Kirk Lorange

Harmony Study

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The TAB, GuitarPro file, midi files and notation that come with this lesson are now only available as part of the "Fingerstyle Lesson Pack" Details here.
Melody, harmony, chords ... they're all the same thing really. Once you create a simple melody line, you then have the option of harmonizing that line, which means playing another melody at the same time so that now you get two notes ringing out together. You can then add another melody line to the first two, creating 'three-part' harmony. By adding harmony lines, you also define the chord structure of the piece, although in reality, most music these days starts with the chord progression, so it is known right from the beginning.

Most harmony lines are parallel, meaning that they follow the original melody line's ups and downs precisely, but they don't have to be that way. So long as the notes selected are part of the chord which underlies the moment, all will be well. This week's lesson is an example of parallel harmony, and I've used a familiar chord progression as backdrop.

We're in the key of A minor. I'll refrain from posting the Roman numerals because minor keys are less easily deciphered using them ... they're more confusing than helpful. Minor keys can have different forms of IV and V chords (this tune has two different iv chords, a D and a D minor) so it's more difficult to say what's related and what's not.

I didn't add the chord diagrams in the TAB because most of this lesson moves out of the shapes, but it's always a good idea to keep in mind the chord shapes at all times. Even when I move up the neck for some of the harmony lines, the double stops I use are locked into the chord shapes up the neck. The only way I know of to keep on track with anything I play is to keep the 'chord of the moment', in all its shapes and positions, firmly in mind ... which of course is the subject of my book PlaneTalk. It describes the easiest and surest way of doing that. Once you master that, you need never get lost again, the whole fretboard will always be familiar and usable, no matter where you wind up.

I use 'thirds' for just about all of this. A 'third' is a way of describing distance between two notes and it refers to the notes of the scale. It means 'use not the next note in the scale, but the next one after that', so the scale note 'three away' from where I am now ... I'm trying to be as plain English as possible here ... simple enough in concept, but because the scale itself is irregular, the distance in frets will not always be the same. On a guitar, thirds are accessible on the adjacent string, and you'll see in this lesson that it breaks down into basically two different finger configurations. The tab will make that clear, but again, rather than just memorize the part, try to see how the notes fit into the chord shapes as they move around the fingerboard.

If I were to add the next harmony line to these two, I would use the 'third above' which in fact is the fifth above the original line. If you've been following these lessons for a while, you will know that 1-3-5 equals chords, so by adding two harmony lines in thirds, we wind up with a series of chords ... the chord progression. As I say though, most writers start with the progression and extract the melody from it, rather than the other way around.

Scale clock, showing how the notes of the scale are better seen as being laid out in a circle.You'll see in the movie that the picking fingers work in unison to grab these harmony notes. It's like they're glued together. The thumb does its usual bass line pluck, nothing complicated there.

I kept the line moving up and building, and when I finally hit the E7 at the end, I switch to playing 'sixths'. Sixths are in fact thirds, but back to front. Instead of using the third above, I use the same note, but in the octave below. It all makes perfect sense if you think of the scale notes not in a line but in a closed circle as per the diagram.<br>scaleclock.gifYou can either go up three (counting the first note as 1) or down six. You wind up at the same note ... music doesn't care which octave the note comes from; the rules apply to any.

You're going to love playing this once you've locked it all in. It's easy to inject 'feel' into this ... you'll see how I've toyed with the dynamics in my version, slowing a little here, speeding up a little there; increasing and decreasing the volume ... subtle stuff, but effective light and shade.


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