IS SINGING IN HARMONY SCARY TO YOU?
Learning how to sing in harmony can be intimidating, especially if you don’t read music or play an instrument. There IS a mathematical process to harmony, and of course, the more you know about music math and patterns, or music theory, the more confident you’ll be in your harmony choices.
However, it IS possible to train your ear without having to dive into theory TOO deep. I will try to keep my explanations as brief and simple as possible so that anyone can understand, regardless of your music theory level and experience.
STEP ONE: DO RE MI, 1 2 3, and THE MAJOR SCALE
Start with familiarizing yourself with a “major scale”. You may remember the song “Do-Re-Mi” from The Sound of Music by Rodgers and Hammerstein. In this song, the character Maria, portrayed by Julie Andrews in the 1965 movie musical, teaches a group of children how to sing the pitches of a major scale: Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Ti Do. The purpose of this is to identify where the pitches are, without having to know too much about the notes themselves. In the video, I use solfege (Do Re Mi, etc) and I also demonstrate using numbers in place of Do Re Mi, replacing the solfege with 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 1. Both are great ways to get familiar with the major scale, it’s a matter of what you personally prefer.
Here’s a preview of today’s harmony lesson. It should give you an idea of what this all means:
What makes the scale major? Why does it matter?
Bear with me here… Our goal is to understand where Do (or 1) is, and then which notes are in the scale after Do.
You may have heard someone say, “That song is in the key of E” or a similar statement. The “key” of the song can be changed to accomodate your range and refers to where the Do is, or if you’re using numbers, where the 1 is. If the key is E, then the Do, or the 1, is E. Because the key named “E” and not “E minor”, we know that we are working in a MAJOR scale (not a minor scale–we won’t talk about the minor scale today, we’ll keep it simple and just focus on major).
Not every note on the piano is played in every key. Understanding what scale you are operating in will help you determine which notes you sing/play, and which ones you generally avoid, which means you’ll know which notes will work when you sing in harmony, and which won’t work as well for this particular key.
Are you still with me?
If I’ve lost you, just skip down to the video tutorial and come back to this later.
If you’re still with me, SWEET. Here we go.
To find out what notes we need, or what makes a major scale, we first need to have a look at how we identify the movement of pitches from note to note. We say that pitches move in a series of “half steps”. If you were to move from one pitch (or note) to the very next note higher, you would be moving a “half step” up. If you were to move ANOTHER half step up, you would have moved a “whole step” up from the original note. A major scale means that there is a particular order of half steps and whole steps that dictate which notes are played in that scale.
The patten is:
Whole step, Whole step, Half step, Whole step, Whole step, Whole Step, Half step.
or, easier to read:
W W H W W W H
This means the distance between Do and Re is a WHOLE STEP. The distance between Re and Mi is a WHOLE STEP. The distance between Mi and Fa is a HALF STEP…. and so forth.
With this pattern, I can make a major scale starting on ANY note of the piano. This is called “changing the key”. I am now able to identify which notes make up Do Re Mi, etc.
STEP TWO: MAKE A CHORD WITH DO-MI-SOL & 1-3-5
Identifying the notes Do Re Mi Fa Sol, etc is important because in this lesson, we will learn harmony by using the notes of the scale: Do Mi Sol, and 1 3 5.
There are many ways to create harmony, and many note combinations that work to make beautiful sounds, but in this lesson we will start with these three markers.
Here’s a 6 minute audio only practice track where I track the vocals breaking down each harmony part! Yay more opportunities to train your ear!
"Mary Had A Little Lamb" Harmony Tutorial
For next week’s #TipTuesday, we’ll learn how to find the harmony that’s already written into a song, and then build on it and find a harmony that ISN’T recorded in the track. #riffsrunsimprov month!
March is #RiffsRunsImprov Month!
Week 1: Learn a Tori Kelly run!
Week 3: Harmony Lesson – Part 1 (THAT’S THIS!)
For Weekly #TipTuesday's
If you have any requests for runs or anything else you want to learn, comment below!
MORE HELPFUL INFO!
There are lots of youtube tutorials for how to use Audacity, but track my vocals, I just record the melody on one track, and then (using ear phones) record the harmony on another track.
There are fancier ways to get a better sound and a more consistent results for better recordings, but if you’re just using it to practice like I am, this should work fine for you.
The only tricky issue I’ve had with audacity is that the base download install does not allow you to save your recording as an mp3. You can save it to a .wav file, but those are very large, and if you want to email it, it might be too big. To save to an mp3 in audacity, for windows and mac you’ll need the LAME MP3 encoder.
This tutorial will walk you through how to install this mp3 encoder. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9aL7e6fpCfI
Once you’re all set there, you can now save to an mp3 by selecting “File” in the menu, and then “Export Audio”.