Coloring Outside The Lines

As we discussed earlier, triads are the most basic form of chords we have, and because they use only three notes, and because the intervals between the notes are either major or minor, that gives us four configurations of intervals, producing four types of chords.

Type of Chord




major 3rd + minor 3rd



minor 3rd + major 3rd



major 3rd + major 3rd



minor 3rd + minor 3rd


 We haven’t come across augmented chords yet, because they don’t occur naturally in the key. To create one, you have to use a note from outside the key. That’s beyond the scope of this particular course, but it is useful to know that this can be done.

In certain types of music you’ll hear things like “flatting the seventh” or some other scale degree. In essence, this just means lowering (flatting) the note in question by one semitone, which takes it outside of the diatonic scale. You might also hear “raising” which is just the opposite, taking a note and adding one semitone.

The flatted fifth is probably the most famous of all of these out-of-key notes; it is also known as the "blues" note, and sometimes as the "devil's" note!

You can use these techniques to produce all sorts of very cool sounding music, but if you’re stuck in the frame of mind that the scale is all you have to work with, you’ll be confused for sure.

The diatonic scale gives us a framework that we can work inside of, and also outside of, but always in context of that scale. If you can really cement the diatonic scale into your mind, it will help you understand and unify just about everything else you learn about music.

That’s why laying this foundation with theory is one of the most important things any musician can do – everything else you will learn attaches to this in some way!