Harmonize Your Solos

by Will Landrum

One of the most powerful ways you can spice up your tunes whether you're recording or playing live is to harmonize your leads and melodies.

When you're ready to sink your teeth into this creative approach, you'll have taken a giant step toward musical maturity.

Harmonization is actually an easy concept. What will take a little work and time is, and I've said this on numerous occasions in the past, you must know in what key or mode you're playing and you need to know your modal scale patterns and positions in order to exercise your creativity.

I've taken harmonization from one end of the spectrum to the other on my debut CD. From simple diatonic harmony (which I'll show you today) to two distinct melodies raging simultaneously on each side of your stereo.

The basics of harmonizing begin with taking your lick or melody and adding notes to it that are a diatonic third above.

Here's what I mean. Let's say your lick goes like this:

Need help reading tablature?

Tablature

E --8--7--5-----------------------------------------
B -----------5--6--5--------------------------------
G --------------------------------------------------
D --------------------------------------------------
A --------------------------------------------------
E --------------------------------------------------

A third above this would be:

E --12--10--8---------------------------------------
B -------------8--10--8-----------------------------
G --------------------------------------------------
D --------------------------------------------------
A --------------------------------------------------
E --------------------------------------------------

Now either record the first lick on your recorder and play along with it using the second lick;

or

play this to hear the harmonization. These are the same notes but in a different position to make solo playing easier.


E --12--10---8--3--5--3-----------------------------
B --13--12--10--5--6--5-----------------------------
G --------------------------------------------------
D --------------------------------------------------
A --------------------------------------------------
E --------------------------------------------------

Now give a listen to my tune "Mainstay" and hear how I used harmonization to enhance the chorus melody. Makes it sound a lot bigger huh?

Ok, let's take another look at harmonizing with thirds. A third is a step interval between the notes of a scale. Obviously there are other intervals too like seconds, fourths, fifths, and so on. You determine the interval by counting the notes starting with the one you want harmonized.

For example, the G major scale is G, A, B, C, D, E, F#. We find that a third above the G is B by counting... G is one, A is two and B is three.

Imagine if you have a lick that is comprised of the notes above like A, C, F#, C, F#, G. Without even picking up your guitar, you can harmonize this with thirds and know it will sound ok. The result would be:

Melody   A C F# C F# G
Harmony  C E A  E A  B

or in tablature:

E --------5-----5--7--------------------------------
B -----5--7--5--7--8--------------------------------
G --5--5-----5--------------------------------------
D --7-----------------------------------------------
A --------------------------------------------------
E --------------------------------------------------

Now imagine if you have all of the modal scales memorized. It makes it that much easier to figure out your note sequences AND you know it's going to sound correct.

Of course, harmonizing with thirds is only the first step. Now that you understand the concept of harmonization, you can experiment with different intervals.

What makes harmony so strong and powerful is finding the best notes to compliment your melody. That may be a combination of thirds, fourths, sevenths and ninths. You just need to explore the possibilities based on what you learned here today!

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