Introduction to Harmony

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To Mariachi Music Styles


What Is Harmony?

Harmony is when you hear two or more different tones sounding at the same time. 

Chords Melody Mood Ostinado Rounds Combining Melodies

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 A chord makes harmony.  A chord is when three tones are played at the same time. Here is what a chord looks like.  Chords move in a vertical line (up and down).  Click the chord to hear it:   

Look at how these notes are stacked on top of each other.  It almost looks like a snowman.  This is what harmony looks like.  You will hear clusters of sounds when chords like this are played. Chords and harmony move in a vertical line (up and down).     

Harmony is added to melodies to make them more interesting.  In order to understand harmony, you need to understand melody

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Melodies are groups of notes played one after the other.  It's the tune.  It's what we sing and whistle and hum.  It's the first thing most of us think of when we think of music.  It's the easiest part of music to remember.  Can you recognize this melody?

Melodies move in a horizontal line, from left to right.  It's just like reading a sentence, which also moves from left to right.  Melodies can sound very boring without harmony.

If you remember that melodies move in a horizontal line (left to right) and harmonies move in a vertical line (up and down), you can understand anything in music.

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Harmony helps the melody.  Harmony also provides texture and mood.  To learn more about texture, click here.

Let's hear how harmony can change the mood of a famous melody.

You all know Yankee Doodle, don't you.  Let's listen to this famous melody all by itself, without any harmony.

Let's listen to Yankee Doodle again, this time changing the harmonies.  The melody will stay the same but the harmony will change.

        1.  Yankee Doodle using harmony in the major key.

        2.  Yankee Doodle using harmony in the minor key.

        3.  Yankee Doodle using a jazzy harmony.

Did you hear how these three different harmonies can give Yankee Doodle a different mood?

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Let's look at three fun and easy ways to make harmony.

The easiest way to make harmony is to add an ostinado to a song.  An ostinado is a short musical phrase sung over and over. A Ram Sam Sam is a song with an ostinado

A Ram Sam Sam + Ostinado = Harmony 

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The second way to make harmony is to sing a round.  A round is when everyone sings the same tune, but at different times.  

Are You Sleeping is a famous round that you probably know.  Row, Row, Row Your Boat is another famous round.  Sumer Is Icumen In is a very old round from the Medieval period.   

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Combining Melodies

The third way to make harmony is to sing two different songs at the same time.  

Combining Home on the Range with My Home's In Montana makes harmony.  Click here to hear these tunes played together. 

Let's say it another way: 

Melody 1 + Melody 2 = Harmony

Now you are an expert on harmony.  Congratulations!

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