Where is the best example of a 7-8 pages course defining all together the basic concepts of harmony, that would be useful when teaching harmony to an adult who is interested in classical music, jazz/blues, improvisation :

  • chord

  • tonality

  • mode

In my opinion it is a waste of time to teach harmony with only 2 of these 3 concepts, often forgetting the mode concept. But, of course the difficulty is to introduce these 3 concepts without completely loosing your student(s).

Note that when you search for 'chord tonality mode' on google you'll find nothing.

  • 1
    Of the several books on western harmony that I've read or worked on for classes, I've never seen it broken down into "chord, tonality, and mode". I'm not actually sure what the word "tonality" means in this context. This seems to me to be a good, brief intro to western harmony that concisely presents the big picture concepts: music.tutsplus.com/articles/… Sep 2, 2015 at 0:59
  • Hi, I'm french so I'm not sure what are the correct words. Please re-formulate my question if you want to.
    – reuns
    Sep 2, 2015 at 19:12
  • [] chord : C,E,G,Bb [] tonality : we are in GMaj so that C,E,G,Bb is the fourth degree [] mode : because it is the fourth degree of GMaj, the mode is C,D,E,F#,G,A,Bb. of course there many possible combinations of chord/tonality/mode and often it is ambiguous so that we are not even sure of the current state of chord/tonality/mode... it is clear now ?
    – reuns
    Sep 2, 2015 at 19:15
  • And @Noel Walters the tutorial you referred to, as is often the case, doesn't introduce the mode concept.
    – reuns
    Sep 2, 2015 at 19:23
  • @Todd Wilcox : did you understand my question ? are the words I used at least correct ? you said you didn't understand the term 'tonality'.... I'm french, I never spoke about music in english.
    – reuns
    Sep 7, 2015 at 17:08

1 Answer 1


I have always found learning (and thus teaching) is better achieved when new concepts are introduced incrementally. I would suggest, in the first instance, teaching the basics of triads as based on a major scale. Then triads based on a minor scale (for simplicity, probably best to choose the relative minor of the previously-studied major!). I would hope any enthusiastic student would be happy till this point. Now point out that, given the selection of notes we have been using, these two scales are just two of the possible scales available to us: now introduce the others, one by one, and build triads upon them.

I think there's a tendency in formal music education to concentrate on major and minor scales and more or less ignore modes, and for that reason when a student comes upon them they tend to think of them as difficult or even scary. I agree with your thinking: introducing them fairly early on, and emphasising that the major and minor scales are just modes like any other, is a very good idea.

A couple of good explanations of modes can be found at:-



  • I would think to an algorithm for 'constructing modes', instead of a list which makes the student think he will have to memorize all the mode names. that mostly : - we alternate seconds major and minor, major being allowed to be repeated, while minor are not. - with the exception of the 'blues modes' which comprise 2 consecutive minor seconds, and the minor harmonic modes which comprise an augmented second (minor third) as many of the oriental modes. - that this way you obtain every 7-notes modes, and also the 8-notes diminished modes, and the 6-notes whole tone scales.
    – reuns
    Sep 12, 2015 at 22:12
  • that there are the normal modes (let's say every classical and jazz modes) : which repeat at the octave, but that there also exist many indian and arabic modes which don't.
    – reuns
    Sep 12, 2015 at 22:17

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