Sax on the Web Forum banner

1 - 15 of 15 Posts

·
Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2009
Joined
·
3,204 Posts
Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Hi all,

I'm playing a melody now for quite some time already, I have the lyrics ready, and I want to harmonise it so I can play it with a small ensemble (piano, sax, bass, voice, NO drums :D )

One problem : I just don't figure the chords. Somehow I must have written it with different tonal centers or so, because I can't just use one scale and derive the chords from there (I know the classic function of I to VII etc.). I hear a vague harmonisation in my head, but I can't find it when using Sibelius and trying out chords.

I tried to work with functions : writing down the scales I believed were to be played over the chords underlying this melody, but also that way I couldn't really pick the chords. I also payed attention to the function of the chords in different keys, but that only confused me more. Applying the basic rules like "no IV after a V, a III and a I have the same function, a IV and a VI (right?), a V and a VII too" in combination with typical cadenses (I-IV, I-V, II-V-I etc.) didn't work either.

So I'm pretty much lost. Anybody a fresh view on an approach to harmonise a melody for beginners?
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2016
Joined
·
4,881 Posts
Jolle,
What is the style? Can you pick out the bass notes to accompany your melody?

Give yourself black and white choices in the beginning:

1) Is it major or minor?
2) Traditional or modern?
...etc

Then narrow things down a bit from here. Find your bass notes too then fill in from there. Don't worry about the 'rules'. A lot of those chords can function in many ways...
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2009
Joined
·
3,204 Posts
Discussion Starter #3
Thanks hgiles, you're right.

Now the "style" and major/minor, that's the first thing I struggle with.

The melody sounds "jazzy" and is intended to be a "smooth" song. I don't like to compare it, but it could be thought of as a bad copy of Norah Jones. Yeah, wrote it in a cheesy "why doesn't that girl want me" period.

I think it's minor, although it starts with some major arpeggio and goes on from there : E-C-E-G-A-Bb-G-Bb-C-A (single notes, not chords). It looked to me as a Cmajor with a lowered 7. (this is the...myxolydian mode?) That part worked out more or less btw.

But then it goes to F-Ab-Bb-G-F-Eb-E-F-C-Eb-D and then I'm lost. Sounds very minor, but no clue in which key. I can't really distinguish passing notes from chord notes, so I can't really use the theory. Same approach would tell me this looks from very far as a mode derived from the Eb major. But then again, it doesn't even sound as "one mode/tonal center" if I make myself clear. There is more going on, and this approach didn't get me far.

(sorry for the messing up of terms, I'm not trained and I'm not good in getting the difference between mode, scale, key, tonal center etc. To me they all connect, and I can't distinguish yet which of them is the important factor in a given situation.)

Picking the bass might indeed be a good start. Tried that but blocked in the second part again. But that was with that chord mess in the back of my mind. I'll try it with a free mind, just finding a fitting bass. Thanks for the tip.

To be continued...
 

·
The most prolific Distinguished SOTW poster, Forum
Joined
·
27,650 Posts
Try this. You say you can hear in your head the kind of quality you want the chords to have. You've tried a lot of things so now try to harmonise a second voice to your melody that has those same harmonic qualities that you are hearing in your inner ear. Only the second voice, don't be looking for chords. Then add a third voice that also compliments the melody, harmonically. When you've got the three voices, you've got the basic harmonic structure regardless of what you want to name the chords.

There may be some chords where you can add a bass voice that is different from what is found in your three voices. For example you might have written G-Bb-D but find that you want a C in the bass. You have a different quality now to the chord (and a different chord name).

Fill in the other bass notes. Listen to the chords and see where you might want to change or alter them.

If you've done the first two steps right you're almost done. If not, you just need to spend more time at it. Some folks write fast and others are painfully slower. If it's any consolation I have read that Gil Evans would sometimes work over one or two chords for a week.

Until you're pretty experienced (and even then) a lot of writing is just time-consuming hunting and fishing. Good luck. ;)
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Columnist/Official SOTW Guru
Joined
·
3,764 Posts
Jolle,
Asyou say yourself, you don't have astronghandle on the theory, so I'm wondering why you'd attempt to tackle the job this way?

What do you "hear" when you sing the melody in your head?

As hgiles suggests, try to hear and then transcribe the bass line.

Also,as anyone who's ever composed will attest, very often, our original composition, our masterpiece, ends up being a "rip off"of a tune we have heard or played before.

It could be that you had the Norah Jones track playing in your head when you wrote the tune and the changes are only a "Norah Jones + tab" google search away.

Or you could look to the music you commonly play and see if any of the changes you've played a million times match up with your melody.

Don't fall into the trap of theorising that " these notes equal this chord."
 

·
Distinguished SOTW Member, Forum Contributor 2009
Joined
·
3,204 Posts
Discussion Starter #6
thanks Gary and Dog Pants. It's always nice to hear from the greats that a "bit" more patience and endurance can solve many a problem. Nice tips, I go to work again.

Back to the "intuitive" approach, looks like :D
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
618 Posts
Find the notes that happen on the "strong" beats, use some chords that sound good with those notes, or, use the longer pitches to give you some direction of chord movement. Unless you are stringing together eigth note motifs, ala Bach or Bird, longer notes "usually" denote cadences that would suggest chords.

Of course, since music is really just theory - no one can PROVE C# - all these suggestions could be right, or wrong. Use your ear, and best guess.

That's what I do....
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
249 Posts
Jolle,get the software program Band In A Box.It will harmonize your melody in quite a number of different styles and parts.You can then do your own harmony and compare it with what "Box"has done.You can see where the software put the 3rd,7th etc.you can then modify for the different
instruments you plan to use.They even have a program for 5 part saxophone section.It is very useful.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,015 Posts
I need to be able to hear what's going on in your head!

Could be (and it's a big could) that you need a modern parallel voicing approach. Paul Coates has written some good articles on arranging for horns in this style that may help. They used to be here on SOTW - if they're not anymore you can probably find them elsewhere on the net.

This approach breaks most of the rules in the traditional theory book, giving a more contemporary horn section sound.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,070 Posts
lamar reeves said:
Jolle,get the software program Band In A Box.It will harmonize your melody in quite a number of different styles and parts.You can then do your own harmony and compare it with what "Box"has done.You can see where the software put the 3rd,7th etc.you can then modify for the different
instruments you plan to use.They even have a program for 5 part saxophone section.It is very useful.
Lamar

I have BIAB, which I've really only used as a playalong. How do you get the melody into BIAB to generate harmonies please. Thanks.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
955 Posts
Getting a melody into BIAB...
You can input the melody in BIAB, but the single thing I don't like about BIAB is this. I think the melody editer is really difficult to use.. could just be me.. but for me it is.. so I take an easier approach.
Enter your melody into another notation program, that allows you to export the file as a midi file.
Once you have a midi file, you can Import it into the melody channel in BIAB.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,070 Posts
madgrocer said:
Getting a melody into BIAB...
You can input the melody in BIAB, but the single thing I don't like about BIAB is this. I think the melody editer is really difficult to use.. could just be me.. but for me it is.. so I take an easier approach.
Enter your melody into another notation program, that allows you to export the file as a midi file.
Once you have a midi file, you can Import it into the melody channel in BIAB.
Thanks Dean

I'm not to good on the techy stuff, I have cubase I'm sure that must allow me to create a midi file, I will take a look.
 

·
SOTW Columnist, Distinguished SOTW Member
Joined
·
23,013 Posts
Jolle said:
Applying the basic rules like "no IV after a V,....
Well, there goes about 50,000 blues tunes. Of course the blues doesn't necessarily fit the "rules." But leaving that aside......

Those note sequences you wrote out in your second post (C E C G A Bb etc...and F Ab Bb G F Eb etc) sound like C7 and Fmin7 (or F7(#9)). So it might indicate a I-IV type of movement, depending on the rhythmic context. Not necessarily minor, but bluesy with the flat 7ths and #9 (b3), all depending of course on the overall concept.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
955 Posts
Nobby Keys said:
Thanks Dean

I'm not to good on the techy stuff, I have cubase I'm sure that must allow me to create a midi file, I will take a look.
What I'm talking about is software for writing music notation.. scores.. etc.. where you are writing your music into a musical staff.
I use Finale Print Music ( the cheaper version of Finale) as a notation/scoring/writing software program. It has the capability to "save as" a midi file in addition to saving as a Finale file. Finale NotePad (the Free version of Finale) does not have this capability, so don't bother trying that one.
Prior to using Finale Print Music, I used Noteworthy composer, it also had the ability to "save as" a midi file. I'm sure lots of the other notation program's allow you to do this.
For me, its just a lot easier to use a real notation program, than the notation editor in BIAB.

So anyway... once you have your melody as a midi file..
In BIAB.. you go to the menu bar
Melody - Edit Melody Track - Import Melody from Midi Track - and then read the screens.. you can pick which track in the midi file to import if it has more than one.. where to start it.. etc.
 
1 - 15 of 15 Posts
Top