Can You Harmonize The Melody?

Can you accompany "one-fingered" melodies with full sounding chords? Sure ... it's easy to play a one-fingered melody like "Mary Had a Little Lamb, but the hardest part is finding the right chords to accompany your melody.

To HARMONIZE a melody means to create a chord accompaniment for it. Since the I, IV & V chords contain all the notes of the major scale, many melodies in a major key can be harmonized with just these three chords.

To harmonize a melody with chords, there are 7 basic triad (3 note) chords one can use in a major key: I major, ii minor, iii minor, IV major, V major, vi minor, and vii diminished. In the key of C, these chords would be:

C major = C-E-G
D minor = D-F-A
E minor = E-G-B
F major = F-A-C
G major = G-B-D
A minor = A-C-E
B diminished= B-D-F

To determine the chords to be used, analyze the melody notes. Refer to the following chart to see which chord is generally used with each melody note of a major scale. When more than one chord can be chosen, your EAR should always be the final guide.

When melody note is: Simply play this chord:
C E + G + C (played all at the same time)
D F + A + D
E G + C + E
F A + C + F
G C + E + G
A C + F + A
B D + G + B
C E + G + C

Example: Mary had a little lamb

E D C D E E E (Ma-ry had a lit-tle lamb)

G+C+E (Ma)

F+A+D (ry)

E+G+C (had)

F+A+D (a)

G+C+E (lit)

G+C+E (tle)

G+C+E (lamb)

Notice that the original melody note is still on top! The song still sounds like "Mary had a little lamb", the melody is still obvious, but with the addition of full-sounding harmony!

Use this same harmonization scale technique in every key. The chord notes can also be used to harmonize a choir.

You now have a formula:

A) Determine a melody to any song

B) Replace the melody notes with harmonizing chords making sure to keep the melody note as the highest tone of each chord (see chart above)

C) Add bass (or left hand)

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