Harmonisation with Diatonic Triads in minor mode

When it comes to harmonising a melody in minor mode, the possibilities open up as we have two variations from the natural minor: The Harmonic minor scale, which has the seventh note raised a semitone, and the minor melodic, which has the sixth and seventh when ascending. This implies that these changes will have an impact on several chords of the scales.

Gisela Paterno - Piano teacher at WKMT

On a previous article, I talked about the harmonisation on major scales, giving us always three possible triads for any given note, as all of them can be root, third and fifth of three different triads within the major scale. In the minor mode, first, we should see if the raising of the notes impacts on either the tonic family (stable), the sub-dominant family (semi-stable) or the dominant family (unstable). The aim of this exercise is to clarify all the viable options to harmonise any given note within any minor scale, either natural, harmonic or melodic. Please mind the accidentals and what they represent, considering that the 6th degree is A and B the 7th, any chord that involves those notes will be affected if it belongs to the subdominant or dominant family.

Note: please bear in mind that the bars in this exercise are not to be considered, they are just descriptive.

1st degree: Tonic

Cm, Ab, Fm (natural)

F (melodic)

2nd degree: Supertonic

D diminished, Gm, Bb (natural)

Dm, G, B diminished (melodic)

3rd degree: Mediant

Cm, Eb, Ab (natural)

Note: If we raise the seventh degree on the Eb (either in harmonic or melodic) this will give us an Eb augmented triad. As this chord belongs to the tonic family (i, III, VI in minor mode) and this family is stable, we cannot have such an unstable chord. Consequently, we will keep the Eb as it is in the natural minor, not using the Eb augmented. Such chord will go against the nature of the family it belongs.

4th degree: Sub-dominant

Fm, Bb, D diminished (natural)

F, B diminished, Dm (melodic)

5th degree: Dominant

Gm, Eb, Cm (natural)

G (melodic and harmonic)

6th degree: Sub-Mediant

Ab, Fm, D diminished (natural)

F, Dm (Melodic)

7th degree: Leading tone

Bb, Eb, Gm (natural)

B diminished, G (melodic or harmonic)

This exercise should be taken as a kick-start to explore the possibilities into all keys. A good way to practise is to play the chords and at the same time to catalogue them into the three different families:

Tonic family: i, III and VI

Sub-Dominant family: iv, IV, VII, v

Dominant family: V, vii diminished, ii diminished, G7


Do you want to enquire about learning these and more subjects at WKMT?

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