Overview of Chromatic Harmony

Diatonic harmony is based on pitches that are found in the key of a composition, without accidentals. In a major key there are seven pitches, and in a minor key the raised 6th and 7th scale degrees in the ascending melodic minor form are considered within the key.

In tonal music the melodic minor form is used in all parts.  Chromatic harmony differs from diatonic because accidentals are employed to create non-diatonic chords.  The reason for most of these accidentals can be explained by their harmonic function. The following lessons address these functions:

Chromatic harmonies are used to expand the palette of pitches, adding fresh colors and pivoting to new key areas.  Often, the presence of a sharp or flat is a clue to the type of chromatic chord you see and hear.  In each lesson, the clues provided by chromatic inflections are explained.  These altered chords frequently lead to a Modulation, or change of key.

We will also examine the use of Extended Triads, with the 7th, 9th, 11th or 13th added to the triad.  Finally, we will see how chromaticism is extended with Non-Functional and Linear Harmonies.

Scroll to Top