8 Ways To Improve Your Harmonising Skills

By Matti Carter

Are you a beginner and wondering how to improve your music composition skills? Would you like to know how to effectively create harmony for melodies that you have written? Do you want to become great at harmonising music?

Creating harmony for your music is relatively easy to do once you have mastered some theory. If you do not yet have a lot of experience or a great ear, it is smart to gain some knowledge by studying different aspects of harmony. Down below is a list of 8 things you can do to improve your harmonising skills.

1. Study Chords

If you are a complete beginner at harmonising music, the best place to start is to learn about chords. A
chord is a harmonic set of pitches consisting of three or more notes that are heard sounding simultaneously. The most common chords in tonal music are the major and minor chords. To learn how to identify these chords is compulsory if you wish to become good at harmonising music.

2. Study Chord Degrees

You should become familiar with the basic chord degrees in the major and minor keys. Knowing the order and the type of the chords in a key will help you become familiar with different types of chords. By studying the degrees you will also be able to compose music in different keys instead of just one.

3. Learn About Chord Functions

You should get a basic understanding of tonic, subdominant and dominant chords and how they work together. Once you become familiar and learn how to master these functions, you will be able to harmonise a lot of music quickly and easily. Tonal music is based on these functions, so it is vital to know what they mean.

4. Create Chord Progressions

Once you are familiar with different types of chords and chord degrees, you can start creating short chord progressions. You can either write them down on paper or play them on your instrument. Compare different chord changes to each other and try to identify the difference in how they sound. Practice doing this a lot, because it is important for your ear to develop and start to recognise different types of chord patterns.

5. Practise Harmonising Melodies

If you have written any melodies of your own, it is a good idea to practise harmonising them. You can create several different harmonies for a single melody. Try to figure out what sounds good and what doesn’t. Another way to practise is to take popular melodies from existing songs and create new harmonies for them.

6. Listen To A Lot Of Music

Try to listen to music carefully, and focus specifically on the harmony. When you listen to lots of music, your ear will get better at recognising harmonies. You will start noticing similar harmonic patterns in different songs. Listen to the type of music that you want to create, and try to figure out what sounds typical for that specific style. Don’t start copying others directly, instead use what you learn as a basis for what you create.

7. Analyse A Lot Of Music

You can learn a lot by analysing other people
s music. Instead of just listening to the music, take a pencil and paper and start writing down the harmony that you hear. This is a great way to develop your ear to identify harmony. Alternatively, you could take the sheet music of any song and analyse it. Write down the harmony using either chord degrees or chord names. Once you have done this with several songs, study the harmonic patterns. Then try to apply similar patterns in your own music.

8. Play Harmonies On Your Instrument

Start finding and playing different chord structures on your instrument. You can play the harmony parts of existing songs, or you can improvise and come up with your own cool harmonies. Some of the best ideas are born while improvising on your instrument, so I recommend just trying out a lot of different chord progressions. If you find a harmony structure that is interesting, you may want to write it down before you forget it.

About The Author:

About the author: Matti Carter is a composer and music instructor living in Helsinki, Finland. Are you interested in learning and becoming good at composition? Be sure to contact him for courses and lessons.