The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #93230   Message #1792365
Posted By: Ferrara
25-Jul-06 - 01:23 AM
Thread Name: Theory of Harmony Singing
Subject: RE: Theory of Harmony Singing
IMO, apart from the ambiguous remark (is it meant personally, or generally?) about "sparing your sanity" there was some excellent advice in Artful Codger's post.

Silver, would you explain more about what you mean by "a correct written form."

I'm assuming you aren't looking for sheet music that has harmonies you can adopt? Rather, it sounds as if you are asking how you could notate harmonies that you want to sing?

You could try to use the conventions of choral music but if you are just trying to make up a harmony cheat sheet to help you work out the harmony, you don't need to be fussy and/or elaborate.

One easy way is to write out the melody line, then just write each harmony note above/below the melody note, on the same vertical line as the melody note. Maybe use a different color ink for each harmony part? To simplify, you could ignore octave differences; each singer will find their own range for the song.

Or you can write parts for your female singers in the treble clef and male voices in the bass clef. Folk music doesn't really use soprano voice most of the time so if you have two female singers just think of them as "melody" and "harmony" and write both in the treble clef. Similarly with tenor, baritone and/or bass.

I think there have been lots of answers to your question about What determines the notes you sing for alto against soprano etc. The link that Peace posted gives an elaborate table that you can use to help fit notes into the proper chords.

Here are some thoughts on your second question, i.e. What is the secret of creating good harmony? Of course there isn't one secret but here are some of my thoughts. I apologize if I'm repeating what some folks have said above but here goes.

First, a good harmony should make you feel good! If after you sing it you think, "Yes! That sounds great!" you are probably on the right track.

Second, to create good harmonies everyone in the group needs to listen. If it's a large group and you're not experienced, you should probably restrict the number of different harmonies. Maybe let one person try a harmony, while the rest listen. Record what you are doing and see where it rings and where it is muddy. Notice the places where the different voices complement each other.

I strongly agree with AC that there needs to be a "horizontal flow of harmony parts." But what does that mean? Well, ideally each contributor is doing more than just hitting notes that are in the current chord and so don't clash with the melody. There is a difference between singing notes that will harmonize and singing a harmony line.

As a kid I learned harmonies to Christmas carols by singing the note printed below the melody note (!). I noticed that this harmony line could be sung on its own and it made sense and resonated with me, it made me feel good even if no one was singing the melody. In a way it was a counter melody although sometimes there were fewer notes in the harmony, or it coincided with the melody for a while.

At some point I started making up harmony lines. I would invent a countermelody that was almost a song in itself -- but it was subordinate to, dependent on, and complementary to the melody. This is really worth trying. It creates harmonies that seem to have a flow of their own. There's nothing wrong with starting out by finding, say, a note that works for each measure, or staying, say, a third above or below the melody for much of a song; but it isn't nearly so beautiful or satisfying as coming up with a flowing harmony line that can really make the song ring.

Well I don't know if this is what you were looking for in any way but I enjoyed writing it, and hope it was worth adding.

Rita F