3 Tips To Sing Harmonies
Updated: Aug 4
Adding harmonies to a melody is a stunning way to add character to a song. Most pop and rock songs have harmonies in the chorus question of pumping up the excitement and bringing momentum. Of course harmony is the basis of choral writing. Harmony has been around for ages as it evolved from polyphonic music. There is definitely a science behind it and when we take the time to understand it, harmonies become easier to sing.
If you sing in a choir, do you find it challenging to keep to your line without getting carried away by what your neighbor in a different section is doing? Do you find yourself relying on peers to follow along? It's most likely that if you're a frontman / woman, your band mates have asked you to harmonize together; have you been successful at coming up with cool stuff? I also see more and more singers join forces online to harmonize songs. It's fun to sing in a duet so harmonizing is an awesome to re-arrange songs by putting a fresh spin on the interpretation, not without saying a fantastic way to make new friends! But what if singing harmonies throws you off? Does singing harmonies make you feel inadequate? Are you worried about not being able to meet your band mates' expectations? Does the idea of coming up with harmonies stress you out?Understandably, no one likes making mistakes. Singing the wrong harmony, or worse out of key, could confuse the whole choir. In a band setting, the voice always stands out so people are quick to shame singers when dissonance occurs. If singing in harmony is a source of tension, you have two choices:Keep trying to wing it and hope for the best.Or...
Learn how to harmonize once and for all!
What is it going to be? Would you rather become a liability for your team or a leader?
Here are my 3 tips to unlock the power of harmonizing:
1) Tune Out Other Singers
When I began singing harmonies with my church choir as a kid, I found it easier to mentally ignore what others were doing by strictly focusing my attention on my voice and the piano accompaniment. You do want to stay in key so as I said, do listen to the music, just not to what other singers are doing if they easily throw you off. All it is really, is a mental game! At least in the beginning until you get a better sense of your line. Sing your harmony as if it were the main melody of the song. It's like relearning the song (rewiring your brain) to make the harmony the main objective. You can also cup an ear with your hand to help you make abstraction of other voices.
2) Understand Music Theory
It is not necessary to study music theory extensively to understand how to harmonize. Some basics should help however. For example, taking the time to learn the skeleton of major and minor scales as well as how chords are built, will give you a general idea of what you are working with. A quick and easy way to find notes that gel well with the main melody is to sing a third or fifth above it. If you feel more adventurous with your harmonic choices, there are also rules in counterpoint that are useful to know. For example, a 4th above the root resolves to the 5th but the 2nd and 7th resolve to the root.
3) Follow Your Intuition
Music theory can be a little intimidating and sometimes limiting creatively. So if you are interested in coming up with unique harmonies, all you have to do is follow your musical intuition. Don't think too hard about harmonies and just be spontaneous when singing along the main melody. Improvise your harmony by singing a different note against the melody; any note that sounds good with the original line will do. To develop and refine harmonies, play the section you wish to harmonize on a loop and instinctively come up with different ideas. Record your work, then keep the best results! Or work on it with your partner until you are satisfied with the final product. To practice getting better at harmonizing, frequently improvise harmonies to songs on the radio. Just go with the flow!
Singing killer harmonies is just like any other skills; it comes with PRACTICE! Since we often harmonize above the main melody, vocal technique can get in the way. How comfortable are you with crossing into your vocal break and accessing your upper range? Unleash your ability to harmonize like a pro with vocal freedom.
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Sing your heart out!