How to harmonize a melody

The ability to harmonize a melody is liberating and unleashes all kinds of creativity. From the arrangements you’ll find here at my blog, you know I’m a huge fan of re-harmonizing tunes.

To enjoy this art, it’s best to start off with adding chords to a melody using the three primary chords that I like to compare to the three primary colors.

I IV and V

Limiting your options to three basic chords–the I, IV and V chords which I associate with Blue, Yellow and Red–is key to understanding how chords function.

[Tip: If you need a brush up on chords including 7th chords, I highly suggest this e-book: The Full Scoop On Chords. BTW, it’s perfect for a flipped classroom tool during off bench time.]

When you’re ready to discover fresh, new vibrant colors or chords, try taking one or all of these routes:

#1 Explore: Experiment with chords and stumble upon fresh ideas to harmonize a melody. There’s nothing wrong with this method. Just remember to remain open minded and uninhibited. Have you tried 7th chords? They are magical!

#2 Borrow: Don’t tell anyone, but my arrangement of It is Well borrows chord progressions Adele and Casting Crowns. Shhh….

#3 Master: Develop chord fluency by playing and spelling all chords and inversions and master all their qualities–especially major and minor. Then match them up with pitches in your favorite melody.

This is when my resource called Pete the Pitch Profiler comes in handy. Have you ever thought about how each pitch has various functions within chords?

Chords have three parts:

  • Root
  • 3rd
  • 5th.

A pitch needs to fill each of those roles. Once you know the pitches and their functions within chords it’s much easier to match chords to melodies.

Pete, the Pitch Profiler worksheets are tools for helping you (and/or your students) with spelling chords and profiling the function of pitches.

Here’s how to use Pete the Pitch Profiler

Choose a pitch like “C.” Then complete any of the worksheets by determining how C pitch-profiler-7thsfunctions in different chord

For example, C functions as the root of the C chord, the 3rd of the Am chord and 5th of an F chord.

Tips on what apps to use with the worksheets are included in this resource, too.

The downloadable PDF includes instructions and a worksheet that covers major and minor triads, 7th chords, 7th and “bird position” chords (a term used by Bradley Sowash) and one more worksheet to help with mastering the 3rds and 7ths (chord identifiers) when comping in a jazz band.

It’s time to join the Stay on Pitch Agency and Pete the Pitch Profiler–he needs more fellow agents!

[TIP: Print out the digital downloads that you’ll receive on your 88 Piano Keys invoice. Place the worksheets in clear pockets and write on them with dry erase markers so they can be used over and over. You’ll save tons on paper and ink! Get your clear pockets here: http://amzn.to/2u0infA]

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Pete is looking for YOU!

Click on his picture to get your “profiler” digital download now.

Good news! It’s on sale through the end of April!

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Watch how to play and where to play Pete, the Pitch Profiler in the video below.

Placing chords under the magnifying glass reveals that they are made of pitches stacked in thirds. Spelling and knowing chords builds strong readers, improvisers and harmonizers.

Happy harmonizing!

-Leila

Pssst…find Pete here.

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Leila Viss

Creative Pianist, Piano Teacher, Organist, Blogger and Author of The iPad Piano Studio