted for a seventh chord; a relative second degree can also be added before it to create a ii-V-I turnaround. (A sole minor seventh or seventh chord can be perceived as a second degree or its dominant quality substitution, in which case a fifth may follow.) In the same progression, chord qualities are sometimes flexible: the IImaj7 chord mentioned in the previous paragraph may get a preceding VImaj7 chord instead of the relative II or its tritone substitution.

Combining the above techniques, the following progression:

C     | Am7      | Dm7    | G7            | C ||

can turn into

E7 A7 | Bbm7 Eb7 | D7  F7 | Abmaj7 Dbmaj7 | C ||


Planing is a reharmonization technique used by both improvisers and arrangers. It refers to the technique of sliding a chord (or chord tone) up or down, either chromatically or a tritone apart, maintaining the shape and voicing of the chord, at times resolving to the original chord. For example, F7 (F – A – C – E) could slide up to become G7 (G - B - D - F), thus "planing" each note up a semitone. The planed chords can be further embellished: for example, if a D major is planed down a semitone, a minor seventh can be added to the resulting chord, C; as a dominant chord assumed to be the fifth degree of the momentarily tonicized F major, it can have a second degree added to it, thus creating an incomplete ii-V-I turnaround which may or may not resolve to the original chord: Gm7 C7 | (D)

Planing is often used by jazz arrangers to reharmonize melodic passing tones which, if voiced as a vertical sonority, might clash with the prevailing harmony in the progression. As well, a number of improvisers have used planing effectively, typically as part of a progression. Herbie Hancock uses improvised planing on his tune "Chameleon", on his 1973 Head Hunters record; McCoy Tyner uses it extensively (specifically, pentatonic scales located a tritone apart) in his recordings with John Coltrane, most notably "A Love Supreme", as well as in his own albums of the same period.

Multi-tonic systems

A concept introduced by Joseph Schillinger and Nicolas Slonimsky, the idea of multiple tonics derived from equal division of the octave appealed to John Coltrane, who proceeded to compose the groundbreaking tune "Giant Steps". The composition features a series of dominant chords and ii-V-I turnarounds resolving to three tonalities built on the B augmented triad (the three-tonic system):

B  D7  | G    Bb7 | Eb | Am7  D7  | G  Bb7 | Eb   Gb7 | Cb | Fm7  Bb7 | Eb     | Am7  D7  | G  | C#m7 F#7 | B      | E#m7 A#7 | D# | C#m7 F#7 || (B)

The harmonic structure of Giant Steps was unfamiliar territory for many jazz musicians at the time, including Tommy Flanagan, the pianist on the original 1959 recording. The relative minimalism of his solo on the tune (compared with the density of Coltrane's) is considered by many to be an indication that he was not yet comfortable improvising on such a structure, even given his extensive experience within the jazz idiom. Developing the technique further, Coltrane started utilizing the three-tonic system (and later, the four-tonic system as well, which is based on tonics derived from a diminished seventh chord) as a reharmonization tool, which has ultimately become known as "Coltrane changes". [7] In this example from "Countdown" (which is really a "Coltrane changes" version of "Tune Up", the well-known jazz standard composed by Miles Davis), the long ii-V-I in the key of D major is laced with V-I progressions that resolve to the three tonics of the D augmented triad:

original (Tune Up):
Em7    | A7     | D     | D |
reharmonized (Countdown):
Em7 F7 | Bb Db7 | GbA7 | D |

This kind of reharmonization mostly requires alteration of the original melody because of the frequent modulations [ citation needed ] and therefore, becomes "reharmonization of the changes" rather than the classic concept of re-harmonizing the melody.

See also

Related Research Articles

In music theory, a leading-tone is a note or pitch which resolves or "leads" to a note one semitone higher or lower, being a lower and upper leading-tone, respectively. Typically, the leading tone refers to the seventh scale degree of a major scale, a major seventh above the tonic. In the movable do solfège system, the leading-tone is sung as ti.

An altered chord is a chord in which one or more notes from the diatonic scale is replaced with a neighboring pitch from the chromatic scale. According to the broadest definition any chord with a nondiatonic chord tone is an altered chord, while the simplest use of altered chords is the use of borrowed chords, chords borrowed from the parallel key, and the most common is the use of secondary dominants. As Alfred Blatter explains,"An altered chord occurs when one of the standard, functional chords is given another quality by the modification of one or more components of the chord."

In a musical composition, a chord progression or harmonic progression is a succession of chords. Chord progressions are the foundation of harmony in Western musical tradition from the common practice era of Classical music to the 21st century. Chord progressions are the foundation of Western popular music styles and traditional music. In these genres, chord progressions are the defining feature on which melody and rhythm are built.

A jazz scale is any musical scale used in jazz. Many "jazz scales" are common scales drawn from Western European classical music, including the diatonic, whole-tone, octatonic, and the modes of the ascending melodic minor. All of these scales were commonly used by late nineteenth and early twentieth-century composers such as Rimsky-Korsakov, Debussy, Ravel and Stravinsky, often in ways that directly anticipate jazz practice. Some jazz scales, such as the bebop scales, add additional chromatic passing tones to the familiar diatonic scales.

Chord (music)

A chord, in music, is any harmonic set of pitches/frequencies consisting of multiple notes that are heard as if sounding simultaneously. For many practical and theoretical purposes, arpeggios and broken chords, or sequences of chord tones, may also be considered as chords in the right musical context.

A secondary chord is an analytical label for a specific harmonic device that is prevalent in the tonal idiom of Western music beginning in the common practice period: the use of diatonic functions for tonicization.

In music theory, a ninth chord is a chord that encompasses the interval of a ninth when arranged in close position with the root in the bass.

The ninth chord and its inversions exist today, or at least they can exist. The pupil will easily find examples in the literature [such as Schoenberg's Verklärte Nacht and Strauss's opera Salome]. It is not necessary to set up special laws for its treatment. If one wants to be careful, one will be able to use the laws that pertain to the seventh chords: that is, dissonances resolve by step downward, the root leaps a fourth upward.

In music theory, a dominant seventh chord, or major minor seventh chord, is a seventh chord, usually built on the fifth degree of the major scale, and composed of a root, major third, perfect fifth, and minor seventh. Thus it is a major triad together with a minor seventh, denoted by the letter name of the chord root and a superscript "7". An example is the dominant seventh chord built on G, written as G7, having pitches G–B–D–F:

Coltrane changes are a harmonic progression variation using substitute chords over common jazz chord progressions. These substitution patterns were first demonstrated by jazz musician John Coltrane on the albums Bags & Trane and Cannonball Adderley Quintet in Chicago. Coltrane continued his explorations on the 1960 album Giant Steps and expanded on the substitution cycle in his compositions "Giant Steps" and "Countdown", the latter of which is a reharmonized version of Eddie Vinson's "Tune Up". The Coltrane changes are a standard advanced harmonic substitution used in jazz improvisation.

Chord substitution

In music theory, chord substitution is the technique of using a chord in place of another in a progression of chords, or a chord progression. Much of the European classical repertoire and the vast majority of blues, jazz and rock music songs are based on chord progressions. "A chord substitution occurs when a chord is replaced by another that is made to function like the original. Usually substituted chords possess two pitches in common with the triad that they are replacing."

Tritone substitution

The tritone substitution is one of the most common chord substitutions found in jazz and was the precursor to more complex substitution patterns like Coltrane changes. Tritone substitutions are sometimes used in improvisation—often to create tension during a solo. Though examples of the tritone substitution, known in the classical world as an augmented sixth chord, can be found extensively in classical music since the Renaissance period, they were not heard until much later in jazz by musicians such as Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker in the 1940s, as well as Duke Ellington, Art Tatum, Coleman Hawkins, Roy Eldridge and Benny Goodman.

Andalusian cadence

The Andalusian cadence is a term adopted from flamenco music for a chord progression comprising four chords descending stepwise—a vi–V–IV–III progression with respect to the major mode or i–VII–VI–V progression with respect to the minor mode. It is otherwise known as the minor descending tetrachord. Traceable back to the Renaissance, its effective sonorities made it one of the most popular progressions in classical music Play .

Jazz harmony

Jazz harmony is the theory and practice of how chords are used in jazz music. Jazz bears certain similarities to other practices in the tradition of Western harmony, such as many chord progressions, and the incorporation of the major and minor scales as a basis for chordal construction. In jazz, chords are often arranged vertically in major or minor thirds, although stacked fourths are also quite common. Also, jazz music tends to favor certain harmonic progressions and includes the addition of tensions, intervals such as 9ths, 11ths, and 13ths to chords. Additionally, scales unique to style are used as the basis of many harmonic elements found in jazz. Jazz harmony is notable for the use of seventh chords as the basic harmonic unit more often than triads, as in classical music. In the words of Robert Rawlins and Nor Eddine Bahha, "7th chords provide the building blocks of jazz harmony."

Jazz chords refer to chords, chord voicings and chord symbols that jazz musicians commonly use in composition, improvisation, and harmony. In jazz chords and theory, most triads that appear in lead sheets or fake books can have sevenths added to them, using the performer's discretion and ear. For example, if a tune is in the key of C, if there is a G chord, the chord-playing performer usually voices this chord as G7. While the notes of a G7 chord are G–B–D–F, jazz often omits the fifth of the chord—and even the root if playing in a group. However, not all jazz pianists leave out the root when they play voicings: Bud Powell, one of the best-known of the bebop pianists, and Horace Silver, whose quintet included many of jazz's biggest names from the 1950s to the 1970s, included the root note in their voicings.

In music theory, the half-diminished seventh chord is a seventh chord composed of a root note, together with a minor third, a diminished fifth, and a minor seventh. For example, the half-diminished seventh chord built on C, commonly written as Cø7, has pitches C–E–G–B:

Turnaround (music)

In jazz, a turnaround is a passage at the end of a section which leads to the next section. This next section is most often the repetition of the previous section or the entire piece or song.

The ii–V–I progression is a common cadential chord progression used in a wide variety of music genres, including jazz harmony. It is a succession of chords whose roots descend in fifths from the second degree (supertonic) to the fifth degree (dominant), and finally to the tonic. In a major key, the supertonic triad (ii) is minor, and in a minor key it is diminished. The dominant is, in its normal form, a major triad and commonly a dominant seventh chord. With the addition of chord alterations, substitutions, and extensions, limitless variations exist on this simple formula.

Jazz improvisation

Jazz improvisation is the spontaneous invention of melodic solo lines or accompaniment parts in a performance of jazz music. It is one of the defining elements of jazz. Improvisation is composing on the spot, when a singer or instrumentalist invents melodies and lines over a chord progression played by rhythm section instruments and accompanied by drums. Although blues, rock, and other genres use improvisation, it is done over relatively simple chord progressions which often remain in one key.

Passing chord

In music, a passing chord is a chord that connects, or passes between, the notes of two diatonic chords. "Any chord that moves between one diatonic chord and another one nearby may be loosely termed a passing chord. A diatonic passing chord may be inserted into a pre-existing progression that moves by a major or minor third in order to create more movement." "'Inbetween chords' that help you get from one chord to another are called passing chords."

The jazz minor scale is a derivative of the melodic minor scale, except only the ascending form of the scale is used. As the name implies, it is primarily used in jazz. It may be derived from the major scale with a minor third, making it a synthetic scale, and features a dominant seventh chord on the fifth degree (V) like the harmonic minor scale.


  1. Porter, Steven (1987). Harmonization of the Chorale, p.9. ISBN   0-935016-80-5.
  2. Schonbrun, Marc (2006). The Everything Music Theory Book: A Complete Guide to Taking Your Understanding of Music to the Next Level, p.257. ISBN   1-59337-652-9.
  3. Bruce Buckingham; Eric Paschal (October 1, 1997). Rhythm Guitar: The Complete Guide. Musicians Institute Press. p. 48. ISBN   978-0-7935-8184-9 . Retrieved 19 July 2010.
  4. Keith Wyatt; Carl Schroeder (April 1, 1998). "11". Harmony and Theory: A Comprehensive Source for All Musicians. Musicians Institute Press. p. 58. ISBN   978-0-7935-7991-4 . Retrieved 19 July 2010.
  5. Levine, Mark (1995). The Jazz Theory Book. CA: Sher Music Co. p. 262. ISBN   1-883217-04-0.
  6. Wright, Rayburn. Inside the Score: a detailed analysis of 8 classic jazz ensemble charts by Sammy Nestico, Thad Jones, and Bob Brookmeyer. New York: Kendor Music, Inc., 1982. pp. 45 – 109.
  7. Farah Jasmine Griffin and Salim Washington (2008). Clawing at the Limits of Cool. Thomas Dunne Books. p. 242. ISBN   978-0-312-32785-9 . Retrieved Jul 16, 2009.