If you’re looking for a quick guide on how to harmonize with yourself and sing like a pro, this is where you can find out all you need to know.
Learning to harmonize starts with training your ears to hear the implied harmony in a melody. If you can sing, you can surely learn to harmonize. While there is no specific list of instructions that you can follow for instant success, you can follow these tricks and tips and learn this skill.
What Is Harmonizing All About?
Vocalists often take lessons to learn how to harmonize. This is why classically trained vocalists can harmonize simply by reading their sheet music. However, many popular singers teach themselves how to harmonize. This is possible only with a blend of natural ability and ear training.
You may have seen that experienced singers often create harmonies by ear. This means that they have developed a feeling for chords and scales over time and with practice. They can then create variations in melodies and harmonies as they sing.
And you can do the same because it is not very difficult. You can also learn this with practice and training and soon you will be singing harmonies from scratch. The reason is that harmonizing is open to your creativity and innovation.
To harmonize, you will add new notes to a current note. The tricky part is choosing the right notes because there are so many options. This is why you need to learn to train your ears to various harmonies.
Train Your Ears
One of the best ways to train your ears is to listen to barbershop harmonies. These are melodies often sung using the second-highest voice or the lead. Creators of barbershop music write music with distinctive emphasis on the chord structure.
You can choose any kind of barbershop music, although the older ones are better when you are learning to harmonize. Go through some melodies and find arrangements that can provide a strong foundation for you to learn harmonizing.
Choose a song and listen to it several times to become familiar with the tune. After that, listen to the lead singer a few times and focus on the tenor all through the song. When the tenor appears more prominent and easier to hear, repeat the same process for the bass. The next step is the baritone, which is more challenging than the previous segments. Use your concentration to distinguish the baritone notes from the other three parts.
During this stage of your training, ignore the lyrics and focus only on the harmony. This will enable your mind to be free to concentrate on the harmonies. Instead of trying to memorize the segments, try to differentiate each note individually. This will enable you to train your ears to hear the harmony instead of only the melody.
If all this seems too complicated and overwhelming, simply find a few classic barbershop melodies and listen to them in the car or at home for a few days. Even this passive listening will train your ears very soon.
Harmonize to Familiar Melodies
In addition to these, listen to other simple and familiar melodies. You can find unaccompanied simple songs or even traditional melodies, children’s songs, hymns, or holiday favorites.
The next step is to record yourself while singing these tunes and play them back, harmonizing them along with your voice. You may need some tech-savvy skills to do this or get help from a friend.
In the beginning, don’t stress about singing the bass, tenor, or bari specifically with the melodies. Sing notes you like but ones that are different from the melody. You also need to avoid singing any octaves. Many times, people make the mistake of migrating to the melody notes, while just moving down or up an octave.
The best way to do this is with a partner. You can sing the melody while your partner sings the harmonized segment, then switch roles. If you are the lead singer, listen to the harmonizer and let them know whether the notes are acceptable using your facial expressions.
Once you do it a few times, this exercise will become easier. The next step will be to try a harmony segment below the melody. At this point, you should not focus on the bass, baritone, or tenor.
Harmonize in a Group
You need only two voices to do your harmonizing practice, yet the final goal is to create a barbershop harmony by ear in a group of four or a quartet. To become more at ease with harmonizing, be a part of a group woodshedding session in a group of seven people.
Start with one person standing facing the group singing a complete melody that you all are familiar with. Choose a song that is not in your collection or is not popular by recording or arrangement. All the group must listen to the song as a listening-only exercise with no humming at all.
In the next turn, the lead singer will sing the entire song again while everyone else hums along with harmony. There may be some chord doubling and various voices, but that is all fine. The idea is that you and your friends use your ears to create segments of harmony that fit well with the music around them.
Practice this two to three times and then assign everyone a different segment of the harmony that they will sing. Switch parts a few times so that all members of your group have the opportunity to harmonize three segments and the bass, baritone, and tenors are all covered.
Practice, Practice, and More Practice
The objective of all the exercises we have just discussed is ear training and learning to coordinate your ear and voice harmoniously. While you should always use good vocal techniques while singing, the focus of these exercises is not this or the lyrics.
Place all your focus and attention on learning how to harmonize with yourself. Practice, practice, and then practice some more!