#1October 31st, 2005 · 01:40 PM
28 threads / 19 songs
175 posts
United States of America
Vocal Harmony. I Just Don't Get It.
Need help. I bet a lot of people can relate... I understand what fourths, fifths, sixths, etc., but what is a typical vocal harmony? When is a good time to use them?
#2October 31st, 2005 · 04:18 PM
1 threads / 1 songs
13 posts
Poland
A vocal is just another instrument that must be harmonic to the rest. You need to know that there are three main parts of a song that overlap: rhythm (drums/bass), chords (backup guitar) and a melody played by vocals or lead guitar. Everything must be played in the same scale (E-Major or anything else) at one moment.

You need to take an instrument (maybe guitar), then play various sounds and try to sing them. This is the exercise I need to do because I've got a pretty nice voice, but I can't sing what I exactly want to. We both need to teach our throats how to generate appropriate sounds
#3November 1st, 2005 · 11:16 AM
31 threads / 1 songs
434 posts
United States of America
wow, that's a very in depth question and honestly it cannot be easily answered. If you know your intervals then that's a good start.

the thing with vocal harmonies is it's not as simple or straight forward to invent good ones as it is to - say - play a chord on the guitar.

this subject is one you could (and maybe should) spend years of study on and often this subject ends up really falling into the realm of what is known as Counterpoint.

counterpoint is the study of two simultaneously moving melody lines and their interactions with each other. i've got an uncle who's an amazing jazz pianist. he's about 40 or so and he told me that Counterpoint is something he's been studying for 20 years but that it wasn't until he hit about 40 that he really started to appreciate it.

so there you have it - the subject of Counterpoint can be a lifetime in the making when it comes to study.

the good news is however that most people have what they call a gut as in the phrase "gut feeling" or "intuition" and your intuition will probably lead you more cool places a lot faster than formal music training.

Jimi Hendrix had no real formal music training whatsoever aside from lots of experience holding it down with mega backup rhythm chops in bands like Little Richard. He used to talk a lot in terms of Colors or images... "I want this to sound like the Ocean" or whatever he might say. He's got some vocal harmonies on a few peices which taken by themselves make no sense whatsoever but when put with the rest of the band become realized into a very unique gospel style.

the point is - some people have it and some people don't - but no matter where you are, you can cultivate it. first try your gut and if that doesn't produce what you want after a fair shot then hit the books.
#4November 1st, 2005 · 04:24 PM
28 threads / 19 songs
175 posts
United States of America
well, i guess i havent given my "gut" it's fair try. just hoping for an easy answer 

oy vell
#5November 10th, 2005 · 10:19 AM
8 threads / 7 songs
96 posts
Canada
all that said, there could be a couple of short-cuts... you won't necessarily learn *what* you're doing or why it works, but here's a couple of ideas:
1) Lots of vocal harmony is built on stacked thirds, like on a Cmajor chord one person sings C, the next sings E, and the next G. Four parts? you've got options... add the seventh note, or maybe leave out the fifth and add the 7th and the 9th... (so CEGB or CEBD)...
2) play around with stacking different kinds iof intervals: what does it sound like when you stack minor thirds (e.g. CEbGbA or BDFAb)? fourths (CFBbEb)? fifths (CGDA)?
3) play the chord on your guitar. Now play it slowly, note by note, and get the singers each to sing on of the notes of the chord (generally you won't need 6 signers bexcause even though there are six strings most of the basic chords on guitar only actually have 3 or 4 notes... you'll notice there's doubling or repeated notes). Ta da. you're singing whatever chord it is you're playing.
4) try and keep the harmonies "tight" or the notes as close together as possible. So with a major chord, for instance, you could sing C,B,G,E, but it would sound really spread out. CEGB will sound "tighter."

...I agree with Entheon: if you want to actually learn this stuff, it's gonnna take some time, and probably some form of study. But if you just want to put some basic BG vocals on a recording, try using the ideas I outlined...

BT
#6November 10th, 2005 · 10:22 AM
8 threads / 7 songs
96 posts
Canada
sorry, one more thing: Piotrala, I disagree that everything has to be in the same key at any given moment. Try playing a Dmajor triad above a Cmajor triad simultaneously. D major has an F# in it which technically isn't in the key of C, but it's a verry pretty (albeit very bright) note... there are an infinite number of examples like this.
#7November 10th, 2005 · 03:15 PM
6 threads / 4 songs
33 posts
United States of America
Perhaps that's because now since you've added a sharped fourth, you're playing in C lydian. It's still one scale.

However, some instruments are more lenient than others. On a piano if you play a sharped fifth really high over some normal sounding notes (with a natural fifth included) It's not particularly dissonant.
#8November 10th, 2005 · 03:57 PM
8 threads / 7 songs
96 posts
Canada
okay okay thankyou smartypants.
okay, so fine C with a #11 is in the key of G, technically. good call. what about a #9 chord? there you've got, essentially, both the major and minor 3rd in one chord. Sisters Euclid have a tune where the main chord has a natural and a flat 5 in it. very crunchy, but sounds *so* good.
what key is Eaug in?
#9November 22nd, 2005 · 11:05 PM
28 threads / 19 songs
175 posts
United States of America
well, i have a pretty good handle on scales, keys, intervals, and finally at least i know what modes are , though i haven't memorized them.

treating the voice like another instrument... gonna give harmony a try!

thanks for all the help!
#10November 24th, 2005 · 10:01 AM
6 threads / 4 songs
33 posts
United States of America
Flat and natural fifths form a lydian scale; the flatted five acts as a sharped 4.

Major and minor thirds form a scale that has a major third and a sharped 2.
#11November 26th, 2005 · 01:31 PM
31 threads / 1 songs
434 posts
United States of America
and *then* there's the minor-major scale and *then* there's polytonality

have fun with that!
#12December 23rd, 2005 · 04:28 AM
5 posts
United States of America
"Flat and natural fifths form a lydian scale; the flatted five acts as a sharped 4.

Major and minor thirds form a scale that has a major third and a sharped 2."

That is only true to a certain extent.  If you have a chord that has a flat five and a natural five, then the natural four still exists.  So it's very chromatic.  For instance a Cmajb5(add5) would have the notes f, f#, and g all together, so technically it's not a lydian scale. 

"what about a #9 chord?"
The thing about all these chords with altered extensions are that they don't fit into any major key.  The most common #9 chords is the dominant #9 chord, like E7#9, and that usually sounds good with a harmonic minor being played over it.  so like E7#9 would be the 5 chord of A Harmonic Minor (A,B,C,D,E,F,G#). It doesn't technically fit into that key, but the sound is nice.  These chords were mainly used in jazz where keys would change every 2 bars so they would sometimes have to use the scales of the chord itself.
#13January 15th, 2006 · 10:16 PM
7 threads / 5 songs
20 posts
United States of America
And to complicate the matter...
leVee -

Two answers - the first is shorter, and probably more helpful.  The second is long-winded and somewhat useless, but I'm putting it up anyway because it formed the majority of my senior thesis, and you happened to ask a question that got me thinking about it again.

First - if you really want to learn a good deal about vocal harmony, and useful stuff, all you really need to do is listen to a lot of vocal music.  Check out the group Cantus (11 guys from St. Olaf's College that do nothing but a capella music, and it's gorgeous).  I listen to them all the time, and they are one reason why I've been able to come up with interesting vocal harmonies.

http://www.cantusonline.org/

(If that one doesn't work, try here)
http://www.cantusonline.org/

And the second -

I don't know if this will make things easier or harder, but I'm betting it might be at least comforting.  Either way, here you go.

There's nothing inherently mathematically correct about the intervals we usually use in songs - way over in India and other areas of the east have scales that are much more mathematically correct than our scales, which have a few mathematical "glitches."  Their music sounds, to us, a lot like sick cats being tortured on rusty nails - and ours sounds the same to them, which tells you how much math probably matters in this game.

The key here is tradition - the scales that we use have undergone centuries of development and were thought entirely correct, and then future composers and a lot of jazz musicians came in and proved them wrong.  One of the most important things about any piece of music is who is listening - the audience, because it's the tradition they are used to that will determine whether or not your music is even comprehensible.

The downside to that is that it makes most of music so much more complicated that it's nearly iimpossible to learn it all.  The upside, it limits your search for listeners, and frees you up to find people that like and understand your music rather than tailoring it.

In short, your gut is a really, really good determinant for whether or not something works, and should probably be the first consultant on any musical question you have.  And the more you study, the more your gut expands - they shouldn't be at odds.  Which means you don't have to put off composing as you study.
#14January 18th, 2006 · 07:49 PM
159 threads / 14 songs
2,309 posts
United Kingdom
re: Vocal Harmony. I Just Don't Get It.
your question is too vague................................
'I just don't get it' means little

why do you need to know about this and in what context..................??????????????????keep it simple or people around the world will spend hours of their time trying to answer.................an open ended question...........and never give u the answer u seek

what is your question?

sorry a blunt answer

the fish
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