Guitar harmonizing in thirds and fifths is cool, but after a while, it makes music predictable. Think about it; if you were to play the same song every single day for the rest of your life and never deter from it, you would soon become bored of the song, right?
This is where a concept like counterpointing comes in handy.
Guitar counterpoint harmonizing is a fancy way of making both voices within a harmony follow their own melody, but still sound like one unified, pleasant voice.
The benefits of counterpointing are vast, but the main and most important of all is that it makes for a unique style. Almost every band in modern music uses the same third and fifth harmony, staying within the basic power chord structure. While this isn’t bad, it becomes boring for musicians to hear.
Before we get into harmonizing with counterpoints, it is important that you understand a few things. Counterpointing requires basic theoretical knowledge. While you don’t need to be a theory guru, it is important that you understand musical intervals and their relationships. It is also dire that you know at least the basic major and minor scales on guitar.
As long as you understand these, then you can continue. If you don’t, then it is highly suggested that you take some time to learn them before approaching this lesson, as a lack of understanding can lead to confusion and mistakes. Bad habits learned become bad practices conducted.
For our example, we will follow a basic C Major pattern and harmonize it using counterpoint, because C Major is the only Major key that contains no sharps or flats.
C, D, A, F, G, A, B
If we were to simply harmonize using the ever interval of thirds, our scale with its harmonies would look like this:
C, D, E, F, G, A, B
E, F, G, A, B, C, D
This pattern of harmonizing is extremely basic, and as I stated, the most common of all harmonies in modern music. To make a counterpoint harmony, we would need to first develop a second melody beneath our C Major harmony.
When creating a harmony, you need to know what sounds good and why, but also what sounds bad and why it sounds so bad. So let’s take our C Major scale once more, but this time, let’s add a basic melodic pattern of third-third-sixth-third-first-third-fifth.
Note how we are only changing three intervals, but watch how much of a difference this will make.
C, D, E, F, G, A, B
E, F, C, A, G, C, F
Not only do those minor differences change the entire flow of our harmony, but both lines are now following a completely different pattern. This is counterpointing.
Now that you know how counterpointing works, it is time to put your theoretical knowledge to the test and create some of your own patterns. Remember that if your two patterns are following the same basic rhythm, then you are simply creating a linear harmony. Keep an open mind, be creative and have fun, because harmonies can bring a whole new light to your music. Good luck!
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