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Harmonizing A Melody


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Hey everyone :)

So I have a nice melody and I am trying to come up with some chords/rythm that work with it. But everywhere I read on harmonizing a melody just says the same thing; simply change to a chord so the melody note lands on either the 1st, 3rd or 5th of the chord.

However just doing this all the time sounds rather bland I would like to start experimenting with other chords, but i don't really know where to start.

I thought it would be a good idea to just think of the melody notes that don't land on a tone in a triad as extensions. So if the melody lands on a D, I can play a C major chord and think of that as a CMaj 9 (without the 7th) But of couse there are many chord extensions and I find myself taking forever to choose a chord. When I want a chord change I will go through all the chords on a piano so that the melody note will either be the 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th, 11th or 13th of the chord, and just test them out. I have absolutley no idea how I would make the decision of which chord to use if I was away from a piano.

So yeah, how do you guys decide which chord to use (if it's one where the melody note isn't the 1st, 3rd or 5th)?

Thanks for your time :)

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I just harmonised three melodies I came up with just for the purpose of showing you how I usually harmonise a melody where I let counterpoint show me the way. The first two examples are written that way while the third is loosely based on the first as far as the bass is concerned whereas the other voices move more freely. You will still notice however that the voices are not jumping up down, but rather move mostly diatonically. Of course, the voice movement depends a lot on what character you want a piece to have. Also, in the third example I worked vertically adding all the voices at the same time starting with the bass. It is always good to start with the bass making an interesting bass line which will guide you regarding the harmony. Using 7ths, 9ths, 11ths depends a lot on the style your piece has. If it is a piece written in the Baroque style 9ths and 11ths will not be used often for example...

Example 1

Example 2

Example 3

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You need to try and hear what the melody is doing functionally, and choose an appropriate chord that fits that function.

So the best thing to do do would be to learn/recognize the sounds of all the chords so I could just think to myself "hmm...it would sound good for this part if there is a Maj 9 chord and the melody plays the 7th"? Damn that's gonna take forever.

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