Though you may think of scales and chords as two separate entities, they are very closely intertwined! In fact, chords are very easy to construct if you already have a scale in mind. In this episode of The Musicality Podcast, we discuss how to go from scales to chords with one simple trick, and the practical applications of this skill in playing by ear, songwriting, and improvisation.

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Understanding the relationship between scales and chords has numerous practical benefits. Learn how to easily go from one to the other using a simple trick!



Alright, let’s do a quick recap.

Although you might think of chords as each being a whole musical item, like a single blob of notes all together, they are actually constructed note-by-note from the scale.

The method is simple: For each note of the scale we can construct a triad (meaning three-note) chord just by adding every other note above it. For example in C Major, you can start on D, skip E, add F, skip G, add A, and you get D-F-A, the D Minor chord.


Doing this for each note in a major key you get three major chords, three minor chords and one diminished chord. These chords (or possibly small variations on them) are going to be used for 95% of the harmony in most genres of Western music.

Learning to think about how chords fit into the scale can benefit you in a lot of different ways. On chordal instruments like piano or guitar you get a very different perspective on how you can play chords aside from the simple shapes you might have learned. On non-chordal instruments like saxophone or clarinet you get an insight into how the notes you play belong to chords and how you can imply harmony with the notes you choose even if you’re not playing all the notes of a chord at once.

You’re equipped to figure out all the most likely chords in a key from scratch yourself – great for playing by ear or writing your own music.

You learn to connect the melody notes with the harmony, so that you can harmonise melodies yourself, or improvise melodies in a way that connects musically with the chord progression underneath. And you can even take it a step further, making use of those relationships without necessarily matching up the melody and harmony notes exactly.

I hope this episode has been enlightening for you, either about how chords can be found in scales or about the why of this actually being a useful and practical thing to wrap your head around. Or maybe both!

Next time you sit down with your instrument, try finding some chords yourself. Just pick a key, play through the scale and then try finding each chord that belongs in that key. You might be surprised how this can change your perspective and deepen your understanding of how music is put together!

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