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Essential Harmony

Harmony will always be a key topic for you to understand. The bass notes lay the harmonic foundation for music. The better you understand harmony, the better your note choices will be.

Your core understanding of harmony will be based on the harmonic concepts we've discussed so far: Keys, The Circle of 5ths, and Diatonic Chords like the I, IV and V chords.


What is a key? You should be comfortable with the idea of keys. Remember, a key is the major or minor scale a piece of music revolves around.

As you grow, you will have a deeper understanding of keys. It couldn't hurt to review the entire lesson block on keys and harmony if you feel any uncertainty of the basic concept. Again, this is a topic which will come back over and over again. It will eventually stick if it hasn't yet.

Circle of 5ths

I'd be very impressed if you've completely memorized all of the keys on the circle of 5ths already. At this point, I'd be happy if you could at least slowly figure out what key has 2 sharps, or 3 flats, and what those sharps and flats are (remember the order of flats and sharps?). The circle will return...a lot. One day you'll have it completely memorized.

The I, IV, and V chords

We briefly discussed diatonic chords. Diatonic chords are chords which all come from the same key.

The most often used diatonic chords are the I, IV, and V chords. You should be able to calculate and find those 3 chords for any key. This will be easiest when you've memorized your keys, but you should at least be able to figure it out using your fretboard.

For example, what are the I, IV and V chords in the key of B? Find a B and be able to determine what IV and V are (E and F#).