Harmonizing – How to Do It On Your Guitar

harmonizing techniqueHarmonizing is one of the most frequently used guitar techniques in lead guitar playing and interestingly, most people don’t realize a piece of music is harmonized after hearing it.

Bands like Iron Maiden and Dragon Force utilize harmonized riffs and solos in almost every song they play and I strongly encourage you to check them out.

Basically, harmonizing refers to 2 different melodies sharing the same tones being played at the same time. Besides helping you get creative and generate ideas in your playing, you can also apply the same concepts to doing backup vocals.

Before we start today’s lesson, guitar harmonization requires you to have a basic idea of music intervals and musical scales. If you need a refresher on these topics, please read the respective lessons first before continuing…

Harmonizing in 3rds

To get you started, let’s begin with the most common harmonization intervals in music: the 3rds. I will be using the C major scale to illustrate some concepts in music theory to keep things simple.

Now, imagine playing a melody in the C major scale with the notes: C-D-E-F. If we are to harmonize this melody in 3rds, we would have to utilize notes that are a 3rd higher in the C major scale.

All you need to do is to count up three notes in the scale to find the third. So, we would end up harmonizing the melody with the following notes: E-F-G-A. You will play the C note together with the E note and the D note together with the F note; so on and so forth.

Harmonizing 3rds

Harmonizing in 5ths

Using the same example of playing a melody in the C major scale with the following notes: C-D-E-F. If we want to harmonize this melody in 5ths, we would end up using the following notes: G-A-B-C. Basically, just count up 5 notes in the scale to find the fifth. Simple?

Harmonizing 5ths

How Do You Play Them In Real Life?

Harmonizing is easier if you have another guitarist who’s playing together with you. If you are alone, that’s fine too. It’s still possible to play harmonized melodies with the help of effects or proper fingering.

Here is an example of a simple fingering pattern for harmonizing in 3rds using the C major scale.


Guitar Harmonization Exercise in C Major

This exercise is based in C major and I want you to do the harmonization in 3rds and 5ths. Once you have done that, check your answers by downloading the guitar pro 5 file.

Harmonizing Exercise

Download .gtp5 ( Right-click Save Target as… )

Once you get the exercise right, I encourage you to be a little adventurous and start experimenting with different intervals for your harmonization.

NOTE: Some riffs and solos sound better without harmonization and you shouldn’t be harmonizing EVERYTHING at every opportunity. Sometimes, less is more. Use your best judgment when it comes figuring out whether it fits into the piece of music.

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