Lesson 9
The Scale-tone Chord Progression
of the Major scale

  1. Scale-tone 7th Chords of the Major scale
  2. IVΔ - VIIø - IIIm7 - VIm7 - IIm7 - V7 - IΔ
  3. Street Dance (Song)
  4. Practice for Street Dance
  5. Improvisation
  6. The Woodshed
  7. The Jazz Harmony Ruler
  8. Quiz and Quiz Answers
  9. Practice Materials

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Im 9.1 - Scale-tone 7th Chords of the Major scale

Scale-tone 7th chords are formed in exactly the same way as the scale-tone triads in Lesson 2.
We can build a scale-tone 7th chord on every note of the major scale by stacking four alternate notes of the scale on top of each other.
This producing the following seven chords :

Audio 9.1

We can do the same in any key.
In the key of F for example :
Audio 9.2

Although the chords built on the same letter name are not always the same (e.g. G7 and Gm7, Em7 and Eø), the qualities of the same chord numbers are allways identical.
Imaj7 in scale of C is also Imaj7 in the scale of F, IIIm7 in C is also IIIm7 in F, VIIø in C is also VIIø in F.

The chord qualities of the scale-tone 7th chords are the same in all 12 keys.
Therefore :

  1. The I chord of any major scale is always MAJOR 7th (IΔ)

  2. The II chord of any major scale is always MINOR 7th (IIm7)

  3. The III chord of any major scale is always MINOR 7th (IIIm7)

  4. The IV chord of any major scale is always MAJOR 7th (IΔ)

  5. The V chord of any major scale is always DOMINANT 7th (V7)

  6. The VI chord of any major scale is always MINOR 7th (VIm7)

  7. The VII chord of any major scale is always HALF DIMINISHED (VIIø)

Each major scale contains :
  • 2 major 7th chords (IΔ and IVΔ)

  • 3 minor 7th chords ( IIm7, IIIm7 and VIm7)

  • only 1 dominant 7th chord (V7)

  • only 1 half diminished chord (VIIø)

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Im 9.2 : IVΔ - VIIø - IIIm7 - VIm7 - IIm7 - V7 - IΔ

We can combine two important elements of the major scale :

1. the Scale-tone 7th Chords of the major scale :

Audio 9.1

2. with the note sequence of the major scale segment on the Circle of Fifths :

B - E - A - D - G - C - F

This produces the complete Scale-tone Chord Progression of the Major scale :


Connecting both ends of this string produces the following Chord Progression Circle.
In the key of C :


One can start and finish this chord progression at any point. But as most melodies end on the the tonic chord Imaj7 (Cmaj7 for the C scale), this is the obvious choice for the last chord in the progression.

To include all seven chords in the chord progression we start therefore on the IV chord, Fmaj7 (in the case of the C major scale).
From the IVmaj7 chord first move across the Circle of Fifths to VIIø. Then follow the Circle of Fifths to IIIm7 - VIm7 - IIm7 - V7 - to end on the tonic chord Imaj7.

In C :     FΔ - Bø - Em7 - Am7 - Dm7 - G7 - CΔ

Audio 9.3

For the D major scale :

Audio 9.4

In any key :     IVΔ - VIIø - IIIm7 - VIm7 - IIm7 - V7 - IΔ

This chord progression provides most of the harmony in Western music. In some cases the progression is used in its entirety.
Good Jazz examples are : All the Things You Are - Autumn Leaves - Fly me to the Moon - Fools Rush In

But mostly harmonies are constructed using a combination of shorter segments of the progression, often modulating to different keys.
Typical segments are :

  1. Audio 9.5a :   IΔ - IIIm7 - VIm7 - IIm7 - V7 - IΔ

  2. Audio 9.5b :   IΔ - VIm7 - IIm7 - V7 (Lesson 2)

  3. Audio 9.5c :   IIm7 - V7 - IΔ (Lesson 10)

  4. Audio 9.5d :   IIm7 - V7

  5. Audio 9.5e :   V7 - Imaj7

    In above Audios : each progression is first played in root position chords only,
    then in alternating root position and 2nd inversion

Within individual segments mini modulations are also commonly used by changing the chord QUALITY. This provides extra musical interest while maintaining the forward motion of the progression.
For example in J.S.Bach's Prelude Nr.1 the IIm7 chord is changed to a II7 chord in segment 2 from above.

Audio 9.6
(The D7 is a mini modulation to G major)

In All of Me by Simons and Marks segment 1 above is used, also with modulations. It uses III7 (E7) and sometimes VI7 (A7) and II7 (II7) instead of the minor chord qualities.
In the first 8 bars :

Audio 9.7

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Im 9.3 - Street Dance (Song)

is a 32 bar song in AABA format. It uses the entire scale-tone 7th chord progression of the C major scale in each 8 bar A section.
In the Bridge the harmony consists of two IIm7 - V7 - Imaj7 segments of D major and C major scale-tone chords.

Audio 9.8

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Im 9.4 - Practice for Street Dance

All chords in Street Dance are scale-tone chords of the C major scale, except for the 'turnaround' chords in bars 16 and 24, and the first 4 bars of the Bridge (which is in D major).

Practice in the usual way :

  1. Chord root tones in semibreves (whole notes) or rhythm patterns

  2. Chord tones only in crotchets (1/4 notes)

  3. Scale tones in quavers (1/8 notes)
Start each bar on the ROOT TONE of the chord.
Audio 9.9

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Im 9.5 - Improvisation

When improvising with one scale only over a long chord progression it is easy to start wandering about without any direction. It is therefore very important to keep track of where you are in the song and emphasise the appropriate chord tones.

Using guide tones is a good way to give your solo purpose and forward direction.

Guide Tones are target notes for your improvisation. They are usually chord tones (especially 3rds and 7th) or important melody notes.

A guide tone line is a string of these guide tones that covers the entire chord progression.

A Guide Tone Line :

  • generally moves iN steps of tones or semitones

  • goes gradually up or down with only few turns

  • should be easy to remember

Melodies of long scale-tone chord progressions are very often composed using simple Guide tone lines. Famous examples are Fools Rush in and Autumn Leaves.

Here is an example of a Guide Tone Line for the first 16 bars of Street Dance.

Audio 9.10

Play the Guide tone line first as is, then gradually add embellishments and develop ideas further. Each Guide tone need not always to be emphasises. You can sometimes just run through it.

Make a Guide Tone Line for Street Dance yourself, and also for a few other songs, such as A Happy Day, Hey There, Swing Time. You can use this technique for complicated chord passages in any song.

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Im 9.6 - The Woodshed

In preparation for Lesson 11 I recommend you start practice on the Harmonic minor scale in all keys. Just the scale, up to the 9th and back.

Audio 9.11

The Harmonic minor scale Ruler shown in the next Chapter will help you to define this scale in all keys.

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Im 9.7 - The Jazz Harmony Ruler

The Jazz Harmony Ruler is an easy tool to help you define the scale-tone chord progression of every major scale.


Simply line up the IΔ line against the required Tonic chord and read of the progressions from left to right.


Above example shows the scale-tone chord progression for the D major scale : GΔ - C#ø - F#m7 - Bm7 - Em7 - A7 - DΔ

Specially emphasised in red on the Ruler is the IIm7 - V7 - IΔ chord progression.

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Im 9.8 - Quiz

  1. Write down in ascending order the Scale-tone 7th Chords for :
    1. the major scale of F
    2. the major scale of Bb
    3. the major scale of G
    4. the major scale of D
    5. the major scale of A

  2. Write down the Scale-tone 7th Chord Progressions for :
    1. the major scale of F
    2. the major scale of Bb
    3. the major scale of G
    4. the major scale of D
    5. the major scale of A

  3. Place these scale-tone 7th chords in their proper Circle of Fifths order : (IVΔ - Bø - IIIm7 - VIm7 - IIm7 - V7 - IΔ)
    1. Gm7 - Eø - FΔ - C7 - BbΔ - Dm7 - Am7
    2. GΔ - Em7 - D7 - F#ø - CΔ - Bm7 - Am7
    3. C#ø - GΔ - F#m7 - Em7 - DΔ - Bm7 - A7

  4. Which chords are missing in these scale-tone 7th chord progressions
    1. DΔ - G#ø - ? - F#m7 - Bm7 - E7 - ?
    2. ? - Eø - Am7 - ? - Gm7 - C7 - FΔ
    3. CΔ - ? - ? - Em7 - Am7 - D7 - GΔ

  5. What is the Guide Tone Line for the melody in bars 1 - 16 of Street Dance ?


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Im 9.9 Practice Materials

Street Lead sheet Bb Eb Melody & Impro Play-along
Swapping 2s
The Woodshed Harmonic minor Demo Play-along
Rulers Harmonic minor scale Ruler
Jazz Harmony Ruler
Jazz Harmony Dial

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Copyright © 1997 - 2007 Michael Furstner.