Guitar Harmony

Harmony is often used in orchestra and classical music, but on guitar it can be used for two or three guitars to play on each other.

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Harmony is often used in orchestra and classical music, but onguitar it can be used for two or three guitars to play on each other. Many bands like Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax etc use it and so do solo guitarists like Steve Vai. If you ask someone about harmony, they might tell you and it will probably make you think it's hard, in actualfact it's really easy. Harmony is when one instrument plays so many intervals above another eg. one guitar plays a 5th above the other.
Lets say guitar 1 plays this riff 

E----------------------------
B----------------------------
G----------------------------
D----------------------------
A-----7----8-----10----8-7~--
E--0-0--0-0--0-0---0-0-------
If guitar 2 was to harmonize (for example in 5th's) it would play this
E----------------------------
B----------------------------
G----------------------------
D------9---10---12----10-9~--
A----------------------------
E--0-0--0-0--0-0--0-0--------
I find that to harmonize something in 5th's is easy because...
E-----
B-----
G--9--
D--9--
A--7--
E-----
The chord shown is an E5, the seven in the chord is the root note (the tonic) the first nine (on the D string) is the 5th and the second nine is the octave. If you were to play the the seven in a note sequence, to harmonize it in 5th's, you take the 5th (the first nine) and use that for the harmony part. you can do this for any note if you want to harmonize it.

3rd's.
3rd's are kind of the same except you need to remember what key the note is in if you want to harmonize it, eg in the c major scale:
C D E F G A B C 

C=major D=minor E=Minor F=major G=major A=minor
B=diminished
So if you played C note and harmonized in 3rd's you would play a major 3rd (in thiscasethe note would E). If we harmonize the first riff we used in 3rd's, this is what we would get:
E--------------------------
B--------------------------
G--------------------------
D----5----7-----8----7-5~--
A--------------------------
E-0-0--0-0--0-0---0-0------
So basically all you're doing is taking the note and playing whatever the interval is above it. here is a list of different intervals to use. How to use:
5th's.

C D E F G A B C
G A B C D E F G
On the top row, pick out the notes you are going to harmonize, then take the notes underneath the notes you have picked and those are the notes you would play to harmonize them. eg to harmonize the notes C E G, you would play G B D. List of intervals (5th's listed above)
3rd's

C D E F G A B C
E F G A B C D E

7th's

C D E F G A B C
B C D E F G A B

4th's

C D E F G A B C
F G A B C D E F

2nd's

C D E F G A B C
D E F G A B C D

6th's

C D E F G A B C
A B C D E F G A

8th's (octaves)

C D E F G A B C
C D E F G A B C
One last thing, if you forget these, this is all you do to work it out. Write down the notes C D E F G A B C on a bit of paper and then if you want to harmonize in sevenths for example, you start on C and count seven along which would give you B and keep doing it, but when you come to the last C in the list you go back to the beginning, but miss out the first C and go onto D. Eg. E harmonized in 7th's would be D because you miss the first C the second time you count the notes well there you go, harmony explained, hope it helps, this is a really cool thing to use in a band if you have 2 guitarists.

88 comments sorted by best / new / date

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    Danny7
    I kinda skimmed it, but it seems to cover everythnig. I'll give it a re-read later on in the summer holiday when I'm boned up on theory... For now, from what I've read I understand the basics of it all, and could probably work it out myself. Still, it looks like its worth a good read later on. I wont rate it yet, but it's looking to be a 4 or a 5 so far.
    diamondM
    a better harmony would be like |-----| |-----| |-----5-----7-----| |-0-0---0-0-----| |-----| |-----3-----5-----| |-----| |-0-0---0-0-----| makes it sound more professonail like the big guys do they do the high octave sometimes but not all the time
    Metalidethklok
    Here is a simple way I look at it. This is from a guitarist(me) who is 14 years self taught, absolutely no formal lessons or training. I look at it like power chord shapes. So basically what I see is that the harmonies are basically a power chord broken down into to seperate notes played simultaneously between two guitars. So for example lets take a normal power chord shape like an A5 or any other power chord5 or whatever the hell you call it. Now guitar one will play the bottom string 5th fret while the other harmonizes on the A string 7th fret. Now you can drop the 7th fret to the 5th fret and have a bar chord shape yet again broken down between two guitars. Then you can drop another whole step to the 3rd fret on guitar 2 for another harmony. Screw the music theory. Play that damn Thing! You could waste a lifetime reading theory and trying to find that ultimate scale or chord progression, but you will fail every time. It comes from your heart! Guitar playing is an artform used to express oneself, it doesn't have any rules, only ideas. Once you understand this, You can create without thought. Theory is good but its just theory. Make it fact!!!!
    INSANETRAXION
    best explanation for it. I have been writing that way for the last 7-8 months and it's been sounding pretty solid. I completely agree with your opinion of music theory. It's just that, THEORY. Or, in layman's terms, guidelines for writing something worth listening to that actually sounds like music instead of just loud and extremely annoying noise.
    Seth Shadows
    kevtitian wrote: hey i dont rly kno like where all these nots r. does n e 1 kno where i can get like a chart or sumthin that has em on it?C D E F G A B C E F G A B C D E cause i have no idea wat that means. ha plzz help
    maybe if you knew how to spell I'd help you.
    6_string_razor
    Good article. Gave it to my dumbass friend to read and it actually helped him. If anything can do that, it has to be good.
    Duke von Rock
    sweet... now my neo classical interludes Doesnt SUCK anymore looks like my band will be playing a thrash version of ode to joy afterall...
    theconnection
    so if im playing in 4ths i just count 4 notes up eg playing a D and i wood go D E F G and i wood harmonise g??
    BullonParade
    synystagates wrote: i'm sorry but i am pretty new to this and understand it for the most part. But how would you deal with sharps and flats. Say im harmonizing a B flat note in fifths. Normally a B turns into F in fifths but B flat turns into F flat which doesn't exist.. because of the half step from E to F. Anyone help me out?
    i dont understand, a F in respect B is a diminished 5th. a 5th up from B is F#, and a 5th up from Bb is F.
    BullonParade
    Silas S Thompso wrote: It really helped me out. Me and my rythm player decided when we formed our band to harmonize alot, but I didn't understand it. This has really cleared it up. I get it except I don't know the notes really high above the 12th fret.
    its basically the first 12 frets repeated
    synystagates
    i'm sorry but i am pretty new to this and understand it for the most part. But how would you deal with sharps and flats. Say im harmonizing a B flat note in fifths. Normally a B turns into F in fifths but B flat turns into F flat which doesn't exist.. because of the half step from E to F. Anyone help me out?
    Silas S Thompso
    It really helped me out. Me and my rythm player decided when we formed our band to harmonize alot, but I didn't understand it. This has really cleared it up. I get it except I don't know the notes really high above the 12th fret.
    Kooldood
    Good, but What if you dont know the scale youre playing in? I Know it sounds stupid, but if youre using the chromatic scale?
    kevtitian
    i also dont kno wat 5ths and 7ths and 3rds n wat not are so some1 plzz help
    kevtitian
    hey i dont rly kno like where all these nots r. does n e 1 kno where i can get like a chart or sumthin that has em on it?C D E F G A B C E F G A B C D E cause i have no idea wat that means. ha plzz help
    acdcone15
    yo what about sharp and flat notes? How do u count uo if i need to harmonize say G#?
    Colton165
    So if you played C note and harmonized in 3rd's you would play a major 3rd (in this casethe note would E). If we harmonize the first riff we used in 3rd's, this is what we would get: [CODE] E----- B----- G----- D----5----7-----8----7 -5~-- A----- E-0-0--0-0--0-0---0-0-----[/CODE]
    um, if its a major 3rd above the 1st riff, should the first note on the D string be G#, and not G? E-F#-G# then F-G-A then G-A-B. Am i right? should it be [CODE] E----- B----- G----- D----6----7-----9----9 -7~-- A----- E-0-0--0-0--0-0---0-0-----[/CODE]
    eSdaze
    what exactly is the reason you give up the entire wwhwwwh ordeal and just go through the alphabet?
    lééti
    Harmonizing is cool, but the article didnt help a lot. Harmonizing in the C scale is pretty easy. What I needed were other scales...
    djdabrow
    are those 3rds relative to each individual note or must every harmony note also stay in the key? e.g. if i were to play a simple 3 string arpeggio (Em, 4 note riff starting on the tonic) and wanted to harmonize in 3rds would I play the exact same fret pattern only starting a 3rd up (on the G) or would I have to alter the pattern because it would include an improper raised 7th from the Em key but still fits in the arpeggio? Does that make sense?
    Myxer
    in theory parallel 5ths are bad use 3rd's 6th's maybe 7th's
    Amadeus_Wolves
    This is perfect. It's exactly what people need: A simple, easy way to understand and practice the concept, and apply further learning later if needed. Honestly, this is what teaching music should be about. Thanks for doing it right Deafened.
    RedBabilon
    This is cool, its like an easy way to know how to harmonize, just ignore the sharps and flats if the note that you want to harmonize its not sharp or flat, just count the notes it doesnt matter if it has a semitone on the interval between the notes, but if you have F# or Gb wish is the same tone to harmonize it on 3rd you have to play A# or Bb, if you want it on 5ths it should be C# or Db, but you are going to have sometimes probably the confusion of the semitones like B you know that its the same as Cb or E# its the same as Fb just use the logic ja!. On the guitar it can be 1 fret of distance for a semitone like from B to C or from E to F, and 2 frets for a tone like from G to A or from D to E....
    demonofthenight
    If this all confuses, just play another note in a chord and use the lowest note you want harmonized as the root or tonic or whatever
    demonofthenight
    BTW you DONT have to harmonize all notes played at the same time, it just sounds pretty some guitarist purposely wont harmonize notes for some desired effect
    Boe
    Man, i wish i would have seen this lesson before my other guitarist left the band!!!
    Turambar
    the blues scale has blues notes (flattened 3rds, 5ths and 7ths) which are used, but not all the time. thats all I know. sorry