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Introduction

Thank you for downloading 'How to Harmonize'. This book is aimed at songwriters how are just starting out and want to learn the basics of how to harmonize their melodies. It is based on blog posts from www.songwright.co.uk, a songwriting blog that I've been writing since 2006. There are lots more posts on this and other songwriting topics there, and if you have any questions about songwriting please don't hesitate to get in contact with me. I hope you find the 5 lessons in this book useful Tom Slatter Tom Slatter is a singer songwriter who also writes a blog about songwriting. His first solo, steampunk acoustic-prog album Spinning the Compass was released in January 2010 www.songwright.co.uk www.tomslatter.co.uk

How to Harmonize A Free Ebook from Tom Slatter www.songwright.co.uk

Contents Lesson 1: What Does'Harmonize' Mean? Aim: To explain how the two meanings of 'harmonize'
are really one.

Lesson 2: Some Questions About Intervals Aim: To explain which intervals are found in the major
scale

Lesson 3: Some Questions About Chords Aim: To explain what a chord is and show you which
chords are found in each of the major keys

Lesson 4: How to Harmonize a Melody Using Primary Chords Aim: To explain how the 1 , 4 and 5 chords of a key
st th th

can be used to harmonize a melody

Lesson 5 Harmonizing a Melody Beyond the Primary Chords Aim: To explain how chords other than the 1 4 and 5
st th

th

can be used

How to Harmonize A Free Ebook from Tom Slatter www.songwright.co.uk

Lesson 1. What Does Harmonize Mean?


The most common subject people search for on my blog is how to harmonize. (That isn't strictly true. 'How to harmonize' is the second most common search term the most common is the word 'nerd'. Which perhaps says more about me than I thought my blog ever would.) When I talk to people, they seem to mean two slightly different things by this: How to add chords to a melody, or How to add vocal harmonies to a melody These are similar concepts that both contain the idea of harmony, or more than one note sounding at the same time. Both also presuppose the existence of a melody. The idea of vocal harmony, however, concentrates on linear movement parallel lines of melody weaving together whereas chords are a vertical idea blocks of notes changing from bar to bar.

A quick (probably inaccurate) history lesson


When I was studying music I was taught a hugely simplified history of how harmony developed: monks singing plainchant in medieval Europe moved from unison song, with everyone singing the same note, to two notes at a time. As music developed through the Renaissance systems of contrapuntal music developed, with different lines of melody weaving together. As time went on this was replaced with a system that put more emphasis on vertical chords, and the whole tonal system of scales and chords came into being.

How to Harmonize A Free Ebook from Tom Slatter www.songwright.co.uk

Composers noticed that their interweaving lines came together to form specific groups of notes, chords, so rather than thinking only in terms of the horizontal melody, they could start by thinking of the chords then fill in the appropriate notes. I dont doubt that this history is so simple as to be incorrect, but this book isnt about history. The point I want to make is that the two ideas, of vocal harmony and putting chords to a melody, are not in fact different. If you want to know how to harmonize vocals, you will need to know which chords are being used. Likewise, if you want to put chords to a melody, you will need to consider not only which chord, but how to arrange vocal melodies and other important elements (such as the bass line) to fit the chord. Simply put, harmony is more than one note at the same time. Usually it means combinations of notes that sound good together, but what we mean by good can change you might want your music to sound discordant. Achieving that also requires a knowledge of harmony.

How to Harmonize A Free Ebook from Tom Slatter www.songwright.co.uk

Some Basics: Intervals and Drones. Harmonizing At An Interval


Here are the first few notes of the major scale: Ex1.

(Track 1) There are lots of ways I could harmonize this. I could use octaves, the same note but at double the frequency. This is what you might hear if a male and female singer were singing the same melody: Ex2.

(Track 2)

How to Harmonize A Free Ebook from Tom Slatter www.songwright.co.uk

Another common harmony is in thirds. If C is the first note, E is the third along. If D is the first, F is the third. So thirds simply means adding the note that is two up the scale. You can find this easily by singing the correct third up harmony note E and singing up the same melodic contour. Ex3.

(Track 3) You could also do the same by going up a fifth (ie treating C as the first and starting on G), or down a third: Ex4.

(Track 4)

How to Harmonize A Free Ebook from Tom Slatter www.songwright.co.uk

Ex5.

(Track 5) This is a basic idea that singers might have started with when music was first developing and it forms one of the most important ideas for harmonizing your songs. The important point to take away is the idea of parallel lines a slight gap apart. Harmonizing with a third above is by far the most common form of vocal harmony in pop song. The concept of going up a third is also a vital one in forming chords, which well come to later.

Drones
Lots of musical genres, for example Indian music, use a drone to provide a harmonic basis to a melody. The most simple version of a drone is a single note, perhaps along with its fifth, for example G and D. These could be repeatedly plucked on a string instrument or played as sustained notes. A melody can be played over the top. (Track 6 is a drone on G) Drones can be very effective for certain moods and they also illustrate a very important concept. Unlike harmonizing at an interval, where we followed the contour of the melody completely, changing harmony note when the melody changed, here were have a harmonic layer underneath the melody that does not change at all.

How to Harmonize A Free Ebook from Tom Slatter www.songwright.co.uk

In Summary
You can harmonize a melody in two ways By having a parallel melody line that moves at a fixed interval (We saw a few examples of that) By having an independent layer that moves at a different pace (Such as a drone)

How to Harmonize A Free Ebook from Tom Slatter www.songwright.co.uk

Lesson 2: Some Questions About Intervals Aim: To explain which intervals are found in the major
scale As I spoke about intervals in lesson 1, it seems sensible to explain what they are. What is a scale? A series of notes. Think of it like notes going up a ladder, each one a little higher than the last. What is an interval? The distance in pitch between two notes. They might happen at the same time, they might happen one after the other, but if theyre a different pitch, there is an interval between them. What is the major scale? You already know this one. If you live in the Western world youve been listening to it all your life. Heres the C major scale:

How to Harmonize A Free Ebook from Tom Slatter www.songwright.co.uk

What different kinds of interval are there? C is the first note in the scale, D the second. So the interval from C to D is a major second (On a guitar thats two frets). E is the third note, so C to E is a major third (four frets). F is the fourth note, so C to F is a perfect fourth. Why perfect and not major? Because all these major style intervals have a minor version too, whereas there isnt a minor fourth. In the C minor scale, you still get the perfect fourth C to F. Theres also the fifth and octave that are perfect, and dont change for the minor scale. That should be enough to work out most of the rest, but lets go through them any way: C to G is our perfect fifth. C to A is our major sixth. C to B is our major seventh. C to C is an octave. Thats C major. You start on C, then have a second note a major second (two frets) up, a third note a major third up (four frets), a fourth note a major fourth up (five frets) etc etc.

How to Harmonize A Free Ebook from Tom Slatter www.songwright.co.uk

What about other scales? Every major scale is constructed the same way:

First (root) Major second Major third Perfect fourth Perfect fifth Major Six Major Seventh Octave

The minor scale (surprise surprise) replaces the major intervals with minor versions each is a semitone lower than their major equivalent. The perfect intervals stay the same.

In Summary
That hopefully explains the theory of how our scales are constructed. Understanding what is meant by, for example, going 'up a third' is important in working out harmonies and chords.

How to Harmonize A Free Ebook from Tom Slatter www.songwright.co.uk

Lesson 3: Some Questions About Chords Aim:


To explain what a chord is and show you which chords are found in each of the major keys What is a chord? More than one note played at the same time. How do you know which notes to play? Working out chords is pretty easy, providing youre aware of the intervals in the major scale. Heres the C Major scale again:

How do I use that to make a C chord? Simple. You take the First, Third and Fifth notes of the scale, and play them at the same time. C E and G? But when I play a C chord on my guitar I play more than three notes.

How to Harmonize A Free Ebook from Tom Slatter www.songwright.co.uk

Thats just because youre playing more than one of some of the notes. There might be two Cs one E and two Gs, and they might be in any order, but youre still only playing those three different notes, so youre playing a C chord. What about C major? That is C major. If youre just playing a major chord it is conventional to not say the word major. Everybody will know what you mean. What about other chords? Same principle. Take one note in the scale, dont take the second, but do take the third, dont take the fourth, but do take the fifth, and you have a chord. Like D F A? Or E G B? Yup, thats how it works. So what chords are there in C Major? The chords in C major are C D minor E minor F G A B dimished

Because all major scales are constructed the same, we can generalise using Roman numerals and say the chords in any major scale are: I II minor III minor Iv V VIminor VII dimished

On the next page is a table that lays out the chords you can find in each of the twelve major keys:

How to Harmonize A Free Ebook from Tom Slatter www.songwright.co.uk

The Chords in the Major Keys I


C G D A E B F# F Bb Eb Ab Db

II
Dm Am Em Bm F#m C#m G#m Gm Cm Fm Bbm Ebm

III
Em Bm F#m C#m G#m D#m A#m Am Dm Gm Cm Fm

IV
F C G D A E B Bb Eb Ab Db Gb

V
G D A E B F# C# C F Bb E Ab

VI
Am Em Bm F#m C#m G#m D#m Dm Gm Cm Fm Bbm

VII
Bdim F#dim C#dim G#dim D#dim A#dim E#dim Edim Adim Ddim Gdim Cdim

Whats the difference between a major chord and a minor chord? The distance between the first and third notes. Remember that a chord is made up of the first, third and fifth notes of the scale? Eg. C is CEG, the first third and fifth notes of the C scale. Well the distance, or interval, between C and E is a major third. What does that mean? It means that if you start on C then go four semitones up you find an E. Combine that with the G and you get C major.

How to Harmonize A Free Ebook from Tom Slatter www.songwright.co.uk

What about C minor? Easy. Make the gap between C and E smaller by changing the E to E flat. E flat is three semitones above C, rather than four. Everything else stays the same. But why is it E flat, not D sharp? Because chords are made up of the first third and fifth notes. The first third and fifth notes of C minor are C, E flat, G. A D, whether it is sharp, natural or flat, would be the second note of a C scale.

In Summary:
This lesson was designed to explain what a chord is and show you the chords available in a major key. Using these, you'll be able to harmonize a melody in any major key. The table should give you a handy guide to which chords are in each major key, so you don't need to waste time working out the available chords. Once you've been composing in each key for a while you'll come to recognise which chords are available without having to refer to the table.

How to Harmonize A Free Ebook from Tom Slatter www.songwright.co.uk

Lesson 4: How to Harmonize a Melody Using Primary Chords Aim:


to explain how the 1st, 4th and 5th chords of a key can be used to harmonize a melody How can I harmonize my melody? You can harmonize any melody using just three chords. Really? Great! Which three? I, IV and V. Erm no, youve made a mistake, chords have letter names: A, C, F, G They do, but they can also be given numbers. Roman numerals are used to generalize. As we saw in previous lessons, every major scale is different, but they all have the same structure, so they have the same kind of chords. Chord I is always a major, chord IV is a fourth up and major, chord V is a fifth up and major. For example: in C major the three chords are C, (made up of CEG), F (FAC) and G (GBD). The notes in this scale are C D E F G A B C. Every single note of the scale can be found in those three chords CEG, FAC, GBD.

How to Harmonize A Free Ebook from Tom Slatter www.songwright.co.uk

But how does that help me add chords to a melody? Okay, lets take a look at a well known melody:

(Track 7) If you have a good enough ear, youll be able to hear that most of those two lines fit with one chord. If you know enough about music theory youll be able to see that the vast majority of the notes used are from the C major chord: C, E and G. The only notes that dont fit with that chord are the Fs and the D at the end. Now the Fs dont happen on important words, they fit with the word the and because they fall on weak beats, we can pretty much discount them when choosing our chords. The D on the other hand isnt in in our C chord, it falls on a strong beat, the first beat of a bar and it lasts for the whole bar. Therefore we need to change. Which primary chord has a D in it? G major (GBD). So that's the chord we would change to for that bar. Hear how that would sound (Track 8) Let's look at the rest of the melody:-

How to Harmonize A Free Ebook from Tom Slatter www.songwright.co.uk

Clearly the lines 'I want to be in that' only use notes from a C chord, so for those two bars we need a C chord. The word 'number' has a g on the first beat, but for most of the bar it's an F note, so here I would use an F chord. For similar reasons I would use a C chord for most of the last line with the exception of the penultimate bar where the D note means I would need a G chord.

In Summary
Hopefully that has illustrated the basics of how chords can fit to a melody. Any melody that sticks within one major scale can be harmonized with just chords I, IV and V and those chords are a great place to start when beginning. Of course, there are many more options, as the next lesson will illustrate.

How to Harmonize A Free Ebook from Tom Slatter www.songwright.co.uk

Lesson 5: Harmonizing a Melody Beyond the Primary Chords Aim: To explain how chords other than the 1
can be used. After writing the original blog post that lesson 4 was based on, I had a comment asking why I couldnt harmonize Oh When the Saints with a D minor chord. Fitting chords and melodies together is a big subject, and theres lots to say on the matter. The aim of this lesson is to illustrate just some of the possibilities.
st

4th and 5th

Using primary chords (ie the chords on the first, fourth and fifth step of the scale, in this case C F and G) I harmonized the first half of the melody like this C C Oh When the Saints, Go marching in C G Oh when the Saints, go marching in C F I want to be In that number C G C Oh when the Saints, go marching in

How to Harmonize A Free Ebook from Tom Slatter www.songwright.co.uk

Heres what that sounds like: (Track 9) But the commenter on my blog spotted that whenever Ive use a G chord, the melody use a D. So couldnt I use any chord with a d note in it? The commenter is correct, I would. The reason we start off with primary chords is to make sure people understand the principles, because with those three chords any melody that doesnt change key can be harmonized. That doesnt mean using the primary chords is always the best way. In this situation for example, I could do replace the G chords with D minor. That would sound like this: (Track 10) I could replace the C chords with A minor as well, that would sound like this: (Track 11) The chords we use are very often a creative choice. Change the chords and you change the character, so it all depends on what mood you want things to have. The best way to find the correct mood is to improvise, experiment with other chords until you find what you think sounds best. Personally, my favorite harmonization of Oh When the Saints is during the later, darker verses, where Ive heard it transposed into a minor key: (Track 12) Well known folk songs and hymns constantly change and evolve as people find new ways to harmonize them. There are always different choices, and once youre sure of the basics, the best way to find the right chords for your melody is to explore all the How to Harmonize A Free Ebook from Tom Slatter www.songwright.co.uk

possibilities. There's always more than one way of harmonizing a melody. For example, here are two sets of chords for the major pentatonic song Amazing Grace. Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, That saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now am found, Was blind, but now, I see. Version 1 C C7 F C CCGG C C7 F C CGCC (Track 13) Version 2 CEFC Am D G7 CEFC Am D F C/E G/D C (Track 14) Although the chords are a little more complicated, the basic principle is the same each time I've used a chord that contains notes that fit the melody. The most interesting part from version 2 is the E chord. It isnt in the C major key, strictly speaking, but because the melody uses an E at this point, and the C and E chords both share the E note, it sounds good.

How to Harmonize A Free Ebook from Tom Slatter www.songwright.co.uk

In Summary
The important idea in this lesson is that you should aim to use interesting chords, and think about your chord choices. Try looking for chords that sound good with your melody notes. I IV and V can often be used, but they aren't always the most interesting option.

Thanks for Reading! You can find more songwriting ideas at http://www.songwright.co.uk

How to Harmonize A Free Ebook from Tom Slatter www.songwright.co.uk