Does this harmonize?

If popular western music isn't your home-turf but it's where you want to improve, I'd highly recommend learning some basic theory and familiarising yourself with common cadences.

If that means nothing to you, there are very common ways to end a phrase 'naturally' in music. A chorus ending with chord V then chord I has a 'perfect cadence'.
Chord VI to chord I is a plagal cadence (used a lot in christian sacred - sounds like 'AAAA-Men' if that's familiar to you.

If you can work with singing three part harmony for V-I, VI-I, V-VI, I-II....etc it should solidify what feels right and what doesn't.

Start off using a piano or other instrument for reference.
Chords V-I in C major in simplest for = G/B/D - C/E/G, for example.

Record yourself singing 'the main line' G to C. Check with piano after.
then add what you think is layer two, B to E. Check with a piano
Then add what you think is D to G. Check with a piano.

Rinse and repeat for different cadences or progressions.

Might sound overly complicated but the point is you'll have a cheat sheet. Something to tell you, after the fact, if you are 'wrong'.
 
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It's clear to me that I know next to NOTHING about standard chords.

Worth noting that not everyone is good at this, and not all of those who are would still be good without a reference.
Trying working to a basic chord backing for future tests so there's something to clash with.

Any two notes could be considered complimentary in some context. When you just have two voices there's no context.

I know professional songwriters and performers who just seem to have complex harmony hardwired,
but I also know guys in the same boat who just know roughly where they should be and hope for the best. :p

Don't be discouraged. If you have an ear for melody, which you do, the rest can be learned and improved.
 

kickingtone

New member
Don't be discouraged. If you have an ear for melody, which you do, the rest can be learned and improved.

Thanks.
Right now, the thing I find most valuable is finding huge gaps in my knowledge. Not that I am naive. I knew there was heaps to harmony, I just didn't know what. But I got the stomach and patience for the challenge.

Fortunately, my background is in maths, so I've played around with how harmonics (of a note) work, and I can derive the equi-tempered scale mathematically, etc. So following the concepts shouldn't be that difficult. The cognitive task of learning to actually appreciate the sound and relationships by ear is whole different ball game, though. I won't lie. It is a little daunting. (Not for nothing does music have one of the toughest entry requirements at uni, for youngsters -- which I am not!) But I am not a quitter.
 
Any study of relationships between mathematics and music is valuable and valid,
however if 'getting it in your head' is the goal you can set the maths aside and stick to C major + white notes. :p

Not to over simplify but really...If you have a keyboard and want a fool-proof practicing ground, that's a good place to start. :)
 

kickingtone

New member
Any study of relationships between mathematics and music is valuable and valid,
however if 'getting it in your head' is the goal you can set the maths aside and stick to C major + white notes. :p

Not to over simplify but really...If you have a keyboard and want a fool-proof practicing ground, that's a good place to start. :)

Maths means you have to remember fewer rules. You understand, rather than just accept, why things are the way they are, and why some things are anomalous. Even the really basic videos I have seen in the past get into why one interval is perfect and another one isn't. Maybe it is just psychological, but having the maths explained, too, makes it easier for me.
 
That's cool...Whatever works for ya! :)

I'm fortunate in that I've always had a good ear for harmony so any theory or maths just servers to support that.
Just shows that everyone has different approaches and strengths.

I recall writing counterpoint at school and having to learn and follow a rule book.
That did not work for me. I wanted to go by ear. As soon as there were regulations it became very boring and difficult for me.
 

rob aylestone

Well-known member
You also have to think about what exactly is the chord you create. Key is critical, so you need to learn about how chords are determined. An interval of a 4th, can also be a 5th, of it's upside down. C to F is a 4th, but the F UP to the next C is a 5th! That Am chord could actually be a C6 chord with the root missing? To understand what works and doesn't can be done totally by ear with no knowledge of music theory - IF, and only if, you have a good ear. Loads of guitarists now find brand new chords from almost random fingers on different strings on different frets, and love the sound, and compose a song with no effort at all on working out what the chord is. Sometimes it's multiple same notes at different caves, or the same octave that ring out and blend together to make a special sound - which might be actually a C Major Chord - but one that sounds totally different from the C you learn when you first bought the guitar. The real harmonists create multiple lines that work together, but are really almost melodies in there own right.
 

kickingtone

New member
You also have to think about what exactly is the chord you create. Key is critical, so you need to learn about how chords are determined. An interval of a 4th, can also be a 5th, of it's upside down. C to F is a 4th, but the F UP to the next C is a 5th! That Am chord could actually be a C6 chord with the root missing? To understand what works and doesn't can be done totally by ear with no knowledge of music theory - IF, and only if, you have a good ear. Loads of guitarists now find brand new chords from almost random fingers on different strings on different frets, and love the sound, and compose a song with no effort at all on working out what the chord is. Sometimes it's multiple same notes at different caves, or the same octave that ring out and blend together to make a special sound - which might be actually a C Major Chord - but one that sounds totally different from the C you learn when you first bought the guitar. The real harmonists create multiple lines that work together, but are really almost melodies in there own right.

But surely, you must have imbibed some of the theory subconsciously, because a lot of it is convention and acquired taste, not law of nature. Otherwise unfamiliar traditional "world music" wouldn't sometimes sound awkward. So, a "good ear" would mean knowing which sound belongs to, or is allowed in, which culture.
 

rob aylestone

Well-known member
The musically endowed will have, absolutely. The same problems occur though. Non-Western music also has it's own rules, and adding or missing something would be noticed by the their exponents who might be aware of their parallel 2 and a half rule. I don't think it's acquired taste, just repeated exposure so something wrong stands out. Music from the 1600s often didn't write out parts in full, but used the musical skill of the player to read the guides in the music, and create their accompaniment part for large parts of the music - even though the system to write it down had been devised - they just followed the rules and it sort of worked, depending on the musicality of the player.

What's clear is that you can't just add notes to chords or melodies randomly - so everyone uses their ear to do it, but sometimes don't recognise the less conformist results. I think I read somewhere that to successfully break rules, you had to know them in the first place.
 

kickingtone

New member
The musically endowed will have, absolutely. The same problems occur though. Non-Western music also has it's own rules, and adding or missing something would be noticed by the their exponents who might be aware of their parallel 2 and a half rule. I don't think it's acquired taste, just repeated exposure so something wrong stands out.

But it isn't necessarily wrong, just different. And your ear can acclimatize to that difference. Mine did with the Mexican music I was given.

What's clear is that you can't just add notes to chords or melodies randomly - so everyone uses their ear to do it, but sometimes don't recognise the less conformist results. I think I read somewhere that to successfully break rules, you had to know them in the first place.

No argument with this. I've kind of moved on from referring to my.....my experiment....
Heavens knows what my ears are conforming to right now. Clearly some very unusual things are acceptable to my ears. That shouldn't stop me from learning what works in what culture (if any). I's not a problem for me as a listener, but it will be for anyone listening to me, obviously, because certain standards are what establish musical taste. Anyway, I will be getting a keyboard at some point, and getting down to the nitty-gritty.
 
But it isn't necessarily wrong, just different. And your ear can acclimatize to that difference. Mine did with the Mexican music I was given.

Like I said before, nothing is wrong until there's a context in which to judge it.

The last note of your first harmony line felt wrong to me, but I had to check the song to make sure that the chord sequence was I-IV-I-IV.
Had it been I-V,I-V, your last note would have been 'correct'.

Music from the 1600s often didn't write out parts in full, but used the musical skill of the player to read the guides in the music, and create their accompaniment part for large parts of the music - even though the system to write it down had been devised - they just followed the rules and it sort of worked, depending on the musicality of the player.

That's right. I've followed notation where a bassline was written and 35 or 46 was indicated above.
If that Bass note was a C with 35, you can assume the chord is C major, whereas that C with 46 would suggest that the chord is F major and the bass part is carrying the C; Second inversion chord.
Luckily I'm a bass. :p
 

rob aylestone

Well-known member
Clearly some very unusual things are acceptable to my ears
The snag with ears is that you don't know if your function the same as your listeners, and maybe yours are more tuned to something else - or just not developed. I can't dance. I know what I want my limbs to do, but my brain can't make them do it. People say I can learn, but I can't. Lost cause - but if I thought that I could, would my version of dance be seen as a new style or just an uncoordinated mess, like a fit? We get people asking if they can sing, and posting examples. Some can clearly sing, but are doing it wrong. If they sort this, they would be great singers. Others sing in tune, in time, and are very precise in a totally unmusical style and will never be singers. Singing lessons would be wasted money. I'd like to think I'm a decent enough musician, but I do know that I cannot do African rhythms. Remember when Paul Simon started all that african stuff - I kind of liked it, but I cannot play it by ear. I can play it from the music by following the dots with great concentration. However, I cannot learn it and play by memory.

If you want to learn properly - then study and research it. If you want to create a new rule book for harmony, you need to be very good, because you might drift back to the old one, and they will never play happily together. Most Westerners can work reasonably happy in an Eastern pentatonic scale, but probably don't actually get it - just thinking about it as our one, with some notes missing. I bet an authentic ethnic musician would view ours as their one, with a few added in the gaps. Neither would be 100% effective when they compose.
 

kickingtone

New member
I don't think my musical taste has ever narrowed. It has always expanded. So new doesn't replace old, it just adds. I like to keep it that way.
 
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