How To Use Harmony In Songwriting

Posted by Mike Schuck

When writing your own music, harmony is one of the most important things you will learn! Harmonization is using or taking advantage of parallel chords to create new melodies and/or licks.

Harmony can be used for very short amounts of time (like a few seconds) or longer pieces of music (tunes). It’s usually not necessary to have lots of harmonic content in a song, but it helps to know how to use it properly.

In this article I will go over some basic chord structures that contain harmony, as well as some tips on how to use harmony in your songs.

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Look at the different genres of music

how to use harmony in songwriting

As we have seen, harmony is an integral part of song writing. There are many styles of songs that use little to no harmonic structure. Some examples include most rock songs, some folk songs, and even some soft ballads.

However, this article will focus more narrowly on using harmony in pop music. Many people associate the term “pop” with catchy melodies and lyrics, but not much else.

But what about those powerful vocal harmonies in your favorite tunes? The reason these songs sound so good is because musicians add harmony to the vocals and/or instruments.

It is very easy to add harmony to the vocals, by simply singing along as you normally would. But adding harmony to an instrument or group of notes is a little bit harder to do without knowing how!

Luckily, there are several types of chords that can be used for harmony. This article will go over the basics of chord theory, before exploring some strategies and tools to apply it to your songwriting.

Learn to read a song's lyrics

how to use harmony in songwriting

When writing your own songs, you will need to know how to interpret the lyrics of other people’s music first! This is an easy one to start with, as most artists release their songs for everyone to listen to.

By listening to a few songs from each artist, you can learn some basic tips such as what parts of the lyrics seem important, how they use rhyme or rhythm to tell a story, and how well the vocals match the rest of the music.

These are all fundamentals that help when it comes to writing your own songs! By learning about the structure and content of popular songs, you will be able to do the same.

Learn to read a song's melody

how to use harmony in songwriting

A strong sense of harmony is one of the most important things you can develop as a singer. When listening to music, what makes people sing along and/or feel something for the song comes down to how well they understand the song’s melodies.

The main thing about a melodic line is that it does not tell a story directly like a narrative poem or sentence would. Rather, it creates an atmosphere, expression, or feeling that the listener can relate to.

Many musicians have great senses of harmony, but there are some who cannot distinguish which notes go together and which ones do not. This may be because they never learned how to analyze songs effectively!

Fortunately, you do not need to know every note by heart to write your own songs that contain strong harmonic content.

Learn to use different chords

how to use harmony in songwriting

Chords are one of the most important things you will learn as a songwriter! There are several types of chords that make up songs, and it is very common to not know the difference between them.

In this article, we will go over some basic chord structures and how to write lyrics using each one. To give your writing more depth, we will also discuss what kind of harmony these chords create.

Music theory teaches us that when notes of a scale meet at a certain intensity and frequency, they form an octave or harmonic interval. These intervals can be whole steps (think major key), half steps (minor keys), or thirds (neither).

Thirds are the most popular type of harmony in music, and that’s why they play such a big part in songwriting. When two notes of the same tone size intersect, they produce a lower, darker note called “dominant.” Two dominants sound harmonious because they combine into another dominant, creating a full circle of success.

A lot of songs structure themselves around a tonal center, or main theme, which usually starts with a dominant chord and then moves onto other chords for additional material. This process creates a flow, or sense of movement, within the song.

There are many ways to use third-type harmonies in your own songs. Some artists mix them in with minor chords, resulting in a seamless transition.

Learn to use different rhythms

how to use harmony in songwriting

A rhythm is any pattern of beats that make up a song or piece. There are many types of rhythms, such as syncopation (where part of the beat is missing), half-time (the bass line is one long note with another shorter note in between), triplets (three notes in place of each other), etc.

A lot of songs feature these various rhythmic patterns! Many musicians devote their careers to creating new melodies and lyrics, but less attention is given to how well you use music’s rhythm.

And yet, without understanding how to use music’s rhythm, most people could not tell the difference between a good rhythm and a bad one. It will take away from the quality of your music.

Learn to use different tones

how to use harmony in songwriting

A tonal quality is how low or high your voice goes when singing. There are two main tonal qualities used in songwriting: Melodic and harmonic.

A melodic tone is one that gets lower as it repeats itself. For example, the first time you hear the chorus of a song, the melody is very upbeat with a lot of highs. Then, after you have repeated the lyrics several times, the music becomes more mellow and low-voiced. This creates an effect called cadence — where the mind feels relaxed because it has seen the same thing twice.

A harmonic tone is one that stays the same level throughout the whole piece. An example would be someone shouting “Hey!” If you listened closely, you would not feel anything beyond just ‘hey.’ It sounds boring, but creating a sense of quiet relaxation using only harmonics can help cleanse the spirit.

There are many ways to learn how to write songs that feature harmony. One way is to listen to lots of songs and note what styles they belong to. You may also want to look up the types of chords used for various genres to see how they use them.

Learn to use your vocals

how to use harmony in songwriting

As we have seen, harmony is an integral part of song writing. It can be creating a parallel melody or adding additional layers to an existing melody.

When singing lyrics that contain words that sound good together, try to match those sounds with another voice source. For example, if the word “ball” exists in the lyric, find a way to include the word “ball” as it rolls off of your tongue and then add some energy by pronouncing the “b” just like the word “banana.”

You also want to make sure your tone matches. If the word you are looking for does not exist within the lyrics, choose a tone that fits and apply it to the whole line!

Your final product should feel natural and cohesive. There should be no hard edges or differences in quality between parts of the song.

Use the elements of music to create a song's theme

how to use harmony in songwriting

As we have seen, songs are made up of five parts: melody, bass line, lyrics, chords and rhythm. Each part is important as they all contribute something to the song.

When writing our own songs, it is helpful to know what these components are so that you can use them to strengthen or improve your writing skills. With this information, you could also learn how to write your own songs!

The most fundamental element of any musical piece is its tone or mood. This applies not only to songs, but to pieces suchas Mozart’s “Eine kleine Nachtmusik” (A small night-music).

Tone or mood is an overall feeling that the listener gets from the piece. Some examples of moody tunes include anything with melancholy melodies or tragic lyrics, or even sounds like thunder.

Some other notes about mood include using very bright tones or modes for a happy song, soft ones for a mellow one and energetic ones for a fast paced one.

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