Site Search

New Members

Other Resources
News Archive

Search Forums:
This 16 message thread spans 2 pages: [1]  2  > >  
  Help writing harmony  I. E. Leibowitz at 21:11 on 25 November 2006

I've read that there are certain formulas or techniques to creating harmony for a melody, but I couldn't quite make sense of what I was reading. I have very little formal training (meaning 3 30-minute piano lessons) and am not familiar with more than basic musical terms (I have no idea what on Earth a "circle of fifths" or a "tonic" is), but I would really appreciate any help anyone could give me on creating harmony.

  Re: Help writing harmony  James McFadyen at 22:20 on 25 November 2006

Harmony in its most fundamental state is the sounding of 2 superimposed major and/or minor 3rds.

If you consider the C Major scale:


The chord of C is derived from the 1st, 3rd and 5th degrees of the scale, thus: C E G.

If you apply this to the rest of the scale, you get the following chords:

C E G - C major (Chord 1)

D F A - D minor (Chord 2)

E G B - E minor (Chord 3)

F A C - F major (Chord 4)

G B D - G major (Chord 5)

A C E - A minor (Chord 6)

B D F - B dim (Chord 7)

So you could have a chord progression of:

C major | G major | C major | F major |
A minor | F major | G major | C major |

This, of course, is a very crude chord progression and is unlikely to get you a unique signature sound in terms of harmony. But this will at least get you started.

In passing, chord 7 is little used, but can used as a G7 chord, used more often at perfect cadences (chord 5 to 1 at the end of a musical phrase).

Hope this helps a bit.

  Re: Help writing harmony  dunkinwedd at 00:58 on 26 November 2006

Hi there.

There's no substitute for learning about this yourself. This strikes me as useful:

Having said that, don't let the intellectual side of composition get in the way of your writing music. The theories are imposed by critics and analysts AFTER the creative people write the music - not the other way round.

  Re: Help writing harmony  dunkinwedd at 01:11 on 26 November 2006

PS A good book:

Introducing Music by Otto Karolyi - you'll find it at Amazon

  Re: Help writing harmony  I. E. Leibowitz at 01:46 on 26 November 2006

So do I need to generate the scale before I write the song?

  Re: Help writing harmony  James McFadyen at 08:40 on 26 November 2006

Technically, yes.

I think you should stick to the key of C major and thus using the C major scale.

To begin with, use the chord progression I gave you above and compose a melody over it. The main point here is to experiment.

All you really have to do is use the white keys on the piano (or keyboard) and you'll be ok.

You can use the little chord chard I also put for the chords in the C major scale. So once you get to the G major chord in the progression, look at the chart and you'll see that the notes G B and D are the notes you can use in that chord.

Again, this is the very basics of the very basics but I hope I'm explaining it in a way you can relate to and understand.

  Re: Help writing harmony  The Piano King at 19:50 on 02 December 2006

James McFadyen you have great wisdom when it comes to harmony and theory.
But you do not actually need to generate any scale to find out harmony in the bass just melody. But the chord proggession you explained was briliant. Have you been playing piano for years because it seems like it. Usually what I do to find harmony is to sit at the piano and play the melody because i always write melody first then bass. And as i go along use some of the major and minor triads even sometimes deminished.
Tip never usechords that are a jump a way from each other. Meaning if you are playing a c major triad in low c dont play a g major below that c because it is to much jumping of the bass and it sometimes does not sound good. Also whenever you are writting a song also make sure to have a genre

  Re: Help writing harmony  James McFadyen at 08:09 on 03 December 2006

It is true about this 'jumping' thing, but I think all beginners need to write this type of music first.

Learning how to compose diatonically gives beginners the basics of all harmony. When this is mastered, more exotic harmony and harmonic structures can be used.

  Re: Help writing harmony  The Piano King at 04:28 on 10 December 2006

You are sort of right but some beginners do not have that coordination to jump from one place to another and must learn to play without jumping but if you are a classically trained pianist and composer you must learn first not to jump JUMPING COMES LATER!!!!! but if you are the teacher i guess that is what you want

  Re: Help writing harmony  I. E. Leibowitz at 05:39 on 10 December 2006

Thanks for all of the replies. What I meant when I spoke of formulas was that I'd read something about how the bass chord would have some sort of tonal relation to the melodic chord.

As for jumping, I've written this one song during part of which you're doing some G-A-D triplets with an A octave as bass, and then there's a jump down to D and then back up to A again in a 16th-Quarter note duration.

  Re: Help writing harmony  James McFadyen at 00:46 on 11 December 2006

PianoKing, with the greatest of respect, I notice you are 12 years old. I am slightly more than twice your age and a musical output that spans Orchestral, Band and ensemble music. Published at 18 but set up my own publishing company in 2002.

In relation to 'jumping', which is a rather crude terms, what you mean to say is always using the root chords. That is to say writing the bass note then the 3rd then the 5th in that order. I suggest that all beginners learn to work this way first, then when this has been mastered, you can use inversions. I will detail these now (in C major):

Root Chord - C | E | G
1st Inversion - | E | G | C
2nd Inversion - | G | C | E

The first note being the 'bass' note, of course.

The problem thereafter is not to compose to pianistically, unless of course you are composing for Piano. The last thing you want to be aiming for is a series of sustained chord with a melody on top.

Learn to that first, though, but do try to step away from the Piano and try and write by ear from time to time if you can.

If it helps, there are a few of my handwritten original scores on my website (only one page of the score) at:

  Re: Help writing harmony  I. E. Leibowitz at 07:42 on 11 December 2006

"The last thing you want to be aiming for is a series of sustained chord with a melody on top."

What exactly do you mean by this?

  Re: Help writing harmony  James McFadyen at 09:12 on 11 December 2006

Did you look at my scores on my website?

Did you notice the lines of counterpoint? It wasn't just sustained notes with a melody written over.

What I mean by this is holding a chord down on the right hand and playing a tune on the right.

As you are a beginner, this is how you should start anyway but you should quickly try and go beyond this and write more harmonic/melodic lines.

Hope this helps.

  Writing a bass line was Re: Help writing harmony  nappy501 at 13:36 on 11 June 2009

Hi Everyone,

I can't see how to start a new thread. I am hoping someone is able to help.

I have two daughters. The eldest plays violin and is working towards grade 4. The youngest has just started playing the clarinet.

They are working towards a children's cabaret performance of The Circle of Life from the Lion King.

They will sing the whole thing apart from the instrumental in the middle, which is just 8 bars.

The eldest has written the melody line of the instrumental. I would like the youngest to play a very simple accompaniment. So I think this would be one or two notes per bar.

The youngest plays a B flat clarinet and has learned the first 5 notes of C major. We could transpose the melody into B flat major for the violin part.

I just have no idea how to write the notes. You have several notes in a bar how do you know which one to play as the bass. I have played a little guitar and I know it is possible, because they write chords above music and it is normally only one chord per bar.

Any help gratefully received.

Thank you.

  Re: Help writing harmony  nickscott at 15:59 on 29 June 2009

Guitar Tab (notated chords) of the Circle of Life is available on the internet. That will tell you not only what chords to play and when, but also how, though you may need to transpose it into B-flat. Guitar TAB is one form of notation, separate from the western staff notation used for most western classical instruments.

As for knowing which note to play in the bass, the Guitar Tab may help, but failing that, either buy the piano sheet music (which will have the bass part) if you can read music, or use your ear.

Asking what notation means is a question which needs a big answer, far bigger than I could give you here, as I don't know how much or little you know. (see Wikipedia's Modern Musical Notation article).

Here's a brief introduction, which should help:

Any more than that and you might need to buy a theory book. A good start is "The AB Guide to Music Theory" (available at Amazon for less than a fiver).

Best of luck.

This 16 message thread spans 2 pages: [1]  2  > >