4 Ways to Harmonize the Same Melody – Music Composition

– Hi, I’m Gareth Green, and in this video, we’re going to look at a short melody and consider four different ways to harmonise it. And this is something that’s come up in various comments and questions that people have raised. Partly, how do you harmonise a melody? But also people saying, “I’ve got this idea that I’m putting in a song “or a piece of music and I’ve got some chords for it, “but it keeps coming back, “I keep using the same chords. “What can I do to make it different?” So, hopefully this might give you a clue in how to tackle that particular task.

Xem them nhung cach xu ly san go cong nghiep bi phong .

So, I’ve got this fairly straightforward melody. It’s just two bars long, and it goes like this, in the key of G major. When you come to harmonise a melody, obviously you’re looking for chords that fit the notes of the melody. And there are always three chords within a key that will fit any given note of the melody. So, you look at the first note, B, and you think, well, that could be chord I in the key of G because if I organise a scale of G major, G, A, B, C, D, E, F-sharp, G, and then I put a third and a fifth above each of those notes, I get all my chords for the key, what we call the diatonic chords. So we get I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII. So, when you look at that first B, well, B is in the middle of chord I, isn’t it? B is at the bottom of chord III. And B is also in chord VI at the top. So, those are your choices. You’ve got three chords that will fit. Now, it could be more complicated. You can use things we call chromatic chords that we might come on to a bit later.

You could use something we call extension chords, when you’re using sevenths, ninths, elevenths, thirteenths on top of the basic diatonic chord. Those are all possibilities. But if you’re starting out with this, I would go for the basic diatonic chords. If you’re not new to this, you’ve been here before, well, you can do something more adventurous, which we’ll come on to. So, you can go through your melody thinking, well, which are my three chords that will fit each note that I need a chord for? And then you can think, well, how do the chords function? In other words, when we go from the first chord to the second chord, does it sound better to go from I to V, or does it sound better to go from I to I in first inversion or something like that? You know, you’ve got choices. And you can decide on which is your preferred sound. And it’s not a right or a wrong choice. You might actually come up with a different conclusion from somebody else. It’s all perfectly fine. But sometimes you get the idea that, oh, actually this chord progression sounds better than that one. So, that helps you to kind of sift it once you’ve got your three chords for each note. You’ve also got to decide when you’re looking at a melody, which notes need chords and which notes don’t. Because we have what are known as sort of chord notes, if you like. Notes in the melody that belong to the chord. We also have inessential notes. They’re kind of notes that just slip by in between, what we call passing notes, where you’re just going by step between two other notes that maybe do belong to the chord. Or you can have auxiliary notes where you’re using a melody note that belongs to a chord, you go up one and you come back. Or you’re using a melody note that belongs to the chord, you go down one and you come back. So, those are upper and lower auxiliary notes. You can have an anticipatory note, where you’re maybe going from this note to that note in the melody, but you anticipate the last one by using this one, then going down one, and then repeating that note. So, you just anticipate that note slightly ahead of time. So, thinking about your melody, making sure that every note that needs a chord has got one of these chords that fits it, but also thinking are some of these inessential notes? And I’ve purposely included that in this little example. Because you notice right at the beginning, it starts on B and it quite quickly moves through a rhythm, B, C, D. Now, do you want to have a chord on each of those notes? Probably not because it’s going to make the chord movement very quick, what we call the harmonic rhythm, the speed at which chords change. So, I could put a chord on each of those notes and I could do something like this. But you see what happens, the chords move very quickly and the music sounds quite agitated. Well, maybe you want to write an agitated piece. But if I just treat that C, the second note, as one of these passing notes, you see it’s passing by step between B and D, well, the chord movement won’t be quite so quick. So, I can find a chord for the first B, I can find a chord that fits the third note, D, and I just let that C pass by. And the same thing happens later in that first bar when I’m going G, A, B. So, that’s another way of just thinking through which are the chord notes, which are the inessential notes. Okay, well, let’s have a look at the first harmonisation that I’ve come up with. Let’s have a listen to it. Okay, hopefully you’d agree that sounds perfectly fair. I’m not trying to set the Thames on fire here, as we say in the UK. I’m just trying to get something that works, that functions nicely with the progression from one chord to the next, where we haven’t got too much kind of ducking and diving with parts jumping all over the landscape. So, you see what I’ve done is I’ve got a very smooth bass line there. And that will just keep a slightly calm atmosphere. I’ve also tried to get a little bit of contrary motion going between the top and the bottom parts because that generally makes for a better impact. So you see, sometimes, not always, but sometimes the top part’s going up, the bottom part’s going down, and vice versa. And then when I try to fill in the middle parts, again, I’m looking for a reasonable amount of stability. So, if we can repeat a note, then that often helps. You notice from the first chord to the second chord, the tenor part repeats D. Well, how have I managed to do that? Because I’ve changed from chord I to chord V, and we’ll come back to that in a minute. Well, D belongs to chord I, D also belongs to chord V. So, it means that it kind of smooths over the transition from one chord to the next. Then, in the next two chords, I’ve gone from a chord VI to a chord III and the tenor’s got B repeated because B belongs to VI. It also belongs to III. So, you see how that can help smooth over things. So, you don’t want lots of parts jumping all over the landscape when you want to write four-part harmony. You may not want to write four-part harmony. That’s absolutely fine. If you want to find some chords that you can strum on your guitar or play along on the keyboard with this melody, that’s fine. You don’t need to worry about the intricacies of four-part harmony. But I know a lot of people do want to be able to do this four-part harmony stuff. Okay, now, if you live in a part of the world that adopts the kind of UK tradition, you’ll know what I mean by putting an a, b, and a c after a chord. “a” means root position. And if we don’t write anything after a chord number, we assume it’s “a”, root position. “b” means first inversion, and “c” means second inversion. Okay, so if you’re in a kind of a country using the US system, instead of using “b”, you’ll put a number “6” after the number of the chord. And instead of using “c”, you’ll put “6-4” as two numbers after the chord number. So, just so we’re all happy about that. And you’ll notice that often when you’re harmonising something, it’s good to have a mixture of root position chords and first inversion chords. So that’s what I’ve done here. So, in the first example, I’ve gone through the melody, I’ve said the second note’s a passing note. The fifth note’s a passing note. All the other notes are going to be chord notes, essential notes. So, I’m looking for chords to fit all of those other melody notes. I’ve been through, I’ve had to think about which three chords fit and I’ve come up with a possibility that gives me this smooth running bass that mixes some root position with some first inversion chords, and a little bit of a mixture of what we call primary and secondary chords. So I, IV, and V are your primary chords. They’re the most important chords. So you can see, we start with I, V, and we finish with V, I. So we’ve got strong chords at the beginning and at the end. We’ve got some secondary chords, some other chords in the middle with VI, III, and II. III is less common than some of the other chords, but I’ve slipped it in just to show that it works perfectly well. And you want to find a cadence at the end of the phrase. So, when you come to the last two chords of the phrase, well, try to finish off with a cadence that goes V to I, or IV to I, or something to V, normally I to V, II to V, or IV to V, or V to VI. Those are the accepted cadences. Okay, so what have I come up with then? Well, I’ve started with chord I. Usually makes sense to start with chord I when you’re establishing the key. Then I thought, well, I could change the chord. So V works, but why not have Vb to keep that bass line nice and smooth? And then I’ve gone for VI, and then I’ve gone for IIIb, again, to keep the bass line smooth. Then I’ve gone for IIb, again, to keep the bass line smooth. And then here’s a cadence, V, I. What have I done in the tenor part at the end? I’ve gone from V and I’ve just tucked in that C, which is one of these extension chords I talked about earlier, makes it a V7 chord. So, there’s a harmonisation. Okay, well, number two is similar but different. In other words, I’ve tried to keep it fairly traditional, nothing too fancy. But just to show you that there are other chords that fit. So, if you look through the first one, we’ve gone, I, Vb, VI, IIIb, IIb, V, I. The second one, I’ve gone I, Ib, IV, I, II, V, I. So, it’s not completely different, but I’ve made some different decisions. Okay, the bass doesn’t go by step this time. But initially, we have a leap. And when you have a leap, it’s quite good to come back inside the leap by step if you can. Another bit of a leap and then come back inside. And then the same two bass notes to finish. So, it’s a kind of melodically more disjunct bass than the first example. But you might think, well actually, that’s more interesting. The first bass all kind of goes by step until the end. But you might think that’s a bit boring. Let’s have something that leaps a bit. Still holding onto that principle of a bit of contrary motion between the top and the bottom. Okay, how does number two sound? So, fairly similar. You notice the first one went I to Vb. So, I changed the chord and the inversion. The second time, I’ve gone from I to Ib, so I’ve kept the same chord but just changed the inversion. The first time we then went to VI, and that’s a minor chord. The second time I’ve gone for IV, a stronger chord. It’s one of the primary chords. Okay, the first time I went for IIIb after that, which is a relatively weak chord but perfectly nice chord to use. The second time I’ve gone for a stronger chord, I’ve gone for a I. So you see, the second time I’m making greater use of these primary chords you notice, I, Ib, IV, I, and then I’ve gone II, V, I. So, only the II is a secondary chord, all the others are primary chords. The first one, more secondary chords. You know, you can take your pick as to which one you prefer. But the point is neither of them are wrong. In the second one, I’ve just picked up a little more decoration. We talked about these passing notes in the given top part. And then when I get here, I’ve put a passing note in the alto part. And then when I get here, I put a passing note in the tenor part. And it’s quite a nice thing to do if you’ve got passing notes in the top part, and then you can slip them into another part, then maybe slip them into another part, it sort of shares that idea around. So, those are the first two examples. When we get to example three, I’m trying to do something that’s got a little more colour. So, we’ve got some of the same kinds of chords that we’ve met before. But this time, I’m thinking, well, how can I make this more interesting? So, between the second and the third chords of version three, I’m using a little technique called the secondary dominant, which is when we go V to I in another key. It’s always better if we go V7 to I in a different key, but ideally, where the I in this other key belongs to the prevailing key. So, I’ve started with chord I in G major, the home key. And then I’ve used a V7 in its last inversion, V7d, in C major. Then I’ve gone to Ib in C major. But chord I in C major is also called IV in G, so that’s how that quantifies as a secondary dominant. I’ve just gone V to I in another key, the I of the other key belongs to the prevailing key. So, I in G, V7 last inversion in C, Ib in C, and then a bit of colour now, a diminished seventh. And I’ve used that diminished seventh in the key of A minor because the next chord is a chord of A minor. So, it’s the tonic chord of A minor, which is why the diminished seventh of A minor works before it. But again, it’s also chord II in G, so I can then go home from there to G quite happily. And now, I’m going to use a V7, but I’m going to put a little decoration in the tenor. A passing note, but what we call a accented passing note because it comes on the beat. So, here’s number three, a bit more colourful. And then when we come to number four, I’ve just tried to make it a little bit more colourful in a different kind of way. I’m starting with chord I again. But this time, I’m going to use a diminished seventh in the key of C, and then this time, instead of going for a C major chord, I’m going to be a little bit cheeky and go for a C minor chord. So, this is called a borrowed chord, we’re borrowing from, instead of C major, from it’s parallel minor, C minor. So, you see how that works. And then I’m going on to a Ic in the key of G major, using this as a kind of passing 6-4, if you know what one of those is. If you don’t, don’t worry. And then, this is a kind of secondary dominant in D because this is a Vb in the key of D. But it’s an altered chord II in the key of G. So that’s where that comes from. And then it sort of resolves onto a D major chord, but again, with the accented passing note in the tenor. And then the C-natural pushes us back into G major. So, this is a bit more sophisticated, if you like, but it’s full of colour. So, number four sounds like this. So, four different harmonisations of the same melody. Two of them are designed to be fairly plain, kind of just using diatonic chords without being too clever. And then the third and the fourth, trying to be a bit more chromatic. So, let me just play them all again. Number one. Number two. Number three. Number four. Now, it doesn’t matter if you want to write music in this style or in a different style. The same principles apply. But I hope that just gives you some ideas that will trigger your own imagination in how to use some fairly straightforward harmonisation techniques and how to do something that’s a little bit more colourful, maybe a little bit more interesting if the mood demands it. So, have fun harmonising your melodies. And if you want to know more about harmony, we’ve got various courses on the Music Matters website. So, do have a look there at www.mmcourses.co.uk, where you can find courses on advanced theory that’s covering a lot of harmony. If you’ve been watching this thinking not quite sure about some of this stuff, that would really help you in there. If you’re wanting to get some of this harmony under your fingers, we’ve got a keyboard harmony course that will help you do that. If you really wanted to be able to hear all these chords so you know what you’re dealing with from an aural point of view, have a look at our aural dictation course. Lots of resources there for you anyway, which I hope you’ll find useful.

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