How to Harmonize: A Guide to Singing Harmony | 2021

A harmony is a series of notes that blends with a songs melody to add character and please the ears . From figuring out the best combination of notes to singing without straying from your part , harmonizing is tough .

To harmonize is to sing a minor third above the note A (the note C , which is the fifth of the chord )or a major third below the note A (the note F  , which is the root note of the chord ).Such harmonies are pleasing to the ear in Western music .From figuring out the best combination of notes to singing without straying from your part , harmonizing is tough . Sing along as a someone play notes on a piano first to get a feel for how harmonies work , then practice with apps , recordings , and alongside other singers .

A solo melody line can be catchy , but there is a special aural sensation when additional notes sound simultaneously with the melody . These additional notes function as harmony , and they can transform a peice of music .

What Is Vocal Harmony ?

Singing harmony involves supplementary a vocal melody with additional notes that fit the underlying chord structure . For instance , if a melody sung over an A minor chord features the note A (the root note of the chord ), you could harmonize by singing the note C (the minor third of the chord and a minor third above A )or the note E (the fifth of the chord and a perfect fifth above A ).

How To Harmonize When Performing Music ?

To sing harmony or harmonize on an instrument , focus on the chord progression of the song and the scale upon which the melody is based (typically either a major scale or a minor scale ).

  • THIRDS : The most common type of harmonization is a third above or a third below the melody note . For instance , if the melody of your favourite song calls for the note A  over an F major chord this means the melody is using the third scale degree . To harmonize , you could sing a minor third above the note A (the note C , which is the fifth of the chord )or a major third below the note A (the note F , which is the root note of the chord ).Such harmonies are pleasing to the ear in western music .
  • FOURTHS AND FIFTHS : Harmonizing notes with perfect fourths or perfect fifths can create a distinctive sound . This type of harmony pairs well with the pentatonic scales of East Asia.
  • OCTAVES : When male and female vocalists sing unison lines , they usually end up singing an octave part due to differences in vocal range . Octave harmonies thicken the frequency spectrum , but they tend not to sound quite as thick as harmonizing based on third or even sixth .Octave harmonies tend to sound denser on string instruments .
  • CLOSE HARMONIES :To create the iconic sound of barbershop quartets or vocal pop groups like the BEACH BOYS , try arranging notes of harmony very close to one another . Whether you are using all chord tones or  a few tensions (like a major ninth or a major seventh ), you can create a harmonically rich sound – particularly when the close harmonies move together to follow the melody .Close harmonies are famously tricky to sing and it can take many years of music lessons to master the technique .

Many vocalists take singing lessons to learn vocal harmonization , classically trained singers can harmonize by reading sheet music . Popular music singers may teach themselves to harmonize  by ear , which requires a mixture of ear training and natural ability .

The Process Of Harmonizing In A Brief Way Are As Follows :

PART 1 :

Sing A’ C ‘major Triad To Get A Feel For Intervals :

  • A triad is a chord created by 3 notes ; the C major chord is made of the notes C-E-G . Sing or hum along as you play the notes on a piano one at a time . They play all three notes on the piano at the same time , and notice how the notes blend and agree with each other .
  • The root note in this chors is C and the distances between C and the other notes in the chord are called intervals .
  • Different intervals create harmonies with distinct tones . In relation to C , E is a major third and  G is a perfect fifth . These intervals blend well with the root note , creating a pleasing harmony.

Practice Finding A Root Notes Major Third :

  • Find the C key on your keyboard. If you count the 4 black and white keys to the right, you’ll land on E. F or any root note, a note that’s 4 half-steps away will always be a major third.
  • On a piano, a half-step is the distance between 2 keys that are right next to each other. For a while key that’s next to  a black key, the black key counts as a half-step and the next white key over is a full step. However, white keys like E and F , which aren’t separated by a black key, are a half- step apart.
  • Sing or hum along as you play root notes and major thirds on the keyboard. Play a note, then count 4 half-steps and play that note. Singing a root note and its majot third will help you learn how to find a good harmony note by ear any time you hear a melody.

Move Onto Minor Intervals After Getting A Feel For Major Chords.

  • Instead of playing C-E-G, play C-Eb-G (Eb is the black key to the left of E)to create a Cminor chord. Sing or hum along with your play session of each note one at a time and then play all notes together. Note how a minor interval sounds darker or more stable than a major chord.
  • Count 3 half-steps to find a root note’s minor third. Sing or Hum along as you play a root note and it’s minor third.
  • While there are countless exception in western music the composers often use minor thirds to evoke sadness and major chords to convey happiness.
  • Understanding major and minor thirds is the key, whether the person wants to write harmonies or sing a harmony by ear when you hear a tune.

Try Holding And Moving The Harmony Note As The Melody Notes Changes :

As the notes in the melody changes you don’t necessarily have to move the harmony note with it. Try keeping the harmony note the same as you play a melody on the keyboard. Pay attention to how the note combinations blend how it convey the feelings or clash with each other.

  • For instance, the harmony note does not need to change with the melody to maintain a major third interval. It may stay the same until the melody moves to the note that clashes with it.
  • Experiment with the note combination to get a feel for coming up with your harmonies. If the note clashes or sounds bad together, try moving the harmony note to the same number of steps as the melody.

PART 2 :

Continue Practising With The Piano :

  • From kids tunes like “Row Row Row your boat” to contemporary pop hits play basic melodies on your piano and practice the singing along with it. To focus on the hitting to the right notes, hum or sing “La “ instead of singing a song lyrics.
  • A piano or virtual keyboard app can help you visualise the  relationship between notes, which is the foundation of harmonizing.

Listen Closely From Harmonies In Your Favourite Songs :

Now that you know more about creating harmonies, listen closely to your favourite songs. See if you can identify relationships between melodies and harmonies. As you listen, ask yourselves wwhat kind of intervals a harmony employees, if it blends seamlessly with the melody and if there are dissonant or tense note combinations

  • As you listen to a song, work on memorizing the harmony, make things easier and look online for the harmonies- the only tracks of the song.

Practice With A Sing – A- Long Harmony App :

Useful apps include singing harmonies and harmony voices. Download an app, learn a song’s harmony,then practise singing the part you choose along with the melody you play. When you first practise singing the harmony, lower the volume of the melody so you won’t get drawn away from your part.

Refine Your Timing :

  • In addition to a harmony app, it is also wise to practice with  a metronome or a metronome app. Singing a harmony requires precise timing, so you have to work on perfecting your sense of rhythm.

Harmonize With Recordings Of Yourself Singing Melodies :

  • Record a track of yourself by signing a melody, then play it while you are signing the harmony. Gradually increase the volume of the recording each time you practice. This will help you learn how to stay on your part without getting distracted by other singers.
  • Additionally, note any rough spot when you listen to the recordings  of voices sung by you. If necessary, spend extra time practicing those sections of the song to improve your pitch and your timing.

PART 3 :

Practice Singing Chords With 1 To 2 Partners :

  • Using a piano or virtual keyboard app as guide, start by practicing a simple C major chord. For the note C , sing one, sing three, for E and five for G. Sing one together at C, then have one person sing three at E while the other 2 hold the C.
  • Then, have someone sing five at G while the other 2 hold at C and E respectively. After practicing C-E-G, try other combinations such as G-B-D and F-A-C.
  • If you are practicing with 1 other person, just work on two part harmonies.

TIP : Singing the numbers when you practise the Cmajor chord can help you and your friends visualise where the chords notes are in relation to each other. Additionally, humming, singing numbers or using “la” instead of any song lyrics can help you focus on the pitch when you are learning to harmonize.

Learn Your Part Perfectly To Avoid Getting Distracted By Other Singers :

  • Its easy to get distracted by other singers when you are harmonizing. The key to sticking to harmony is to learn your part inside and out. Work measure by measure to commit each of your parts notes to memory.
  • If you are in a choir, don’t rely on others in your section ( such as other altos or baritones)to stay on track. Additionally, don’t assume that you will always be surrounded by other members of your section when you perform.
  • If you have trouble sticking to your part, practice singing with a recording of the melody. Play it softly at first  then gradually increase the volume.

Join A Choir To Put Your Harmonizing Skills To The Test :

  • The best way to learn how to harmonize is to sing with others in a group. Look for a choir or chorus group at your school or place or worship or look online for one in your community.
  • If you are a soprano and want to harmonize better try to join a choir as an alto. Sopranos usually sing the melody while alto, tenor and baritone sections sing harmonies.

Take Lessons From A Voice Teacher :

While apps and other resources can be super helpful, nothing beeps working one on one with an experience voice teacher. In addition to harmonizing, a voice teacher can help you with other singing techniques such as breath control and vocal health. Additionally consider taking classes in music theory to learn more about harmonizing work.

Erwin Cooper

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