Basic Harmony

David Loberg Code, Western Michigan University



Harmony parts are made by stringing together triads built on different scale degrees. 


Triadic Harmony: The three most common triads used to harmonize a melody are the tonic, subdominant, and dominant triads: I, IV, and V. 


In a major key, all three of these will be major triads.

                  E                              A         B

  C#                           F#      G#

     Major Scale:    A       B       C#     D         E     F#     G#    A

                  I                          IV      V

                              Tonic                                                Sub-        Dominant



For harmonizing in minor keys, use the harmonic minor scale. The tonic (i) and subdominant (iv) will be minor triads; the dominant will be a major triad. 

                  E                              A       B

  C                               F       G#

Harmonic Minor:   A     B       C          D       E    F       G#    A

                  i                          iv       V

                              Tonic                                               Sub-        Dominant