Diatonic Harmony, Part 2

In my previous article entitled “Diatonic Harmony” I attempted to explain some basic concepts regarding triads, seventh chord arpeggios, and exercises that involved pulling this information out of the major scale. I also advised you to take these exercises through the modes, learn them in all keys, and learn all of the chords we discussed on the piano. That in itself is an enormous amount of work but the rewards will pay you off in large dividends of musical knowledge. These exercises lay a solid foundation for the fundamentals of Diatonic Harmony. Once you’ve learned how to locate and extract this information all over the neck of your instrument, the next step would be to practice a combination of scale and arpeggio exercises.

The following exercise involves going up the diatonic seventh chord arpeggios and down the scale. Start off with the F Ionian mode and play the F major 7 arpeggio. The notes would be F, A, C, and E. Once the note E is reached, come down the major scale—D, C, Bb, and A. Then come up the G minor arpeggio—G, Bb, D and F. Continue down the scale—E, D, C, and Bb. Follow the sequence up A minor7—A, C, E, and G followed by coming down the major scale---F, E, D and C. Go up Bb major7—Bb D, F, A followed by coming down the scale---G, F, E, and D. Come up C dominant 7—C, E G and Bb. Come down the scale---A, G F, and E. Go up D minor 7---D, F, A, and C. Come down the major scale---Bb, A, G, and F. Go up E minor 7 b5—E, G Bb, and D. Come down C, Bb, A, and G.


Now that you’ve finished the Ionian mode, continue the entire exercise through the Dorian mode followed by Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian, and Locrian.

The next exercise involves coming up and down triads. Come up F major—F, A, C and down G Minor –D, Bb, G, up A minor—A, C, E and down Bb major—F, D, Bb, up C major---C, E G and down d minor A, F, D up E diminished---E, G Bb and down F major---C, A and F.


Learning all of this information in one sitting could be a bit too much so I recommend assigning certain keys a week to focus on. Once these exercises become part of you muscle memory, they also end up being great warm-ups to employ before gigs. Good luck!

Bassist James Rosocha is an educator, composer, and touring musician.

He can be heard on the last nine albums by jazz fusion guitarist B.D. Lenz or on his debut CD “Avalon.”

James Rosocha