Compatible Chords

When tones of a particular chord coincide with the tones of a particular scale, or vice versa, they are said to be compatible. The compatible chord and scale columns found on this site refer to chords and scales built on the 1st degree (sharing root notes). This concept and information is useful for harmonizing and identifying character.


While building/playing a chord based upon a scale degree other than the root note a different set of chord types will be considered compatible. This is because the spacing between this new set of scale degrees will be different and therefore the chords based upon them will also be different. An understanding of this concept is especially useful when forming chord progressions.


The charts shown directly below (and above each fretboard diagram) displays a summary of the compatible chords per scale degree of the C major scale. (M) represents a major chord, and (-) represents a minor chord. The chord type distribution wouldn’t change if the scale were in a different key such as A major. However if the mode were to change to C minor or A minor the relative scale degrees and modes along with their compatible chords would shift to represent this change. Recognizing this shifting distribution pattern is important and often referred to as a “chord progression”. The charts on the following 3 pages will help you understand and explore the compatible chord concept.




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