23. Hamonize & reharmonize
For several episodes we've seen different types of chords and how to use them, where by taking some chords from one tonality or by borrowing chords from other tonalities to make great chord progressions.
But you don't always start a song with the chords progression. Sometimes you start with a melody and you just want great chords to support it. So today I'd like to take some time to talk about strategies and things to keep in mind while harmonising or reharmonising a melody
BEATS & BOBS
So in this video, we'll try to take a bit of everything we saw in this series, and apply it to harmonize a melody.
To make it easier, a few months ago, I've made a document gathering a lot of useful information we've seen. I also made a video summing everything up, explaining how that document works. I'll leave a link to the pdf files and the video down below in the description.
Just before we begin I'd like to thank my good friend ebde for helping me write the examples for the harmonization in this episode. If you like hip hop on trippy electronic beat, he produced an ep with an amazing mc under the name of otter and snake.
Their ep should be released on the 22nd of September, the link is in the description, go check it out.
So let's begin.
So let's say the melody we want to harmonize is this one.
The first step would be to find the tonality it could be in. So we would have a set of chords to start with.
FINDING THE TONALITY
melodie : d, a, a, f, g, f, e, d. d, bb, bb, c#, bb, a, g, f, e, D
So if we check the notes of the melody, we have c#, D, e, F, G, a and Bb. So we have 7 different notes already. Which is good, that means we may already have all the notes of the scale we're going to use.
And to find this scale, we're going to use the circle of fifth. I'll leave a link in the description to the episode that talks about the circle of fifth, in case you need to refresh your memories on how it works.
So we have one flat note, which is B. And we have one sharp note, which is C.
If we look at the minor and major tonalities around the circle of fifth, on the flat side, we have a tonality here with one flat note that is Bb, because that's the first note to become flat. On the sharp side however, the first to become sharp is F, and we know our F is natural in our scale.
So the F major scale and the D natural minor scales look like better contestants.
The problem is in this scale, the C is natural and not sharp.
Now if we look back at our melody, we notice that it begins and end on a D. Which is a good clue that the D has a central role in our scale.
And in the D natural minor scale, the 7th note, C, can be raised by a semi tone, so the scale becomes the D harmonic minor scale.
If you want more details on the harmonic and melodic minor scales, I'll leave a link in the description. It's the one that talks about the dominant 7th chord.
So the D harmonic minor scale is the scale we were looking for, which means our tonality is D minor.
You could use the chord that have the same name than your tonality throughout all the piece. It is really not the best, but for example, a chord of G major for a tonality of G major, or here,a D minor chord for a tonality of D minor.
In theory that could work, to play a whole scale on its first degree, but it's really not the best as using only one chord would really lack some movement, and some notes in the melody can still clash with the chord, like this C# that is very close to this D here.
HARMONISING A 3RD OR 6TH BELOW OR ABOVE
You could also begin to harmonize your melody by doubling it a 3rd above or below. So that's copying you whole melody, and transposing it 2 steps above or 2 steps below, making sure you're still using the notes of your scale.
Or you could double it a 6th above or below, so that copying the melody and transposing it 5 steps above or below, making sure you're still using the notes of your scale.
This can be a good way to start a harmonization, but, as is, it doesn't give much information on the harmonic structure, the actual chords that are used. So it may still not be the best.
Though, this type of harmonisation can often go well with a pedal point on either the tonic of the tonality, or on its 5th. A pedal point is when a note is held at the bass.
LISTING THE AVAILABLE CHORDS
Now the best way to harmonize a melody would be to create a clear chain of chords, that could fit the notes of the melody. So the notes of the melody must be part of the chords that support them. From there, you'd know which notes are available at every point of our song, so you can write arpeggios, or counter melody, or anything supporting the melody.
There are always several chord progressions possible for each melody, so it's more a matter of finding one that works and that you like. The best way to start would be to define which chords we can use in the tonality we have. We have already determined that we were in the tonality of D minor, so let's list the chords we can use with it.
To know how to find all the chords that fit in a tonality, you can check the episode about triads, for which I'll leave a link in the description as well.
But basically, you take the notes of your scale, pick a note you want to build a chord from, then follow the notes of the scale, and keep one every two.
When you keep 3 notes, you already have a chord you can use, and you can build a chord from each note of the scale.
So in D minor, the Ist degree, the chord made from the first note of the scale, is Dm. The IInd degree is E diminished. The IIIrd degree is F major. The IVth degree is G minor. The Vth degree is A minor, but it can also be A major, that's when the C becomes C#. Or you can use a A dominant 7th on this degree. Then the VIth degree is Bb major. And the VIIth degree is C major.
From there, you can start assigning chords to some parts of your melody. The notes of your melody being either the root note, the 3rd or the 5th of the chord you use below it.
But while doing so, keep in mind what we saw in the episode about cadences. I'll leave a link in the description.
To sum it up very quickly, cadences are short chord progression that can have different functions.
A progression from the Vth degree to the Ist degree, or from a IVth degree to the Ist degree wil reinforce the tonality you're in. It is good to imply stability in your chord progression.
The Vth degree always want to go toward a Ist degree. Especially if the Vth degree is made into a major or a dominant 7th chord. So you could prepare a Vth degree, than go to another degree that the I, to create a sense of evasion.
A full conclusive cadence goes from a IInd degree, to a Vth degree, to a Ist degree.
So if for example you do II - V and then VI, the sense of evasion would be even bigger there.
EACH NOTE IS PART OF THE CHORD YOU BUILD, ROOT, 3RD OR 5TH
So let's see how these chords could fit our melody.
In the first bar, we have the notes D, F and A, which are the notes of a D minor chord. So let's begin with that.
Then we have G, F and E. We can decide to neglect the F because it is on a weak beat, so it would be just a passing tone between the G and the E.
The G and the E can the root and the 3rd of a E chord, or they can be the 3rd and the 5th of a C chord.
But here I decided to consider them as the 5th and the 7th of a A dominant 7th chord., by adding the root note A and the major 3rd C#. It's a chord that can be used on a Vth degree, and that resolves well on a degree I.
And sure enough we have a D at the end of this bar, so we can lend on a D minor chord.
Having this I - V - I chord progression can really accentuate the tonality of D minor, with this authentic cadence V to I that is very conclusive. It's a good way to establish our tonality.
Then we have a D and a Bb, which can be considered as the root note and the 3rd of a Bb major chord.
And the last bar starts on a C#, which is the 7th note of our scale that is raised by a semi-tone. And this alteration is often seen in a minor tonality on the Vth degree, when this chord that is normally minor becomes major.
So let's put a A dominant 7th here, so we have in this bar the root note A, the major 3rd C#, the 5th E at the end and even the 7th G.
This is a good example to show that you don't always need to harmonize every note of your melody, especially when they move stepwise from one to the other.
So this F can be considered as a passing tone between the G and the E, And this Bb that is on a weak beat, can be considered as an appoggiatura of some sort.
If you need to refresh your memories about the appogiatura, passing tones or neighbour tones, you'll find down below in the description a link to the episode about embellishing tones.
So for this first example, we have the chord progression Dm - A7, Dm - Gm - A7
With these 2 authentic cadences A7 to Dm, that's a very tonal chord progression that really establish the tonality of Dm.
But as I said earlier, there are always several ways to harmonize the same melody. So here is another example of how we could harmonize it.
Dm, F - C - Gm, Bb - A7
We still have the Dm at the beginning, the A7 at the end and a Gm in the middle.
But the first chord is cut in half, so the last F of the first bar is now part of a F major chord.
the second bar is replaced by a C major chord, based on the E and the G in the melody that are then the 3rd and the 5th of the chord.
And in the third bar, the last note Bb becomes part of a Bb major chord.
HARMONY RHYTHM IS IMPORTANT
When you are harmonizing your melody, also keep in mind the rhythm with which the chords of your harmony change. That's called the harmonic rhythm.
And changing chords faster or slower can really change the feel of a song.
Here is an example of the same melody, harmonized with a lot more chord changes. I'll write on screen the name for each chord, their function and the role of the melody notes in each chord.
example 1: Dm, F - Bb, A7, Dm - Bb, Gm, Edim - A
And just for some variety, here is a last example.
example 2: Dm, F - C, Bb - Gm, Bb - A7, A
CONSIDERING A MELODY NOTE LIKE AN EXTENSION OF A CHORD
Now you can consider the notes of the melody like the root note, the 3rd or the 5th of the chord that support it, but they could also be the extensions of a chord, like a 7th or a 9th.
For example, at the end of the first bar, we have a A and a F. And I liked the change from a D minor to a Bb major there. But the A was not part of the chord Bb major.
Yet, this is not a problem as this A can be considered as the major 7th in the Bb major chord. That would turn this Bb major chord into a Bb major 7th chord, so it's okay.
example : Dm, BbM7 - Edim, Dm - Gm, Edim - A
BUILDING A CHORD PROGRESSION WITH EXTENSIONS (7th & 9th)
From the same principle, we could try to harmonize everything using extended chords like 7th and 9th chords. So that would open up a lot more possibilities.
In the first bar, if we put a Bb major 7th chord, the D become the 3rd of the chord, the A becomes the 7th and the F becomes the 5th
In the second bar we have a F major, so in the melody, the E becoes the 7th and the G becomes the 9th, so the chord becomes a FM9.
Followed by a Dm7 chord. Because we have a D in the melody and it's good to lend on the Ist degree, but we can still keep the flaavour of a 7th chord.
In the third bar we have D and a Bb, that I decided to consider like the 9th and the 7th of a C# half diminished 7th minor 9th chord, which is from the scale of D harmonic minor, with the C#.
And in the last bar, I turned the A dominant 7th chord we had before into a A dominant 9th by keeping this Bb from the previous chord.
Then I doubled some notes of the melody a 3rd below, by using notes that were already in the chord progression. I just liked how it souded.
exemple : BbM7 - FM9, Dm7 - C#o7m9 - A9, A7
USING SECONDARY DOMINANTS
From there we can go even further by using non-diatonic chords. Chords that or not from the tonality we are in.
You can do that by borrowing a chord from another tonality or by substituting a chord for another one.
We saw several ways to do that in the episodes about borrowing and substitutions, for which I will also leave a link in the description.
But for the example I will focus on the secondary dominants.
A secondary dominant is when you take any chord in your progression, and for a moment you consider it like the Ist degree of its own tonality. So just before you can put the Vth degree of that chord to prepare it. This chord you put before is in the tonality of the next chord, but not necessarily in the tonality of the rest of the song. that's the secondary dominant.
So here is how I harmonized this melody.
In the first bar we still have the notes D, F and A which are the notes of a Dm chord, so I've put a Dm7 chord for the flavour.
And in the third bar we have a D and a Bb, which I considered like the 3rd and the 5th of a Gm7 chord.
So to introduce a secondary dominant, we can consider this Gm as a Ist degree for a moment. So just before it I could put the Vth degree of the Gm scale, which is D major, or even D dominant 7. Which can work on this D in the melody.
There's also one way you could extend this secondary dominant. A secondary dominant utilises the tension of an authentic cadence, the tension of a Vth degree that wants to go to its Ist degree.
And it's a common practice to prepare this authentic cadence by puting a chord of the IInd degree in front of that cadence. So the full authentic cadence would be II - V - I.
Well in the context of a secondary dominant, you can also do that. You can put the IInd degree of the chord you want to go to before the V. That would make 2 chords that would not be necessarily in the tonality of the whole song. That's something that is used a lot in Jazz.
Here for exemple, we could use a A° chord befor the D7, because it would be the IInd degree of the Gm tonality.
Problem is the A diminished chord is made of the notes A, C and Eb, and we already have a E natural in the melody.
Because I didn't want to alter the original melody, I used a A dominant 7 chord instead, which is in the tonality of our song.
Here something interesting happens. we begin with a Dm that establish the tonality.
Then we have a A dominant 7th chord that confirms that tonality and create a tension that wants to go back to a Dm chord. But instead we land on a D dominant 7th chord.
It's still a D chord so it's ok, but the D dominant 7th chord creates another tension that wants to be resolved by a G chord, which is the chord we're going to.
Then, to finish the chord progression, on this C#, I built a chord of C dominant 7b9, because I didn't consider that as a C# but as a Db.
So the C is the root note, E is the major 3rd, G is the 5th, Bb is the minor 7th, and the Db in the melody is the minor 9th.
We saw this C7b9 chord in the episode about 9th chords, and it is again often used on a Vth degree to land on a Ist degree. So as C is the fifth of F, I've put a F major chord after, which utilises the notes from the melody that are on the down beats.
Then, just because I was in this kind of gimmick, I've put a BbM7 chord to begin the next loop, because F is the fifthh of Bb. So the chord progression would go down a fifth from D to G, then down a fifth from G to C, then again from C to F, then from F to Bb. So it's like going down in the circle of fifth.
Here is how it sounds like.
Dm7 - AM7, D7 - Gm7 - C7b9, F
BbM7 - Edim, BbM7 - Dm7 - A9)
EXTEND THIS PRINCIPLE TO OTHER CONCEPTS WE SAW:
We saw an example of non-diatonic chords with the secondary dominants, but you can also harmonise your melodies using all the chords and cadences we saw in the episode about borrowings and substitutions and in the episodes about special chords, like:
- Parallel chords
- Altered Vth chords
- Tritone substitution
- Faurean Cadence
- Napolitan 6th
- Picardy 3rd
- Faurean cadence
- sus4 and sus2 chords
- or even the andalusian cadence
I won't do an example for each of them now, as I think it would get very redondant at this point, and this video is already getting a bit longer than expected.
But I hope this video was clear enough or that it gave you some ideas for your next songs.
If you want to see more in detail how all these chords work, you can check out my playlist "music theory in 5 minutes", everything is in there.
If you found it useful, consider sharing it to a friend.
In the meantime, thank you very much for watching, and I'll see you next time!