Certain introductions to jazz teach that one should think harmonically in terms of "chord-scales" - for instance, that "E-mixed-third-7b913" and "E octatonic starting on a half step" are equivalent in their usage. This is different from classical texts, where at any given point you have to keep track of both the prevailing scale and the prevailing chord. How do I know precisely when to use one approach and when to use another? Can the chords-and-scales-as-equivalent approach describe the idea of harmonic function as well as the two-structures approach? Can the two-structures approach handle chromaticism as well as the chord-scale-equivalence approach?

  • Are you asking about playing jazz or asking about composing jazz? – pro Aug 21 '18 at 23:57
  • If you are asking about performing, which instrument are you performing on? – pro Aug 22 '18 at 0:08
  • I'm personally more interested in composing – lightning Aug 22 '18 at 0:14
  • Unsure if this should be a separate question, but I'm particularly confused by how you can talk about predominant-dominant-tonic while using chord-scales – lightning Aug 22 '18 at 0:16

Use the one you find most useful. I don't like the chord/scale description of harmony because much of what I write doesn't fit that description. Someone writing a more jazz-oriented type of music may find it more helpful.


You don't compose jazz. Jazz is what performers do to a piece of music you've composed. As a composer you'll be concerned with melody, harmony rhythm's textures, instrumentation... Jazz players will boil it all down to a chord sequence and do their own thing with it!

  • I'd call the creation of a jazz lead sheet "composition". – Dekkadeci Aug 23 '18 at 23:44
  • I'd call it 'simplification' – Laurence Payne Aug 23 '18 at 23:50
  • Not when I write an entirely new melody and then put down the chord symbols. – Dekkadeci Aug 23 '18 at 23:53

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