Welcome!
Just a few a ground rules first...

Promotion, advertising and link building is not permitted.

If you are keen to learn, get to grips with something with the willing help of one of the net's original musician forums
or possess a genuine willingness to contribute knowledge - you've come to the right place!

Register >

- Close -
Results 1 to 9 of 9

Thread: Which chord to use?

  1. #1
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Posts
    295

    Which chord to use?

    Hey guys, when I have a melody and I wan't add chords over it I'll use a chord that has notes in common with the melody and the measure, Is this correct? Is this harmony? Thanks!

  2. #2
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Posts
    651
    Quote Originally Posted by Mikeman9412@gma
    Is this harmony?
    You'd call what you're doing "harmonizing the melody".

  3. #3
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Posts
    295
    So what are you doing when you have like someone play a 4th above what your playing? Thanks!

  4. #4
    chewing bubble gum Chim_Chim's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Posts
    608
    Harmony would be two or more notes sounding together at the same time.

    Harmonies can be either consonant(the notes blend together well), or dissonant(the notes bleed over eachother and clash with eachother).

    Consonance sounds harmonious,dissonance sounds un-harmonious.

    Both of your earlier posts would be examples of harmonizing. It's up to you to determine if it sounds too sweet or too sour for your liking.
    Some days I seem to do OK. Other days I feel like just shoving an M-80 right up my guitar's butt.

  5. #5
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Location
    Twickenham, UK
    Posts
    4,959
    Quote Originally Posted by Mikeman9412@gma
    So what are you doing when you have like someone play a 4th above what your playing? Thanks!
    When you add a harmonised line above your melody, you create what is known classically as a "descant". This can end up dominating the music, because we normally hear the top part of a harmony as the lead voice.
    If that's a problem, it could be avoided by reducing the volume of the upper line, or by making it simpler than the main melody (fewer notes, less movement).

    Harmonising a line with chords is really a way of adding 2 or 3 (or more) melody lines below a tune, using prefabricated blocks (that's what chords are: preset harmonic modules).
    If you change chords (say) every 4 beats, then that just means that your harmonised lines are all composed of whole notes.

    This kind of music (the kind we're most familiar with today) is called "homophony".
    Other kinds are:
    "polyphony" - 2 or more melodies happening together (the earliest kind of developed western harmony, in the late medieval period; a more complicated notion than the modern technical term "polyphonic" which just means "more than one note at the same time");
    "monophony" - single melody, unharmonised; sung or played in unison or octaves (as in unaccompanied folk singing)
    "heterophony" - one melody, with variations played simultaneously (as in some Eastern music)

    It's pretty easy to use chords as a way of harmonising a melody. If the chords stay more or less in the same key as the tune, it doesn't matter too much if some melody notes clash with the chords, because that will just be a passing tension, and the whole thing will hang together OK. A chord sequence can kind of have a life of its own separate from a melody (many songs use the same chord sequences).
    But it's always worthwhile trying to construct at least one other melodic line harmonising with a tune. The bass line is a good choice, so you have melodies at the top and bottom of your piece - where they are clearest - with the chords adding simpler harmonies (maybe only one additional note) in between.

    IOW, don't always take chords at face value, as fixed things:
    Look at the possibility of inversions (3rd or 5th on the bottom), as a way of getting a bass line moving. Or (the opposite view!) try using the same bass note across a group of chords ("pedal" bass).
    Look at adding notes (as you did with your F# on the Am, and G on the D ) or omitting notes - not to make individual chords more interesting, but to make the moves between chords smoother or more interesting.
    Sometimes, simple moves between root position triads are fine - don't overcomplicate things! - but other times you need to "melt" those solid chords a bit; blur the boundaries between them; eg, take a note from a previous chord and add it to the next, or vice versa.

    It doesn't matter what these things are called, only how they sound! Don't get distracted with theoretical questions. The great songwriters never did...

    You can get inspiration and ideas for all these kind of things by studying great pop music of the past. (Everyone always cites the Beatles , but they remain an incredible source of all kinds of neat ideas about chord usage, bass lines, harmonies, etc. Compared to much modern rock and pop, their songs are very understated, but often highly sophisticated at the same time.)

  6. #6
    Registered User Malcolm's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Location
    Deep East Texas Piney Woods
    Posts
    3,145
    Quote Originally Posted by Mikeman9412@gma
    So what are you doing when you have like someone play a 4th above what your playing? Thanks!
    I think the answer to your question is you are asking someone to play in another voice. How that is accomplished can take several routs.

    If you have several guitars all playing open string chords it tends to get muddy so you would ask one of them to play in another voice, perhaps not a 4th above, but something as simple as playing using 6th, aka G6, C6, etc. Or capo into another voice, I use the capo to give that other voice for some ballads and slow waltz tunes. Do a Google on Cut capo. Love the sound of a cut capo at the 4th fret playing normal fingering for songs in the key of C. Banjo was mentioned. Capo into another voice - same key, just another voice - if you capo above the 5th fret you get a mandolin sound, thus another voice.
    Last edited by Malcolm; 09-23-2009 at 11:37 AM.

  7. #7
    Registered User JonR's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Location
    Twickenham, UK
    Posts
    4,959
    Just some extra comments:

    Don't overthink harmony. Listen closely to all the possible choices and don't concern yourself with what it might "mean" theoretically. (You think the Everlys, Beach Boys or Beatles worried about that sort of thing? Or any of the trad folk harmonising traditions? They just sang till it sounded right.)

    If you start with a tune, and want to add chords: keep them as simple and straightforward as possible to begin with. Every note in a melody (if it stays in key) can be harmonised with one of the 3 major chords (I-IV-V). If any of them don't quite sound right to you, then try each of the minors in turn (ii, vi, iii).
    Don't change chords too much or too often. Often a melody can stay on the same chord for several bars, moving in and out of the chord tones. Change chord only when the melody demands it.
    Remember the main rule: the melody rules. The chords should never distract attention from it, only support it and enhance it.

    If you start with a tune, and want to add just a second harmony line: sing it. Don't worry about specific intervals, just find a line that sounds OK with the first line, and also makes a good tune in itself - i.e. don't jump around too much.
    (Theory can help here, in that it will usually sound best if the harmony line uses the same key scale as the melody. So you need to know what that is.)
    Don't be afraid to make a harmony line move in the opposite direction from the melody line, or have a different rhythm (eg long held notes).
    It can have a life of its own - up to a point: think about how the second line supports the first - don't let it dominate, unless that feels right. (Maybe the harmony line will end up better than the first one! Great, you have a new melody...)
    If the second line is a bass line, try and move it in scale steps, or just repeat the same note and see how that sounds. (Bass lines CAN jump around - going up or down 5ths or 4ths, or even octaves - but, as with chords, don't let them distract from the melody.)

    If you start with a chord sequence, and want to compose a melody (or solo) for it: sing first. Sing notes that seem to fit the chords. Sometimes you can hear melodies in your head that the chords suggest. Sometimes you can "tease out" melodies from chords, by experimenting with adding or omitting notes. But a great melody is always one that you can sing, not one that's only playable on an instrument.

    There's nothing wrong with dissonance! It's very difficult to make a harmony (single line or chords) entirely consonant all the way - and that will probably sound dull anyway. Occasional dissonances spice up a harmony.
    Eg, here's the classic harmony of the opening line of the Beatles' "Please Please Me":
    Code:
     E                                A       E
    -0-----0---0--0-----0-----0---0-|-0-------0---------
    -5-----4---2--0-----2-----0-----|-2---4-2-0--------
    ------------------------------1-|------------------
    --------------------------------|-----------------
    --------------------------------|-----------------
    --------------------------------|------------------
    Last night I said these words to my----- girl
    Paul held that top E while John sang the lower line. Notice that minor 2nd (D#-E) on "night"! That's a real acid dissonance, but it was part of the Beatles style (probably copied from the Everly Bros' close harmonies).
    Also notice how simple it is in practice. One guy sings the tune (lower line, running down the scale); the other guy just holds one note. Works great, has real impact. No fancy going up in 3rds, or whatever. Also, holding one note for the upper harmony means you still hear the lower line as the melody. They didn't concern themselves with whether that minor 2nd was "OK" theoretically. (Paul could easily have gone up a note on that word if they'd been worried about it. Obviousy they weren't.)
    Last edited by JonR; 09-23-2009 at 12:07 PM.

  8. #8
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    Liverpool England
    Posts
    72
    Quote Originally Posted by JonR
    Just some extra comments:

    Don't overthink harmony. Listen closely to all the possible choices and don't concern yourself with what it might "mean" theoretically. (You think the Everlys, Beach Boys or Beatles worried about that sort of thing? Or any of the trad folk harmonising traditions? They just sang till it sounded right.)

    If you start with a tune, and want to add chords: keep them as simple and straightforward as possible to begin with. Every note in a melody (if it stays in key) can be harmonised with one of the 3 major chords (I-IV-V). If any of them don't quite sound right to you, then try each of the minors in turn (ii, vi, iii).
    Don't change chords too much or too often. Often a melody can stay on the same chord for several bars, moving in and out of the chord tones. Change chord only when the melody demands it.
    Remember the main rule: the melody rules. The chords should never distract attention from it, only support it and enhance it.

    If you start with a tune, and want to add just a second harmony line: sing it. Don't worry about specific intervals, just find a line that sounds OK with the first line, and also makes a good tune in itself - i.e. don't jump around too much.
    (Theory can help here, in that it will usually sound best if the harmony line uses the same key scale as the melody. So you need to know what that is.)
    Don't be afraid to make a harmony line move in the opposite direction from the melody line, or have a different rhythm (eg long held notes).
    It can have a life of its own - up to a point: think about how the second line supports the first - don't let it dominate, unless that feels right. (Maybe the harmony line will end up better than the first one! Great, you have a new melody...)
    If the second line is a bass line, try and move it in scale steps, or just repeat the same note and see how that sounds. (Bass lines CAN jump around - going up or down 5ths or 4ths, or even octaves - but, as with chords, don't let them distract from the melody.)

    If you start with a chord sequence, and want to compose a melody (or solo) for it: sing first. Sing notes that seem to fit the chords. Sometimes you can hear melodies in your head that the chords suggest. Sometimes you can "tease out" melodies from chords, by experimenting with adding or omitting notes. But a great melody is always one that you can sing, not one that's only playable on an instrument.

    There's nothing wrong with dissonance! It's very difficult to make a harmony (single line or chords) entirely consonant all the way - and that will probably sound dull anyway. Occasional dissonances spice up a harmony.
    Eg, here's the classic harmony of the opening line of the Beatles' "Please Please Me":
    Code:
     E A E
    -0-----0---0--0-----0-----0---0-|-0-------0---------
    -5-----4---2--0-----2-----0-----|-2---4-2-0--------
    ------------------------------1-|------------------
    --------------------------------|-----------------
    --------------------------------|-----------------
    --------------------------------|------------------
    Last night I said these words to my----- girl
    Paul held that top E while John sang the lower line. Notice that minor 2nd (D#-E) on "night"! That's a real acid dissonance, but it was part of the Beatles style (probably copied from the Everly Bros' close harmonies).
    Also notice how simple it is in practice. One guy sings the tune (lower line, running down the scale); the other guy just holds one note. Works great, has real impact. No fancy going up in 3rds, or whatever. Also, holding one note for the upper harmony means you still hear the lower line as the melody. They didn't concern themselves with whether that minor 2nd was "OK" theoretically. (Paul could easily have gone up a note on that word if they'd been worried about it. Obviousy they weren't.)
    Great explaination . I do find this kind of explaination makes theory seem so much less complicated. would be good if all music could be taught this way, well for me personally anyway. ie associating the theory to well known songs and bands most of us know and not just twinkle twinkle or the marching saints type songs thanks Jon R. ps I was more than ridiculed at school many years ago while practicing the harmony to this song, ie pauls part, on its own sounds bad and i deserved it.

  9. #9
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Posts
    252
    Quote Originally Posted by Mikeman9412@gma
    So what are you doing when you have like someone play a 4th above what your playing? Thanks!
    Harmonizing improperly, depending on the style. A mix of 4ths,5ths,3rds, and 6ths would probably give you a better second line. Unless you're going for a quartal sound.

    If you're set on always using 4ths in diatonic music, the guy playing the higher note is gonna sound like the root of the chord. You can build your chord progression based on those roots (the 4th higher). This will work until you try to harmonize the 4th degree of the major scale with a 4th higher, here you'd need to use an augmented 4th to stay in key, or just make it a 3rd or 5th.

Similar Threads

  1. Picking/Strumming Progressions
    By No Heart in forum Guitar Technique
    Replies: 8
    Last Post: 04-24-2009, 12:51 PM
  2. Need arp superimposition crash course!
    By Revenant in forum Music Theory
    Replies: 24
    Last Post: 02-28-2009, 12:09 AM
  3. C-a-g-e-d
    By Kinoble in forum Music Theory
    Replies: 43
    Last Post: 06-11-2008, 11:57 AM
  4. Replies: 81
    Last Post: 02-13-2008, 09:57 PM
  5. Creating chords from the notes thats in your key
    By dwest2419 in forum Getting Started
    Replies: 6
    Last Post: 10-20-2007, 12:05 AM

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •