Tip #93 – Negative Harmony

Some of you may have already been familiar with the concept. Others might still be yearning for a better explanation. And some might not have heard of this concept (like myself back in the summer of this previous year).

While this concept is not “new” in any form, I do what to introduce it as a new topic on this website.

Basically, negative harmony is the application of changing notes in a chords for new ones, but still have the same active and passive tendencies and the original chord. Meaning, if the original harmony had a tensional pull to resolve, so will this new chord based on negative harmony.

So, how does one get negative harmony?

First, establish the key that your harmonic progression is in. For this example, we will be in C Major. Now, find the two most-stable pitches: the tonic and dominant.

After that, find the pitch that meets in the middle. This will be the axis of our soon-to-be, point of reflection:

As you notice, there is no defined pitch in the middle of the tonic and dominant. That is not a problem, as it will work to our advantage as we make the point between the mediants the point of reflection:

And now you can see that we reflect the rest of the notes around the point between the mediants. This chart then shows what notes of the original harmony become in order to achieve negative harmony.

So, a F major chord of F – A – C , become D – Bb – G (or a G minor triad).

Play around with it, and experiment in different keys with different points of reflection.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read! Feel free to comment, share, and subscribe for more daily tips below! Till next time.

Author: Bryan M. Waring

Bryan Waring is a graduate of USM's School of Music with a B.M. in Performance – Composition and is now attending Belmont University for a M.M. in Commercial Media – Composition & Arranging. During his time at USM, he studied violin with Dino Liva and composition with Dr. Daniel Sonenberg, as well as has premiered several pieces during the semiannual Composer's Ensemble concert series. In 2017, Bryan was a writer for the original musical theater work of "Molded By The Flow," directed by Paul Dresher and Rinde Eckert. Outside of school, Bryan has been involved with writing music for videogame developers at Portland's CI2 Lab, collaborating with the King Tide Party, and studying with Larry Groupé (Straw Dogs) in San Diego. Now living in Nashville. Along with composing, Bryan teaches music to children, receiving the Master Teacher Award for his work at ESF Camps; and does audio engineering for live ensembles. Besides talents in music, Bryan is a team-player in any competitive work environment; equipped with skills in leadership, organization, mathematics, creativity, communication, and managing. On the side, Bryan has worked as a model for several skilled artists in the New England area. Among his other accomplishments include obtaining the rank of Eagle Scout in April 2013 with a project of building a side parking area with guide rails for Webb Mountain Park in Monroe, CT.

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