Modal Harmonization

Harmonic Principles of the Present Day

In a very generic way, “harmonizing” means stacking sounds together to create harmony.

If we speak about modern harmony derived from jazz, we deal with charts where chords are expressed by their letter names. But this only shows the “exteriority” of the chord, hence hiding the internal placement and movements of sounds that the good musician has to know by himself.

The modal context then, also lacks the idea of harmonic function and chords are seen by their “modal colour”.

Chords Over a Pedal-Note

If in functional harmony the bass movements are of primary importance in the definition of chords functions towards the tonic resolution, modality is often thought as somehow “static” or, to use a better expression, always moving around the same root or tone center.

So, my idea here is to take a sound to be used as a pedal and over it playing the triads derived from the harmonization of different scales to see how a modal colour can be expressed.


Let’s start considering the Ionian mode starting from C. On the guitar we could play these chords:

Armonizzazione Ionico_1

These can be expressed by slash chords such as Dm/C, Em/C, F/C…

By playing these chords, what intervals I’m actually playing from the root upwards?

Resulting Chord


Common notes [*]


C / /


Dm7 9, 11, 13 0


CMa7 7


F/C F 11, 13



CMa9 (no3) 7, 9 1
Am/C Am [C6] 13


B°/C CMa11 (no3) 7, 9, 11


Playing over the neck

The previous example can obviously be played on the guitar using other positions and fingerings. For example we can play the root on the sixth string:

Armonizzazione Ionico_2

Here we can also add some more higher pitch:

Armonizzazione Ionico_3

487 thoughts on “MODAL HARMONIZATION”

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