Corey Mwamba

descriptive harmony → tips


  1. If the scale is massive or obscure, just write it out as notes, possibly as a footnote. Or even better, think of a better way to describe it. There are quite a few "jazz scales" that can be broken down to altered major or minor scales – very often there is little point in using the more exotic names at all.
  2. Don't use a scale symbol when you actually want a chord. Because, y'know, that'd be as weird as using a chord symbol when you actually want a scale.
  3. A "do unto others..." rule: if you're reading someone's work, don't assume a scale when you see a chord or vice versa. If the composer is alive and standing in front of you, it might – might – just be easier to ask.
  4. Keep it balanced. Sometimes you don't have to be exactingly descriptive and F+ will do over F+7(insert mad extensions here). The idea is to write symbols that tell the musicians what's going on – but if you're writing for someone to solo, can also give impetus to some creativity. The harmonic descriptions are just another source, along with the melody and the rhythm.