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Old 05-14-2016, 11:20 AM   #1
Mustaine40
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Music harmonizing

Hello folks, I have been tinkering with a pretty basic electric guitar. I haven't had private lessons but have watched videos on YouTube but still get a bit confused on chord harmonies and even harmonies within a chord. I can read the sheet music but my confusion comes from just playing when goofing around. For instance if a few of us are jamming a song in C then how do I follow along? So if my friend goes from C to the A note am I suppose to do the same or can I just play any note within the key of C and it still be structurally sound?
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Old 05-14-2016, 12:29 PM   #2
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Well, it all comes down to the sound you are after. You need to train your ears and that's the most important thing.

Knowledge of intervals of course helps. Thirds and sixths usually work well. Another thing is chord tones. Know the chords you are playing and use chord tones to harmonize the melody your friend plays. Usually the combination of chord and passing tones will work best.


So if we are in the key of C and your friend goes from C to A, a common thing would be to play either a third above/sixth below or a sixth above/third below (which will work better depends on the chords you are playing over). So you could play E-C or A-F. E-C would suggest C major - A minor chord progression (or just an Am chord) and A-F would suggest A minor - F major chord progression (or just an F major chord).


The main point in jamming is listening to each other and reacting to each other's playing. You need good ears for that. There are really no rules to jamming, other than listening.

Also it depends on what you mean by "jamming". Is it completely improvised or is it a song that already exists? How many musicians are there?
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Old 05-14-2016, 12:43 PM   #3
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TS I think rather than just homing in on C to A, it's unlikely he'd be doing that all night. Look at the bigger picture and ask what chords are being played.

Are you planning on playing chords too, or are you going to take turns and one does a solo?

Do you know the basic shape for a minor pentatonic scale?
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Old 05-14-2016, 01:23 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mustaine40
Hello folks, I have been tinkering with a pretty basic electric guitar. I haven't had private lessons but have watched videos on YouTube but still get a bit confused on chord harmonies and even harmonies within a chord. I can read the sheet music but my confusion comes from just playing when goofing around. For instance if a few of us are jamming a song in C then how do I follow along? So if my friend goes from C to the A note am I suppose to do the same or can I just play any note within the key of C and it still be structurally sound?

Well, firstly, if you're jamming with a friend, one of you should (probably) be playing chords, with the other one improvising. (Ie if your friend is going from a C to an A "note", then it'll be you playing the chords, and he should be following you. If he's going from a C to an A chord, then you follow him - and no you don't need to play the same notes, ie, the chord roots. But then you need to know if his A chord is major or minor....)

The easiest thing to start with is just to jam on one chord, and for other one to improvise with the scale of that chord.
So if your friend is strumming a C chord, you could improvise with either the C major scale, C major pent, or (for a blues sound) C minor pent.
Treat the notes of the C chord (C E G) as your foundation - start and end notes - and other notes in your scale as passing notes. I.e., you can start and end your phrases on any of those 3 notes. The root will simply be the most "final-sounding" one.

When you improvise on a chord sequence, it gets a little more complicated, but you shouldn't have to change scale for each chord. That's because most common chord sequences are harmonised from the same scale, so you just use that scale for all the chords.

Again, it's a good idea to start from the notes in the chords, use those as your launch points and landing points. You don't need to know the note names, as long as you know the shapes - you can see where to start and end your phrases. I.e.,when you learn a scale pattern, make sure you can see the chord shapes in the pattern. Don't use a scale pattern where you don't know which notes are chord tones (for the chords you're soloing over).

There is still an easier way to get into improvisation, which is the old blues "one scale fits all" approach. So if you have a blues in (say) key of A (chords A, D, E), you can use the A minor pent scale over all of them, and not worry about the chord tones. It kind of works, although it sounds a bit cliched, and gets boring quickly. But if you're new to improvisation it's a good way to start. Just make sure you listen to plenty of blues to get a rough idea of the kinds of sounds that work - often short little phrases with gaps between them, not huge long bits of noodling. Keep it simple and rhythmic - even just one note repeated sounds good if the groove is good. That's why it's really important to play rhythm for a while before you start soloing. Get into the groove, and try to imagine phrases in your head.

Last edited by jongtr : 05-14-2016 at 01:25 PM.
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Old 05-14-2016, 03:31 PM   #5
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Good grief guys, you're scaring the lad. It's really not that complicated.

If your rhythm guitarist is going from C to A, it's most likely in the key of Cmajor....so play the Cmajor scale (same as A minor).

As long as the chords he changes to are in the key of Cmajor, you can stay soloing in the C major scale. That's all you need to know for now. You can move on to other Scales/Modes in that key later, but for now to keep your head from exploding - keep it simple.

Now, I'm assuming you mean "harmonizing" as in staying within the key of the song - not Harmonizing each note with 2 guitars like Iron Maiden....that's a whole other ball of wax. But from what you are describing, I believe you are just wanting to play lead in the same ballpark as the song.
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Old 05-14-2016, 05:27 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pressureproject
Good grief guys, you're scaring the lad. It's really not that complicated.

If your rhythm guitarist is going from C to A, it's most likely in the key of Cmajor....so play the Cmajor scale (same as A minor).

As long as the chords he changes to are in the key of Cmajor, you can stay soloing in the C major scale. That's all you need to know for now. You can move on to other Scales/Modes in that key later, but for now to keep your head from exploding - keep it simple.

Now, I'm assuming you mean "harmonizing" as in staying within the key of the song - not Harmonizing each note with 2 guitars like Iron Maiden....that's a whole other ball of wax. But from what you are describing, I believe you are just wanting to play lead in the same ballpark as the song.

I assumed that TS was talking about his friend playing a melody that goes like C A, not chords, and he wants to know how to harmonize that melody. That's how I understood it.

But yeah, if the chords are diatonic to the key of C major and your friend is playing the chords and you are soloing, then playing notes in the C major scale should work just fine. But that's not how I understood the OP.




I agree with jongtr - if your friend is playing the melody and it's just you two playing, you should be playing the chords. And if it's completely improvised, the one that's playing the melody usually follows the chords, not the other way around.

But this is also why I asked in my first post how many musicians are there playing and are you playing completely improvised music or are you playing existing songs?
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Old 05-14-2016, 11:38 PM   #7
Mustaine40
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I guess what I mean is if my brother, which is musically inclined, and myself, which can only read sheet music, are just goofing around, then how do I know what my progression should be if I'm not sure what his is going to be? I can keep tempo and have picked up playing some strumming tyunes such as last kiss from pearl jam, but I'm wanting to learn some rhythm guitar like mustaine or hetfield as well. I'm really a true beginner as I can't even do a proper palm mute lol.

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Old 05-15-2016, 08:13 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mustaine40
I guess what I mean is if my brother, which is musically inclined, and myself, which can only read sheet music, are just goofing around, then how do I know what my progression should be if I'm not sure what his is going to be?
Well, you have to be sure what his is going to be! Or you need a very good ear, so you can pick up what he does as soon as he does it. That's not impossible, but usually takes a fair amount of experience.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mustaine40
I can keep tempo and have picked up playing some strumming tyunes such as last kiss from pearl jam, but I'm wanting to learn some rhythm guitar like mustaine or hetfield as well. I'm really a true beginner as I can't even do a proper palm mute lol.
You don't need to palm mute to play a basic rhythm. Depending on how good your brother is (either technically or by ear), you could play the rhythm - the chord sequence - and he could follow you. (It's much easier to play a solo line by ear to a chord sequence than it is to add a chord sequence by ear to a solo line.)
Otherwise, you can't expect to be able to keep up with adding chords in real time to a melodic line your brother is jamming - if that's what you mean.
If, OTOH, your brother's line is pre-composed, then you can write it out and work out some chords for it: that's where proper harmonising skill comes in. Not while jamming, at least not while keeping time.

E.g., if your brother goes from a C to an A note (just single notes, yes?), then you have a few chord options which might fit. An Am or F chord will harmonise both notes. Or you change from C to Am; or C to F, or C to Dm... or to D or A major. IOW, there are way too many options to be able to do this on the fly - certainly not without knowing what he's going to play next!

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Old 05-15-2016, 09:13 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mustaine40
I guess what I mean is if my brother, which is musically inclined, and myself, which can only read sheet music, are just goofing around, then how do I know what my progression should be if I'm not sure what his is going to be? I can keep tempo and have picked up playing some strumming tyunes such as last kiss from pearl jam, but I'm wanting to learn some rhythm guitar like mustaine or hetfield as well. I'm really a true beginner as I can't even do a proper palm mute lol.

Your chord progression should be the same. Playing two different chord progressions at the same time doesn't sound good.

One of you should play chords, the other should play the lead. Decide your roles. The one that plays the melody follows the chords.

You could decide the chord progression in advance. Or start with an existing song.

Also, if you have nothing else to play, 12 bar blues will always work. It's a progression that every musician should know.
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Old 05-15-2016, 10:25 AM   #10
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Sounds like you need to get some musical terminology going on. That is how musicians communicate. "I-IV-V in the key of..."

Do you understand?

Basically you guys need to have a plan.
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Old 05-15-2016, 12:53 PM   #11
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Thanks for the help. I'm supposing I need to start from the beginning. I played trumpet for a few years so I can read music but I tend to over think it on transferring that exp into playing the guitar. Where should I begin?
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Old 05-16-2016, 09:30 AM   #12
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^ I'd get some free lessons from your bro. Get some basic theory down from a good book which I can recommend. Get a solid strumming technique, and rhythm and timing down.

That's it for now.
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Old 05-18-2016, 09:25 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pressureproject
Good grief guys, you're scaring the lad. It's really not that complicated.

If your rhythm guitarist is going from C to A, it's most likely in the key of Cmajor....so play the Cmajor scale (same as A minor).

As long as the chords he changes to are in the key of Cmajor, you can stay soloing in the C major scale. That's all you need to know for now. You can move on to other Scales/Modes in that key later, but for now to keep your head from exploding - keep it simple.

Now, I'm assuming you mean "harmonizing" as in staying within the key of the song - not Harmonizing each note with 2 guitars like Iron Maiden....that's a whole other ball of wax. But from what you are describing, I believe you are just wanting to play lead in the same ballpark as the song.


C to A is not diatonic to C major. Am is the vi in C. If I saw C to A, I'd look at the following chord. If it's D for example, - maybe A is functioning as a Secondary Dominant.

Bottom line, music theory is a good thing to have in your pocket.

Basically harmonizing is suggesting a chord. whether in 3rds/6ths, 4ths (inverted 5ths) or 5ths. You're pretty much implying chords.

Best,

Sean
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Old 05-18-2016, 09:54 AM   #14
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My tip is kinda out there but can make C Major much more versatile (not that it isn't already). There are actually ten notes to use, 7 diatonic notes and 3 tasty dissonances. The 3 are G#/Af (augmented 6th which is mildly consonant but can be very augmented/outside-sounding), F# (your tritone which is dark and dissonant but in a fun way), and D#/Ef (minor third, adds a hint of sadness, darkness and/or Blues to your major playing). Same applies to A minor. I tend to avoid only C# (minor second which is very dissonant to the point of avoidence) and A#/Bf (dissonant and unruly) because I got to have some rules to follow.

The key to this method is emphasizing the C and E notes (root-major third) for C Major or A and C (root- minor third) for A Minor. It also helps to put these accidentals on the off-beats and up-beats (basically the weaker beats) to help it flow. This method works well for Jazz and to a lesser extent Extreme Metal. There's only two rules in music, "If it sounds good, it is good!" and "Try to keep in tune" (everything else is guidelines). However music theory explains a lot of things.

Use your ears and concentrate on rhythm a lot. This helps to stay in sync and thus sound good. Hope my rambling helps ...
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Old 05-18-2016, 12:39 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RonaldPoe
Same applies to A minor. I tend to avoid only C# (minor second which is very dissonant to the point of avoidence) and A#/Bf (dissonant and unruly) because I got to have some rules to follow.

It depends. If used as chromatic passing tones they're very good. To really find out how they're used to create tension and release in a tasteful way, you need to transcribe. That's the only way to get inside a players head.

I came across a Charlie Christian lick that utilises a 11th, b9, b7, 6, in that order. It's only when you use theory and your ears to analyse the moving harmony underneath that you would then understand why.
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Old 05-18-2016, 03:55 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RonaldPoe
My tip is kinda out there but can make C Major much more versatile (not that it isn't already). There are actually ten notes to use, 7 diatonic notes and 3 tasty dissonances. The 3 are G#/Af (augmented 6th which is mildly consonant but can be very augmented/outside-sounding), F# (your tritone which is dark and dissonant but in a fun way), and D#/Ef (minor third, adds a hint of sadness, darkness and/or Blues to your major playing). Same applies to A minor. I tend to avoid only C# (minor second which is very dissonant to the point of avoidence) and A#/Bf (dissonant and unruly) because I got to have some rules to follow.

The key to this method is emphasizing the C and E notes (root-major third) for C Major or A and C (root- minor third) for A Minor. It also helps to put these accidentals on the off-beats and up-beats (basically the weaker beats) to help it flow. This method works well for Jazz and to a lesser extent Extreme Metal. There's only two rules in music, "If it sounds good, it is good!" and "Try to keep in tune" (everything else is guidelines). However music theory explains a lot of things.

Use your ears and concentrate on rhythm a lot. This helps to stay in sync and thus sound good. Hope my rambling helps ...

Bb is like the most common accidental in C major so I don't know why you would avoid it.

Also, Ab is not the augmented 6th, it's the minor 6th in C major.
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Old 05-19-2016, 11:55 AM   #17
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I meant augmented 5th (which is the enharmonic equivalent of a minor 6th and important in the C Aug chord). Thanks for catching that. Like I said, I like to have some restraint when writing music otherwise it's not C Major or any key for that matter. Of course accidentals are just fine and very useful. However I found I can get away with using those notes as melody notes in C major (a very basic key) and it'll sound fine.

Also the recent versions of Musescore (the free notation and MIDI production program I use) are less forgiving for accidentals than the old versions. What kind of rules do you think would work? How can I write good melodies freely without clashing notes and sounding terrible. This is getting off topic but ...
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Old 05-19-2016, 08:49 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mustaine40
I guess what I mean is if my brother, which is musically inclined, and myself, which can only read sheet music, are just goofing around, then how do I know what my progression should be if I'm not sure what his is going to be? I can keep tempo and have picked up playing some strumming tyunes such as last kiss from pearl jam, but I'm wanting to learn some rhythm guitar like mustaine or hetfield as well. I'm really a true beginner as I can't even do a proper palm mute lol.


Something that might help when jamming around with somebody, if you know what kind of styles they play, is get some chords for songs he might know and learn them. Also listen to those types of songs and you will start to get a feel for what chord sequences are common. With practice, when you're jamming your ear will start to anticipate what chord might come next and the muscle memory in your fingers will be ready to play those chords. Mind you, it takes a lot of practice, but you will get there

Also I would second everything people have said about training your ear to hear what chords people are playing so you can join in and play along.

Best of luck!

-Teresa
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Old 05-20-2016, 05:31 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by RonaldPoe
How can I write good melodies freely without clashing notes and sounding terrible. This is getting off topic but ...
Make sure you can sing them easily. A melody which feels natural to sing is always going to be OK - even if it means you have to search for chords to accompany it.
If you start with chords, then just sing the notes in the chords (any of them). When you change chord, sing the nearest note in the next chord, up or down - making sure it feels like a natural move.
You can often sing notes that are not in the chord - or keep the same note when the chord changes. But as long as the pool of notes you're drawing are all in the chords (somewhere) you melody will "fit".
I.e, on any one chord, you're not limited to the notes in the chord (the arpeggio); you can add embellishing or passing notes drawn from the chords either side. So you might sing an E on a C chord, and then a G. An F in between would make a suitable passing note, if the key is C. But if your song was in G major, then the right passing note on the C chord between E and G would be F#. (Even so, either F or F# might sound OK in either situation: use your ears!)

You can still introduce accidentals, for example when moving from one chord to the next. Eg, if you're singing a G on a C chord, and then an A on the next F chord, you could insert a G# in between as the chord changes. That's generally how chromatics work: as half-steps leading to chord tones (up or down). That's how a "wrong note" is made to sound right: by resolving the tension it creates.

Of course, if you can't sing (or can't tune your voice to your chords) you have problems! But you can still write melodies on the guitar, using the same principles. If you can't sing (reliably), imagine someone else singing. Don't do anything you can't imagine a singer doing. (This also applies to your initial question: improvisation is really about "singing with your instrument" - composing melodies from the chord tones as you go.)

Last edited by jongtr : 05-20-2016 at 05:32 AM.
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Old 05-21-2016, 05:05 AM   #20
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In music, harmonization is the chordal accompaniment to a line or melody: using chords and melodies together, making harmony by stacking scale tones as triads
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