Harmonization is where you take something as simple as a single note, one finger melody, and turn that into a song where you are playing more than one finger at a time. Re-harmonization is where you take an existing song and play it with completely different chords, perhaps for the purpose of giving it a more soulful and contemporary feel.
If you have any music reading knowledge or experience, I am sure that you know that music from a church hymnal that is played as it is written is boring and plain. Have you ever been in a church service where the organist or pianist is reading the music from the hymnal, but you know darn well, that what they are playing, is not what is written in the hymnal, and wondered where is the beautiful music that they are playing coming from? They are re-harmonizing as they play!
The process of re-harmonization is something that you will be able to do almost instantly after you understand the process.
Have you ever listened to a piece of music that you have never heard before, but is being performed by an artist that you are familiar with, and you were immediately able to identify the artist and say “Hey, that’s, Stevie Wonder, or that’s Ray Charles.” You were able to do this because you recognized that artists harmonizations. Musicians tend to have favorite harmonization’s; ones that they tend to use very often. It is the musicians’ harmonization’s, that defines the musician and who they are. It is the harmonization that defines the artists’ style, and gives you the ability to recognize them, even though you may have never heard the song.
The writing of harmony has traditionally been encapsulated in an extensive set of formal rules. However, music so harmonized almost always sounds of a classical nature and the chords and chord movements are somewhat predictable. This is because the harmonization process usually follows the traditional rules of harmony.
Music has long been harmonized manually. That is, whether composers enter the notes or chords into a machine, such as a computer, or write them by hand, they rely on their knowledge of the rules of harmony, or on what they think sounds good to their own ear. It is a tedious process, and it is difficult to comprehend simultaneously all the many rules.
Automated harmonizers have been a feature on electronic pianos and keyboards for many years. There are also hardware and computer software available to aid in the harmonization process; however, the resulting harmonization is always very plain sounding. The resulting chords are usually the traditional major, minor, seventh and diminished chords.
The resulting harmonization almost always sounds of a classical nature, and the chord movements are somewhat predictable. This is because the harmonization process follows the traditional rules of harmony.
In music subsequent to classical, a breaking of the rules is sometimes necessary in order to achieve a particular effect. In following the traditional rules, one will not give a harmonization result that is indicative of the musical genres of soul, black gospel, and R&B.
When we look at the genre of gospel and soul, harmonization of a melody is occurring without reliance on the formal traditional rules of harmony. The traditional rules of harmony are being broken. You are not going to find any formal instruction or written documentation on what is happening here. It is the breaking of the rules that results in that sound and those beautiful chord changes.
There are two issues that you must overcome to get that beautiful sound.
1) Stop playing those simple chords (ex. major. Minor, seventh, dim).
2) Stop following the traditional rules of harmony.
Let us now look at a simple example. We are all familiar with the key of (C). This is the key that has all of the white keys on the piano and consists of the notes (C), (D), (E), (F), (G), (A), (B) and (C).
I am sure you have head many times that when you want to harmonize a song you should use the chords that correspond to the (I), (IV) and (V) of the major scale.
The (I) chord, is the chord that corresponds the 1st note of the scale of the key that the song is in. So, in the (C) scale the 1st note is a (C), so this would correspond to a (C) chord.
The (IV) chord, is the chord that corresponds the 4th note of the scale of the key that the song is in. So, in the (C) scale the 4th note is an (F), so this would correspond to a (F) chord.
The (V) chord, is the chord that corresponds the 5th note of the scale of the key that the song is in. So, in the (C) scale the 5th note is a (G), so this would correspond to a (G) chord.
Therefore, in the key of (C), they are telling you the chords to use are (C), (F) and (G) to harmonize your music. Let me be the one to tell you that is you used these simple chords, you are going to sound boring and plain.
In just about every piece of music you will be able to find a chord movement moving from the (V) chord to the (I) chord. This is known as a (V) – (I) progression. In the key of (C), this would be a (G) chord moving to a (C) chord.
Here is an example of the chord notes that movement:
Chord Name/ Left Hand Notes/ Right Hand Notes
G Major / G / G B D
C Major / C / E G C
Now that sounds pretty boring and plain.
Now let’s make that same movement by breaking some rules.
As one example, the two things that we are going to do are:
1) Replace the simple chords with more advanced chords.
2) Add chords that are not even in the (C) scale in between the (G) and (C) chords.
Here is are new chord movement
Chord Name/ Left Hand Notes/ Right Hand Notes
1. G9sus / G / F A C D
2. G7b9 add 6 / G / F B E Ab
3. Eb 6,9 b5 / Eb / G C F A
4. Db7#9 / Db / F Ab B E
5. C 6,9 / C / E A D G
We replaced the simple (V) (G) major chord with a G9sus, and we replaced the (I) (C) major chord with a C6,9. These are both very beautiful chords. We have also added an additional (V) chord, the G7b9 add 6. Then we broke the traditional rules and inserted chords based on notes that are not even in the (C) scale. There is no (Eb), and there is no (Db) in the (C) scale.
We still have a (V) – (I) progression, from (G) to (C), but we have added some beautiful chord changes in between.
If you told someone that you were going to play chords that were not even in the (C) scale, they would probably look at you like you had two heads and think that would sound terrible. I am sure that you will all agree that the movement above is beautiful. If we wanted to take things a step further, and really sound nice,we could also play some kind of (Gb) and (Ab) chord, even though both of these notes are not in the (C) scale. This is one of they many key undocumented points on getting that ‘sound’; playing chords based on notes that are not in the scale of the song.
In order to get that beautiful sound you are looking for, you are going to have to break the traditional rules of harmony and look at things in a whole new perspective.
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