A major scale is harmonized using triads via the pattern 1-3-5. Is this rule used to harmonize any given scale?

Can the bebop scale be harmonized the same way as the major scale?

Do special scales like the Bebop or Hungarian scales have a different harmonization treatment? if so, what are the principles for harmonizing any scale?

I have studied some harmony already, and for what I have understood, the rule 1-3-5 for harmonizing major or minor scales is derived from the overtones that each pitch generates (another explanation would be that using the rule 1-3-5 justs sound good to the ear).

  • A mayor scale is harmonized using triads using the pattern 1-3-5 Care to elaborate? 1-3-5 pattern is rather vague.
    – Neil Meyer
    Commented Feb 23, 2016 at 16:21
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    The word "triad" always refers to a chord built from a 1-3-5 pattern, as far as I've heard it used. It is not possible to answer the question "what are the principles for harmonizing any scale?" because there are too many scales and too many ways of harmonizing. I'm pretty sure you can create effective harmonies for the bebop scale using triads (major, minor, and diminished), although using seventh chords would be more stylistic. Commented Feb 23, 2016 at 16:26
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    A third interval from the root and a fifth interval from the root. Commented Feb 23, 2016 at 16:28
  • @NeilMeyer - the basic harmonies for a major scale use 1-3-5. As in take a IV harmony in C, and 1-3-5 would be F-A-C, because the F would be deemed to be I for that harmony. Far more complicated would be to call it IV-VI-VIII (or I again, if you like)
    – Tim
    Commented Feb 23, 2016 at 17:27
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    @NeilMeyer - having an inversion of a chord only changes the voicing. It will still contain the same notes - in this instance, a 1, a 3 and a 5. Most musicians may know about 1-3-5, as a root 3rd and 5th. In this example, there should be no confusion.
    – Tim
    Commented Feb 24, 2016 at 13:15

2 Answers 2


A mayor scale is harmonized using triads using the pattern 1-3-5.

As you probably know, that's only *a* rule - often suggested to beginners who are learning how to harmonise. It's certainly not the *only* rule you can use (if you even want to use a 'rule' at all!). For example...

  • You could use some chords with more than 3 notes, or construct harmonies with less than three notes
  • Even if your melody follows the major scale, It's possible to underpin it with chords outside the major scale
  • It's not necessarily true that all triads from the major scale will subjectively sound good in every context. Many musical styles will avoid the diminished vii chord, for example.

Even so, it's fair to say that using the set of triads built by stacking thirds on the root of each degree of the scale is often suggested as an idea that often 'basically works'. So, can that work with any scale?

The answer is no, for a fairly trivial reason : not all scales have enough notes in to allow you to build a triad from thirds on each root. Take the pentatonic scale C D E G A, for example - you can build a triad from thirds on C and A, but not on the other degrees of the scale.

You also ask what are the principles for harmonizing any scale?, but that would take a book to answer (and people have already written many better books than I could!). Coming up with a set of possible chords based on the notes in a scale (and then using only that set of chords within a piece, or a section of a piece) is only one of many possible techniques for creating harmony.


There are quite strict rules to harmony, especially in the canon of Western Classical music (can't comment on the Hungarian scale you mentioned), though the method of building three-note chords is fundamental to understanding them it's not the whole picture.

For example - with the three notes you gave, we can build a major chord in root position (meaning root note at the bottom) with the first interval being a major third and the second interval being a minor third.

A minor chord in the root position would be built with a minor third at the bottom and a major third at the top.

We can also build diminished and augmented chords with just three notes.

I would suggest reading up on four part harmony and studying the harmony of Bach to gain a basic understanding of harmony in music. From there, Jazz styles can be thought of as an extension to the underlying rules.

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