Soloing Basics. Part 3 - Harmonizing

One of the things that is a side effect of the shredding movement is the single note solo thing. Let's look at what harmony is. The dictionary says that harmony is "a combination of musical sounds considered to be pleasing."

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I'm sure you are all tearing up the fretboard now and are in no need of any more instruction, however since this is a free Internet I will submit today's lesson on: Dum-da-da-dum... Harmonizing: One of the things that is a side effect of the shredding movement is the single note solo thing. Don't feel bad... Almost all my live solos are single note runs and I seem to get along fine. However when I do plan ahead a little and add some harmony (either with another guitarist or myself or a prerecorded track) my solos and melodies really evolve. Let's look at what harmony is. The dictionary says that harmony is "... A combination of musical sounds considered to be pleasing." So what we get from this is that to have harmony we must have more than one sound. Well, we already have that, because the rest of the band is playing stuff that we are harmonizing with... well hopefully... but I'm not considering that. I'm talking about harmonized melody lines. The easiest type of harmony to do between two guitarists (or vocalists or whatever) is in unison. Each instrument plays the same melody in the same pitch. This can be a really nice effect, especially if the two instruments have complimentary tones. A chorus effect pedal kind of does this. The next type of harmony would be octaves. Each instrument plays the same melody but one plays it an octave higher. Octave divider pedals can do this too. However it usually sounds better when two separate instruments perform it. When harmonizing in octaves (or fourths or fifths) the melody stays exactly the same because the intervals are all perfect (neither major nor minor). The real type of harmonizing I'm getting at is harmonizing in thirds. When harmonizing in thirds the melody changes because of the changing major and minor intervals in the melody. Just to get started let me run through a quick example: Here I am harmonizing a descending A-minor scale in thirds:
Root (Am)

   A G F  E D C  B A G  F E D  C B A
E------------------------------------
B-10-8-6-----------------------------
G---------9-7-5----------------------
D----------------9-7-5---------------
A-----------------------8-7-5--------
E------------------------------8-7-5-


Up a third (C)

   C B A  G F E  D C B  A G F  E D C 
E--8-7-5-----------------------------
B---------8-6-5----------------------
G----------------7-5-4---------------
D-----------------------7-5-3--------
A------------------------------7-5-3-
E------------------------------------

Harmonized

E--8-7-5------------------------------
B-10-8-6--8-6-5-----------------------
G---------9-7-5--7-5-4----------------
D----------------9-7-5--7-5-3---------
A-----------------------8-7-5--7-5-3--
E------------------------------8-7-5--
Notice how the intervals change? This is the tricky part of harmonizing in thirds. In the above example the intervals are:
A-Cm3
B-Dm3
C-EM3
D-Fm3
E-Gm3
G-BM3
So how did I figure this out you ask? Well, let's take a look. Admittedly harmonizing in Am is pretty easy; no accidentals to worry about. But we'll use it to get started. We know what a third is, right? It is an interval of either three semitones (minor third, 3 frets) or four semitones (Major third, 4 frets). Thirds are very instrumental in chord construction, as you know from the other lessons we have been through (did we all do our homework? ) We know that the interval between two adjacent strings on the guitar is a fourth, or a M3 between the G and B strings. So to find the third up from a note on the low E string (say A at the fifth fret)... we go to the next string (A string) one fret back (4th fret... C#). This gives us our major third. One more fret back (3rd fret... C) gives us our minor third. Like this:
E---]---]---]---]---]---]---
B---]---]---]---]---]---]---
G---]---]---]---]---]---]---
D---]---]---]---]---]---]---
A---]---]-C-]-C#]---]---]---
E---]---]---]---]-A-]---]---
          ^   ^   ^
          m3  M3  R

Also:
E---]---]---]---]---]---]---
B-C-]-C#]---]---]---]---]---
G---]-A-]---]---]---]---]---
D---]---]---]---]---]---]---
A---]---]---]---]---]---]---
E---]---]---]---]---]---]---
So, to figure out what the harmony is, just count up three notes in the scale to find the third. In keys other than C-Am we have to make sure that the proper notes are sharped and or flatted. If you have two guitarists it will take a while to work out the proper harmony lines, but it is well worth the effort. Another trick is to slowly play a scale and have another guitarist play the same scale but start on the first note when when you get to the third note. Try this with a digital delay too. Here is a descending D major scale with the harmony up a third:
E-14--12--10--9---7--5--3--2--0----
B-15--14--12--10--8--7--5--3--2--3-
G--------------------------------4-
D----------------------------------
A----------------------------------
E----------------------------------
Another way to harmonize is to play harmonizing melodies. Two different melodies that share common tones. Try playing an ascending A minor scale at a slow tempo, and have another guitarist play a descending A minor scale. This will give the following harmonic intervals:
A-AOctave
B-Gm6
C-FP4
D-EM2
E-Dm7 (inverted)
F-CP5 (inverted)
G-BM3 (inverted)
A-AOctave
As you dick around with these things you will find a lot of Allman Brothers, Night Ranger, Queensryche, Eagles, Thin Lizzy, Bach, Mozart, Vivaldi etc. If you have two guitarists try this lick. Or try recording part A and playing part B over it. The lick is a two-hand-tapped triad. Part A is a G major (G-B-D-G) and Part B is up a third Bm (B-D-F#-B). Hammer on the first three notes and tap the fourth note at the 12th fret.
Part A (G major)
E------------------------
B------------------------
G--0--4--7--12--7--4--0--
D------------------------
A------------------------
E------------------------

Part B (Bm)
E------------------------
B--0--3--7--12--7--3--0--
G------------------------
D------------------------
A------------------------
E------------------------

Play this a few times then change to Gmaj7 and Bm7

Part A (Gmaj7)
E------------------------
B------------------------
G--0--4--7--11--7--4--0--
D------------------------
A------------------------
E------------------------

Part B (Bm7)
E------------------------
B--0--3--7--10--7--3--0--
G------------------------
D------------------------
A------------------------
E------------------------

Or to Em and G major

Part A (Em)
E------------------------
B------------------------
G--0--4--9--12--9--4--0--
D------------------------
A------------------------
E------------------------

Part B (G major)
E------------------------
B--0--3--8--12--8--3--0--
G------------------------
D------------------------
A------------------------
E------------------------
So the trick to harmonizing is knowing your scales and key signatures. After that it's a snap to harmonize. I do recommend typing up a fretboard graphic just to make sure that you have the notes right, it saves a lot of time. Here's one.
  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9  10  11  12  13  14
E--F-]-F#]-G-]-G#]-A-]-A#]-B-]-C-]-C#]-D-]-D#]-E-]-F-]-F#]
B--C-]-C#]-D-]-D#]-E-]-F-]-F#]-G-]-G#]-A-]-A#]-B-]-C-]-C#]
G--G#]-A-]-A#]-B-]-C-]-C#]-D-]-D#]-E-]-F-]-F#]-G-]-G#]-A-]
D--D#]-E-]-F-]-F#]-G-]-G#]-A-]-A#]-B-]-C-]-C#]-D-]-D#]-E-]
A--A#]-B-]-C-]-C#]-D-]-D#]-E-]-F-]-F#]-G-]-G#]-A-]-A#]-B-]
E--F-]-F#]-G-]-G#]-A-]-A#]-B-]-C-]-C#]-D-]-D#]-E-]-F-]-F#]
   1   2   3   4    5   6   7   8   9   10  11  12  13  14

23 comments sorted by best / new / date

comments policy
    Oswald
    You seems to know alot about scales, cant you write a lesson about the most common scales?
    Reggy
    Jesus...same again, copied directly from a book, check his other lessons for my comments...not a genius, a plagerist. btw, its a f*cking great book, Guitar on Tap, Joe Bennett.
    PabloTaco
    does anyone know what harmonies (up a third, fifth, whatever) are in stairway to heaven?
    chase09
    ^When you harmonize, you aren't playing both parts at the same time on one instrument. You would do it with someone else playing one part on their instrument and you playing your part at the same time on yours.
    METAL4LYF
    by the way, does the harmonist effect in most effects pedal do wat ur tryin to say?
    METAL4LYF
    this is wats meant to be up there ^ E-14--12--10--9---7--5--3 B-15--14--12--10--8--7--5 G- ----
    METAL4LYF
    i dont get it, is this for slow solos only? coz how r u meant to do a fast solo while doing: E-14--12--10--9---7--5--3 --2--0 B-15--14--12--10--8- -7--5 --3--2 G----- at the same time?
    /-Vince-\
    one thing about your fretboard graphic, you should use flats instead of sharps, because when using scales, it brecomes quite embarrassing using doublesharps and its alot easier to understand with flats, but it's alright you used it that way too, its just harder...
    KoRRuPT
    Nice BRO!!!I came up with a cool harmony with 2 scales and sum extra notes
    AxeAbuser#2
    this is a fantastic piece on harmonizing. i thankyou alot because you have written this lesson fantastically and will definately help me and my band to produce more 'interesting' music .
    omgitscj
    yamahano there is no cb/b# and there is a c#/db....anyways it was a very good once I get a band we will harmonize (it sounds awesome).
    yamahano1
    ur fret board at the bottom is wrong, there is no sharps of flats between C & D and u missed out cflat a few times
    Remebol
    fineally, a lesson that no one ***ing bitched about, thank god, see, i already new the shit he talk about, but he help me under stand why it works.. like i never new it was octive-perfect fifth, or fourth.. thanks
    princePopadom
    but i like this lesson and am glad everyone appreciates it rather than going "ooh its too complicated...u suck!"
    princePopadom
    you just know that reelgreenbat would be going u suck ass if anyone else had said it. (Oswald)
    Jlambertguitar
    well u dont do that at the same time , what a few extremely clever muscians do is a 4 guitar harmony or even more , they do a lead and 2nd lead (usually typical rythem guitarist) harmony and they record that then record another harmony on top , if u listen to soloist bands like steve vai he does a couple but u gotta hear it correctly like in speed metal symphony i think its called anyway a few do it lol