Harmony is a very overlooked aspect of music even though it is a vital part in creating the mood or tone of the song and definitely adds flavour. Harmony is a note (or notes) which acts as support to the melody most often in the form of a chord.
As I said earlier, harmony is one of the things that sets the mood of the song. Creating a good harmony is as important as creating a catchy melody line. Previously, I mentioned how scales and time signatures affect the sound or vibe of the song. After you’ve completed those steps, you would have to start building your chord progression. Here are some pointers that may help you.
This does not really have too much to do with composing but knowing intervals is definitely very handy. Intervals are the distance between one note and another.
For example, in a C major scale, G is the 5th or “dominant” of C and F is the 4th or the “sub-dominant”.
Now let’s say there’s a chord progression where you have these three chords, C(1st), F(4th), G(5th).
If you by chance need to change your scale or maybe even transpose in the middle of the song and have same tune but higher or lower, let’s say in the key of D.
Instead of trying to find the alternative to the chords one by one, when you know the intervals, you would know that G(4th) is the alternative for F and A(5th) is the alternative without having to analyse it chord by chord all over again.
—Finding the right chord
Now this one’s pretty obvious. Not all chords can provide the feel you’re hoping to attain.
With the musicians I’ve worked with so far both in a recording session or just jamming, we’ve always started off with the chords and built the melody around that (doesn’t have to be that way.
It’s just how I operate but I would recommend that to others as well). But if you’re doing it the other way around, you may find a chord that fits with the melody but you don’t quite like the sound of it.
Now you must know a triad which is generally used, consists of 3 notes – the root(1st), the 3rd and the 5th. If you do not like the sound of a chord, simply changing one of those notes gives you an entirely different chord.
For example, if you are playing a Cmaj, replacing the 5th (G) with the 6th(A), makes it an Am chord.
Keeping the root note in your new chord like in this case makes it easier so I would recommend starting off with exploring these kinds of chords before you start finding more alternatives.
—Adding extensions and alterations
Adding extensions and alterations to your chord change the tone of the regular triad almost entirely.
Some common extensions are the minor 7th, major 7th and major 9th.
Alterations are, as the name suggests, altering one or more notes of the chord for example, sharpening the 5th or 9th.
Here’s something you need to keep in mind – when you see a chord symbol such as C11 or C13 it means that you should play all the available chord tones and tensions below as well.
So C11 has the 1, 3, 5, b7, 9 and 11. But if you see something like C7(13), then you should just add the one tension listed. So C7(13) has the 1, 3, 5, b7 and 13.