Singing harmony is a coveted skill by many novice vocalists, and for good reason. The act of harmonizing with others is not only immensely enjoyable but also deeply rewarding. It allows you to create a sound that’s greater than what any individual voice can achieve. However, diving into the world of singing harmony can be a bit tricky, so in this article, we’ll provide you with a beginner’s guide to singing harmony!
Understanding Harmony Singing
Harmony singing is all about singing different notes alongside a melody. This combination of notes creates intervals and chords that add depth and richness to the music. For instance, if the lead singer is carrying the melody with a note like C, a harmony singer might contribute the note E, while another might provide G. Together, they harmonize to produce a C major chord.
This is where the challenge lies in singing harmony. Our natural inclination is to follow the melody in unison, but when harmonizing, we must confidently sing pitches above or below the melody.
Choosing Harmony Notes
The choice of harmony notes can vary depending on the musical genre and time period. In contemporary music, 3rd, 5th and 6th intervals are commonly used for harmony singing. These intervals create pleasing harmonies that complement the melody.
Practicing Harmony Alone
While practicing harmony is most effective with another experienced singer, this might not always be an option. If you’re just starting, having access to a keyboard, even through a smartphone app, can be a valuable tool.
A great exercise for beginners is to play a major scale on the piano, such as C major (C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C), and sing along at an interval of your choice, either above or below. For instance, as you play the C major scale on the piano, you can sing a third up (E, F, G, A, B, C, D, E). This exercise helps train your ears and voice to develop independence. Naturally, your voice tends to gravitate toward the melody, but singing harmony demands the confidence that your unique notes still sound right.
As you get the hang of it, you can practice alone by singing along with harmony parts in your favorite songs or by creating your own harmonies for songs you know well. This adds new challenges but serves as a low-risk training ground for gaining more experience with your harmony vocals.
What Is “Blend”?
In harmony singing, “blend” refers to the skill of adjusting the tone of your voice to harmonize with others. The goal is for the voices to be heard as a unified whole. Like a group of string players, each voice should strive to complement and connect with the group as a whole. If one voice stands out tonally from the others, it disrupts the harmony’s cohesion.
Working on blend involves modifying vocal placement and textures, and it’s mostly learned through experience by singing with various voice types. So, whenever the opportunity arises, sing with others. Over time, you’ll discover what works best for your voice and how to harmonize with others effectively.
Practicing Harmony With Others
If you’re fortunate enough to collaborate with another singer or a group, you’re in luck. Ideally, if one person is experienced, it’s advisable to let them take the lead and teach the parts. However, if everyone is a beginner, using sheet music at the start can be extremely helpful. Sheet music provides the notes for each part and allows for accuracy checks on a keyboard.
For those looking to start harmonizing with others, styles like hymns and traditional folk/country songs are excellent choices. These genres have their roots in group singing, and they feature relatively simple harmony and lyrics, which makes it easier for singers to focus on the technical aspects of harmonizing together.
There you have it, our beginner’s guide to singing harmony. If you’re interested in further developing your skills and working with one of Toronto’s top vocal coaches, don’t hesitate to contact us today. Happy harmonizing!