The harmony is also the most complex part at the same time.
I also realised that it hasn’t been studied in depth, so this is why I want to show you how does the real harmony look like.
Today I will present you some simple yet powerful methods of creating harmony, but before I do that I would like to explain a bit what harmony is.
I’ve done this in a previous article about music elements and the secrets behind them.
Today I would like to present you harmony more in depth.
The harmony is the result of overlapping more sounds (or frequencies) that are in the same key.
If the sounds are not in the same key, then the final result is called dissonance.
Dissonance is the opposite of harmony, it sounds awful and it’s unpleasant for the ear. I also call it “bad harmony”.
The dissonance is also very important in music.
You can find a lot of dissonance in a musical project, but I will tell you more about this in a future article.
Real harmony in music and how to recognise it
I want to ask you a question. Have you ever listened to real harmony? What do I mean by “real harmony”?
It’s that type of harmony that you would listen to again and again without getting bored or tired.
A song full of harmony sounds very full of energy.
When you listen to such a song you are “marked”.
I could say that it has a huge emotional impact on you, it changes your psychical state. This is how I see the ideal harmony.
Most tracks don’t have such an effect unfortunately.
They lack that sparkling, and they feel like they don’t have a shape.
In 90% of nowadays’ music the most predominant element is the rhythm, and in a lower percentage we can also find the melody.
You need these 3 elements in a balanced proportion: melody, rhythm and harmony.
If they are put together in a well made mix, they create real music. They give strong sensations, sensations that can’t go unnoticed.
When you know and feel how real music is like you are attracted to it, like a magnet.
Some samples of harmony
This is a song that inspired me a lot.
I liked it so much that I’ve listened to it more than 10 times when I’ve discovered it.
The following is a creation that inspired me with both a great melody and a wonderful voice.
The next song impressed me with it’s harmony:
How would you feel if you would listen to a perfect harmony?
Even though technology has progressed so much, music wasn’t studied in depth.
The interest towards music is so little that not even as much as 1% of it was discovered.
I am simply speechless when I hear people saying: “So cool!” or “This song is awesome!”, etc.
If you react like this to a little dose of harmony, how would you react if you would listen to a perfect harmony?
If it would be produced, the most likely it would be banned!
Why? Because you wouldn’t stop listening to it!
It would have an effect similar to a drug, the only difference being that music doesn’t have side effects.
I’m also surprised when I hear people giving advices like:
“Choose some warm sounds for the melodic line. It will sound better!” or “You need to study the tones more in depth! You will definitely make something better afterwards!”
Do you understand these advices? I definitely do not. They are not precise.
The advice is just general, it doesn’t really have a practical use.
Harmony in primary genres of music!
Not many genres of music have that much harmony. Most music genres rely on rhythm and melody.
In my opinion the “chill” genre has a lot of harmony.
The following image shows the average harmony of each genre of music:
If we analyse each music genre by it’s elements (harmony, rhythm, melody) each genre has harmony in a certain degree.
BreakBeat has a lot of rhythm and little melodic line.
You want to listen to something with a great rhythm then listen to BreakBeat.
Dubstep is 90% technical, a lot of brutal elements, powerful rhythm and little harmony.
Rock music is in the same category. A notable element is the distortion, rock being an aggressive style of music.
Harmony in music and what do you need to do to reach it
I‘ve described earlier the ideal harmony. Now I’m going to present tell you what do you need to do in order to achieve it:
1. All the frequencies need to be in an almost perfect order.
Each and every sinusoid needs to respect a certain balance.
Even the smallest detail is important, and in order to obtain a perfect harmony everything needs to be impeccable.
Everything, every dimension of the sound needs to be correct.
Each sound vibration, no matter how small it is needs to be exactly where it should be, and it should have the proper length.
2. A perfect harmony covers the entire spectrum the human ear can perceive.
This is also one of the basic rule in obtaining a good mix.
Did I make you curious?
How can you also obtain such a result? The only solution I can think of is to apply math in music.
Ok, but you might be asking yourself: “How can math help you with music?”
It seems that these two are more related than you can imagine.
Each length and frequency corresponds to a number. As an example A’s frequency is 440 Hz.
Do you know how does an architect work when he is making a house? He measures each parameter.
He needs to precisely measure the lengths of each room in order to make a good house.
It might seem that what I’m saying right now is not related to music, but believe me, the people that are making music at a higher level have complete control over the parameters of the mix.
Two categories of concordance that form harmony in music
It’s useful to know that the area in which you can find the harmony is represented by the medium frequencies. All the instruments meet here.
There are two types of concordance used to obtain harmony.
The first one is a sinusoid type. I call it a “transparent concordance”.
What does this mean? It’s just a single frequency that comes with the main sound.
I call it “transparent” because it doesn’t change the main sound, it’s not as highlighted, but it gives harmony and backing.
“The transparent concordance” gives background harmony.
I call the second category of concordance “spectral”. I call them like that because they are much stronger, because they cover a lot of the spectrum.
This is their purpose, to fill the spectrum. This type of concordance represents the foreground harmony.
The timbre of the spectral concordance must be suited for the main sound.
A harmony is at it’s fullest when the concordance is made with the same structure.
Everything will fit better. Of course another way is to use various timbres, but I’ve noticed that a harmony is much better when you use the same timbre.
I’m going to show you a great way of arranging the frequencies. This is one of my favourite methods, and it really gives results.
Ways of creating harmony
Everything depends on the main sound. Depending on the melodic line you add other sounds.
As an example, we need to pick a chord, A minor for example.
Between the first and the second harmonic of the primary sound we add a transparent concordance.
Because the primary key is A5, the transparent chord will contain C6 and E6.
Then we add a spectral chord, an octave below, which will contain C5 and E5.
The spectral concordance is stronger, so it should be used only on the highlighted area.
If the chord is a bit off, you can add another transparent chord in the same octave.
The 2 concordances will go side by side (sidechain). They won’t overlap.
Listen to the following example. Only on certain notes of the primary sound you can add spectral concordances.
On the other hand, the transparent concordance can be added to any note.
As a conclusion, the main sound will always have harmony because of the transparent concordance.
When the spectral concordance is on, the sound will be richer.
The result will sound this way:
Of course you can add a sinusoid in the octave bellow, in the 4th octave.
I recommend letting it in the background. The project won’t sound that good if all the sounds are in the foreground.
The elements need to compensate for each other, so you have foreground harmony and background harmony.
The next element is the bass. The bass has just 3 sinusoids.
You could choose E2, E3 and A3. Don’t go lower than 30Hz. Usually those frequency make the mix sound muddy, and distorted.
The bass needs to sound powerful in the mix, but not too strong, or it will cover the other sounds.
The construction of the harmony is similar in most cases, but there are a lot of ways of creating it though.
In general you should not overlap too many concordances.
This is one of the mistakes that I kept making. I was adding a concordance to each octave. I thought that this way I was making the project sound richer.
I’m going to give you another essential tip. Pick optimum sounds, and don’t make the low/medium frequency area too crowded.
Use more harmony in music!
Why should you do this? Well, because:
1. You will impress your listeners.
2. You will make high quality music.
3. Your songs will become classics, which will be listened decades after.
4. You will become a great artist.
5. Your creations will sound full of life and energy.
I believe I’ve convinced you to use more harmony in your projects.
I could definitely find more arguments, but I’ve listed only the most important ones.
The 2 faces of harmony in music
Harmony can be studied on 2 different plans. Firstly, you can study it from a theoretic standpoint.
Secondly, you can study it purely technical from the perspective of audio-engineering.
The music theory refers strictly to note combinations. What notes do you need to use for it to sound properly.
It tells you if a concordance fits with a melodic line.
When you refer to musical notes, you refer strictly to music theory.
On the other hand, frequency parameters and other complex notions refer strictly to the technical part.
But the question is: which one is more important?
I would say that both of them are important, but the technical part is much harder to understand.
The technical part gives you the ideal solution. The perfect harmony can be attained only by studying it.
Even from the beginning I searched for the “Philosopher’s stone” in music. I’ve found the answer to many questions in the last 3 years.
If you are a beginner, then I recommend starting with music theory.
It’s essential in music, and you can find it anywhere with ease: on the internet, in books, etc.
If you really like music, then I’m pretty sure that I’ve managed to impress you.
I’ve did my best to make this article very interesting.
Please tell me how do you see harmony in the comment section down below.
Do you know other ways of attaining it? I’m looking forward to reading your responses.
Until next time I wish you good luck finding your inspiration!