How to Harmonize a Melody

A line with a solo melody can be pretty catchy, but when extra notes sound together, they create a great aural sensation. These additional notes, which can transform a musical piece, operate as harmony.

If you can grasp the function of various chords, harmonizing a melody becomes easier for you. It is a skill that requires time to develop. End results? Depending on the purpose of the melody, the results will either be that it’s challenging to work with or friendly. 

In this article, we will take garner at some crucial things to consider before harmonizing a melody. Remember to practice them as you learn. Without further ado, let’s know how to harmonize a melody!

Vocal Harmony

Singing harmony needs adding a vocal melody with extra notes that fit the fundamental chord structure. 

For example, if a melody sung above an A minor chord boasts the note A (the main note of the chord), you can harmonize it by singing the note C (the minor third over A and the minor 3rd of a chord) or the note E (an ideal fifth over A and the 5th of the chord).

Harmonize based on Chord Progression

While singing harmony or harmonizing on any instrument, you should focus mainly on the scale’s chord progression and the scale on which the melody is built (usually either a minor scale or a major scale).

  1. Third: This is the most prevalent type of harmonization out there. Of course, the other common type is a third above or below the melody note. Take, for example, the melody of your most liked song requires using the 3rd scale degree.

For harmonizing, you could either sing a minor 3rd above note A (the fifth of the chords is the note C) or a major 3rd below note A (the root note belonging to the chord is note F). In western music, such harmonies are soothing to your ears. 

  1. Fourths and fifths: Harmonizing notes having perfect fifths or fourths can compose a definite sound. This kind of harmony goes well along with some pentatonic scales of Eastern Asia.
  2. Octaves: When the female and male vocalists sing in unison, they usually pick the octave part to sing due to the vocal range varieties. Octave harmonies tend to stiffen the frequency spectrum, but they also sound almost as thick as the harmonies dependent on thirds or sixths. On string instruments, octave harmonies give off a thicker tone.
  3. Close Harmonies: To form the legendary sound of vocal pop bands like the Beach Boys or barbershop quartets, give organizing harmony notes really close to one another a shot. 

No matter if you are using all the chord tones or only a few tensions (like a major seventh or a major ninth), you can produce a harmonically high-quality sound – especially when these close harmonies shift together to go after the melody. 

The close harmonies are popularly tricky to sing, taking years and years of music lessons to ace the method. 

You will see many vocalists taking some singing lessons to learn vocal harmonization. On the other hand, trained singers easily harmonize by reading sheet music. 

Famous musicians are skilled enough to learn harmonizing by ear – this needs a mixture of natural ability and ear training. 

Some Steps to Harmonize Melody

Step 1 – Integrate Cadences

The typical cadences are 1 to 2, 4, and 7 to 8.

  • Bars 1-2 – The melody, one that has a top note, must either be an inverted or intended ideal cadence. Considering what follows an interrupted cadence, we would suggest the best for you (V-VI).
  • Bar 4 – This is the middle cadence. Also, the most apparent harmonization is the application of a cadential 6th four (Ic-V).
  • Bards 7-8 – This is the ultimate cadence, so it needs to be V-I in the tonic. 

Step 2 – Add the Bass

Let us consider the opening first. The D is an advanced note, so the chords have to be Vb to I. 

As the B falls a third to a G sharp, the chord’s obvious choice is IIb, which automatically follows the interrupted cadence. 

Next up, the chords to be harmonized are Ib-IV. There happens to be a descending scalic passage in the melody. The C sharp is considered to be an accented passing note. 

A sequential passage makes up the middle section. Firstly, we should take the key into account. Being a high note, the A sharp is automatically the top note of any new key, B minor. The second part, however, is a note lower than the pattern in the sequence; hence it must be an A major. 

To set up a B minor, there must be some kind of cadence. Since it does not involve a central modulation, the cadence will either be inverted or interrupted perfect. 

Inverted perfect is highly suited as other solutions pose problems. 

Step 3 – Include the Inner Parts

While adding these inner parts, you cannot neglect the rhythmic and melodic interest. What is best would be to keep the tenor and alto high rather than low as this tenor is likely to get entangled in the bass. 

You can follow many steps to harmonize them. The outcome is satisfactory as well as interesting. Making the bass of IIb doubled aids to prevent the tenor from being placed really near to the bass. If you want to add some extra melodic interest, you can include some passing notes to harmonize a melody.


You can see that it eventually comes down to some small tasks:

  • Deciphering the cadences
  • Adding these bass lines
  • Filling in the inner parts

Final Thoughts

That is a wrap for now! We hope this article covers all you need to know about harmonization. So folks, now you know how to harmonize a melody. Give your audience a great auditory experience now!

You can also read about how to make a melody here.

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