Harmonizing Melodies

This lesson will look at how to harmonize melodies. Many bands use harmonized melodies, because it makes their riffs sound...cooler.

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Ultimate Guitar
21
A Brief Lesson on Harmonization Introduction: Hello, and welcome to lesson number five by CPDmusic! Hopefully you guys have enjoyed my lessons so far, and have learned a lot from them! This lesson will look at how to harmonize melodies. Many bands use harmonized melodies, mainly because they sound cool. A good example of this is the band Avenged Sevenfold. Almost all, if not all, of their lead melodies are harmonized. Now, before you read this lesson, it is recommended you have some knowledge on musical intervals. Luckily, I have written a lesson on this topic, which you can read here http://www.ultimate-guitar.com/lessons/for_beginners/musical_intervals.html. What Is Harmonization? Without getting into the technical specs of things, harmony is where two or more notes are played simultaneously, with these notes usually interacting with each other. A good example of harmonization if your standard guitar chord. All the notes are played simultaneously to form the chord, and if one note was out of tune, you could probably tell. This lesson won't look at chords though, but instead harmonizing melodies, which also follows the same principal. How To Harmonize: Theoretically, you could harmonize any two notes you chose, although some harmonization's don't sound very good (*cough chough* minor second *cough cough*). The lesson will focus on the five most common harmonization tactics, the minor third, major third, perfect fourth, perfect fifth, and octave harmonies. First Harmony: Harmonies are rather simple, and harmonization is just a four step process. Look at the below example of a minor third harmony. Step 1: Take your root note. Let's say your root is A:
E||-------||
B||-------||
G||-------||
D||-------||
A||--0----||
E||-------||
Step 2: Find the minor third interval of this root. From the lesson on musical intervals, you should know that this is 3 semitones.
E||-------||
B||-------||
G||-------||
D||-------||
A||--3----||
E||-------||
Step 3: Well, since you need to play both these notes at the same time, and since they are both on the same string, you will need to transpose. (If you don't know how, I will write a short lesson on the process). Look at the tab below, and notice that both notes sound the same (as long as your guitar is tuned properly).
E||------------||
B||------------||
G||------------||
D||------------||
A||--0---------||
E||-------5----||
Step 4: Now to play the actual minor third harmonization. Play the root, A in this case, and the minor third of the root, C in this case, at the same time.
E||-------||
B||-------||
G||-------||
D||-------||
A||--3----||
E||--5----||
And there you go! A minor third harmonization! All the other harmonization's follow the same rules so let's go through them quickly. For the major third harmonization, you would start with your root note, A in this case:
E||-------||
B||-------||
G||-------||
D||-------||
A||--0----||
E||-------||
Then, you would find the major third of A, which is C#:
E||-------||
B||-------||
G||-------||
D||-------||
A||--4----||
E||-------||
And then you would transpose the root note (only if you have to), and play both notes at the same time:
E||-------||
B||-------||
G||-------||
D||-------||
A||--4----||
E||--5----||
Okay, now let's just breeze through the rest. A perfect fourth harmonization on A would consist of these two notes:
E||------------||
B||------------||
G||------------||
D||------------||
A||--0----5----||
E||------------||
And could be played like this:
E||-------||
B||-------||
G||-------||
D||-------||
A||--5----||
E||--5----||
Or like this:
E||-------||
B||-------||
G||-------||
D||--0----||
A||--0----||
E||-------||
A perfect fifth harmonization on A would consist of these two notes:
E||------------||
B||------------||
G||------------||
D||------------||
A||--0----7----||
E||------------||
And could be played like this:
E||-------||
B||-------||
G||-------||
D||-------||
A||--7----||
E||--5----||
Or like this:
E||-------||
B||-------||
G||-------||
D||--2----||
A||--0----||
E||-------||
You probably also notice that a perfect fifth harmonization is just your standard power-chord, in which case your right! (The third note of the power chord is an octave from the root) And finally, an octave harmonization on A would consist of these two notes:
E||-------------||
B||-------------||
G||-------------||
D||-------------||
A||--0----12----||
E||-------------||
And are usually played like this
E||-------||
B||-------||
G||-------||
D||--7----||
A||-------||
E||--5----||
Or, if you're using a pick, you could play it like this:
E||-------||
B||-------||
G||-------||
D||--7----||
A||--x----||
E||--5----||
Practice Makes Perfect! I believe that the more you practice something, the better you get at it (as many people believe), so as a result, here are two exercises enclosed in this lesson to help you get better at harmonization. Exercise 1: Identification You should probably be able to identify harmonization, so below there will be five examples of harmonization, which you will try to identify as minor third, major third, perfect fourth, perfect fifth, or octave harmonization's. Answers are afterwards.
E||-------|-------|-------|-------|-------||
B||-------|-------|-------|-------|-------||
G||--1----|-------|-------|-------|-------||
D||--2----|-------|--1----|-4-----|--0----||
A||-------|--2----|--3----|-------|-0-----||
E||-------|--0----|-------|-2-----|-------||
Answers: 1. Major third 2. Perfect fifth 3. Minor third 4. Octave 5. Perfect fourth Exercise 2: Composition One other thing you should be able to do is write your own harmonization's to melodies. Try writing different harmonization's for the simply melody below. If you want to play along to this with your harmonization, you can go to my YouTube channel for a recording, with full band!
E||----------------------|----------------------|
B||----------------------|----------------------|
G||-------0----2----0----|------------0---------|
D||--2-------------------|--0----4---------4----|
A||----------------------|----------------------|
E||----------------------|----------------------|
 
|----------------------|-----------------------||
|----------------------|-----------------------||
|----------------------|-----------------------||
|-------2----4----2----|-----------------------||
|--3-------------------|--2--------0-----------||
|----------------------|----------------3------||
Closing Well, yet another lesson has come and gone, and now your riffs (hopefully!) sound more interesting. You now know how to harmonize melodies, and you have also solved another mystery of music: how to have two guitar players in a band, because everyone wants to play lead! So, until next time! Did You Like This Lesson? Check Out My Last Lesson, Musical Intervals. More Lessons Coming Soon!

16 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Kay-J
    I'm glad I know this already but if I didn't this would have taught me very well. Plus it did help to get a little bit more perspective on harmonies. Good lesson for beginners
    guitarsftw
    Learning about harmony is essential to anyone with an interest in music composition and/or improvising.
    static_music34
    personally I think it sounds better to harmonize the scale and not just the individual notes; for example you can harmonize an E minor arpeggio with a G Major arpeggio and it would sound better imo than just straight minor thirds the whole way
    CPDmusic
    static_music34 wrote: personally I think it sounds better to harmonize the scale and not just the individual notes; for example you can harmonize an E minor arpeggio with a G Major arpeggio and it would sound better imo than just straight minor thirds the whole way
    Ya, I can understand that. That would just be changing the harmonization a bit, as the first notes would be minor thirds of each other, the second MAJOR thirds, and the third minor thirds, so ya, it adds a bit more variety.
    jeowy
    CPDmusic wrote: Ya, I can understand that. That would just be changing the harmonization a bit, as the first notes would be minor thirds of each other, the second MAJOR thirds, and the third minor thirds, so ya, it adds a bit more variety.
    Actually if you stuck with straight minor thirds, the end result would be fairly chromatic and not diatonic. Using the combination of major and minor thirds that fit into the notes of a specific key would, from a classical perspective, be much LESS "varied"
    illyria
    the first awnser of the first excercise: shoudn't that be a minor third, it's on D string fret 2 and fret 5 and 5-2=3
    A minor third is when a note is three semitones, or three frets, higher or lower than the previous note
    CPDmusic
    illyria wrote: the first awnser of the first excercise: shoudn't that be a minor third, it's on D string fret 2 and fret 5 and 5-2=3 A minor third is when a note is three semitones, or three frets, higher or lower than the previous note
    No, if you transpose it down a string, it's played on the sixth fret, not the fifth.
    illyria
    CPDmusic wrote: illyria wrote: the first awnser of the first excercise: shoudn't that be a minor third, it's on D string fret 2 and fret 5 and 5-2=3 A minor third is when a note is three semitones, or three frets, higher or lower than the previous note No, if you transpose it down a string, it's played on the sixth fret, not the fifth.
    o, wait. i saw just now that i got the fift fret tuning tric wrong. got two strings mixed up, thought it was from D-G that was 4th fret but it was G-B that was 4th fret. never mind
    timmay126
    if you ever take a music theory class you will learn a lot about things like this
    CPDmusic
    timmay126 wrote: if you ever take a music theory class you will learn a lot about things like this
    I agree. Even a high school music class focuses a fair bit on music theory.
    damienb839
    i kinda get what your teaching here but i have no theory or guitar lessons im self taught so i think you should come up with an easier lesson for idiots like myself
    marcelaguiar
    How do you decide which interval to choose? You give us 5: 1. Major third 2. Perfect fifth 3. Minor third 4. Octave 5. Perfect fourth But what decides which one you should use?
    OliverNMusic
    hi marcelaguiar usually you would pick a specific interval to use continually throughout your harmonised melody, most commonly a diatonic 3rd (above) or 6th (below) the note you want to harmonise is used. 'diatonic' is to say use the 3rd which occurs in each chord within a particular key, for example: the notes in the C Major scale/key are C D E F G A B C so the 3rds used to harmonise a melody in CMajor would be E F G A B C D E also the chords formed are CMajor Dminor Eminor FMajor GMajor Aminor Bdiminished) so the diatonic 3rd actually varies from either a Major or minor 3rd depending on what note your on. hope this helps, Thanks Ollie SoundCloud/OliverNolanMusic & Youtube/theslumberjacksmusic