Suggestions for using

Chart 2 - Major Scale as Primary Chords


The three columns of scale steps on this chart represent the three primary chords in any major key. Only members of that chord are enclosed in graphic figures. Each chord contains the elements learned in Chart 1: roots (fundamental pitches), thirds and fifths. The center column represents the tonic chord (I), based on the central pitch of any key. The column on the right is the dominant seventh chord (V7), based on the pitch five steps above the tonic pitch and containing an additional element (a seventh). The column on the left is the subdominant chord (IV), based on the pitch five steps below the tonic pitch.


Drill 1: Play the C you used in the Chart 1 drills and sing the members of the tonic chord, tuning each one carefully and listening to its relation to the tonal center. As you sing each pitch, point to the appropriate number in the tonic chord (center column). In this key, C is 1, E is 3, and G is 5. Think the numbers while you match the keyboard’s sound with your voice and carefully tune the pitches. Sing the full range of members shown on the chart. (Thin out your voice to sing high pitches and relax your voice to sing low ones.)

Drill 2: Play G a fifth above the C you played in Drill 1. Use this pitch as a fundamental to tune the members of the dominant seventh chord. Begin by singing all the 5’s in this column. (Since this is the root, all step 5’s are marked with an arrowhead.) When the roots are secure, sing the thirds and fifths (scale steps 7 and 2, in this case). Finally, locate the seventh of the chord (step 4). (If you need help locating it, tap F (the digital to the left of the three black digitals); however, you will find accurate tuning considerably lower than the keyboard’s version of it.

Drill 3: Play F a fifth below the C you played in Drill 1. Use this pitch to tune the members of the subdominant chord. Begin by singing all scale step 4’s in the IV chord column (marked with an arrowhead.) When these roots are secure, sing the thirds and fifths (scale steps 6 and 1). Notice how different the “feeling” of scale step 1 is when experienced in this chord.

Drill 4: Place the fingers of your left hand over the pitches from C to G in the same low octave you used earlier. Play the C fundamental with your little finger. Sing and point to scale step 1 in the tonic chord in a comfortable range. Without moving your hand, play G with your thumb while you sing and point to scale step 2 in the dominant chord column (fifth of this chord). Move between the two fundamentals and their chord members, tuning each carefully and listening to the shift of harmony. Invent similar drills, singing neighboring scale steps while changing chords, for example: 1-7-1, 3-2-3, 3-4-3, 5-5-5, 1-2-3, 3-2-1, etc. As you sing, notice the difference in the size of “half steps” (between 3-4 and between 7-1) and “whole steps” (all the others).

Drill 5: Locate your left hand as above. Instead of playing the subdominant pitch (F) a fifth lower than the C, use your index finger to play it in this octave. It works fine and is more convenient. Create drills using neighboring member pitches in tonic and subdominant chords similar to those you invented above. For example: 3-4-3, 5-6-5, 1-1-1, 4-5-6, 6-5-4, etc. Be sure to move your pointer to the proper chord as you sing and play. Listen for harmonic shift as you move back and forth.

Drill 6: Invent melodic patterns using all three chords. Establish the sense of tonality by starting in the tonic chord, then move to either the dominant or subdominant chord as it suits your idea. As you explore melodic patterns, keep in mind that while the subdominant chord moves smoothly to the dominant chord, the reverse is generally less satisfying, (The reason will be demonstrated later.)

Drill 7: Play a C fundamental and sing steps 1-2-3 without changing chords. Experiment with other scale patterns passing from a member pitch through one or more non-member pitches. If you have difficulty singing a non-member pitch, locate its tuning by changing temporarily to its own fundamental and then repeating the melodic pattern without changing roots. Leaps should only be made from member to member.

Drill 8: Explore keys other than C by using different pitches as scale step 1. All of the relationships you learned in the key of C will sound the same in any other key. You likely can find the three fundamentals on the keyboard by trusting your ear. Some keys will require playing black digitals.

Close this window.