Tip #78 – Trying Some Chromatic Approach in Harmonization

How would you harmonize the melody below?:

It can most certainly be done it a multitude of ways, but for today’s tip, let’s talk about using 4-way close harmonization. That would look like as such for the chord tones:

However, we have one note left out. The non-chord tone in a passing motion.

Because this non-chord tone is approaching the next note (which is a chord tone) by a half-step, we can consider using a chromatic approach technique to the harmonization.

Simply, have the entire harmonization be an approach by half-step to the landing chord tones. It would look like as such:

Sure, this may go against some principles of avoiding parallel harmony, but…

  1. It sounds good.
  2. You are the composer; so do what YOU want


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Tip #77 – Borrowing Chords from Parallel Keys

Take a look at this diatonic progression and harmony below:

How can we spice this up a bit and make it more interesting?

One way is by borrowing chords from its parallel major or minor key. Simply, if it is a major triad – make it a minor. And vice versa.

Note: it doesn’t have to be done to every chord. Be tasteful about where you want to add a borrowed chord. Also, in some cases too, you might need to alter the melody to fit more in-tune with the harmony around it.


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Tip #76 – Reminder For Simplicity in Interlocking Parts

A little goes a long way, and sometimes that’s exactly what is needed to forming a nice groove.

While it may be tempting to use an abundance of complex rhythms in every separate parts, it can conversely turn to be too cluttered and lack in “groove.”

For today’s tip: opt for having each separate part being simplistic, but also uniquely different from the rest. Then, when combined together, it will create a complex and driving groove they you are searching after. The sum of the parts equals the whole, so make the parts work well with each other before working as a complete unit.


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Improve Your Lyrics – Tip #4

Use a non-lyrical vocal hook!

“What is that?” you ask.

You’ve probably have heard it a million of times in songs on the radio. It is when the lyrics (or lack-there-of) resorts to a sound. Like: ah, oo, oh, yeah, eh, ay, hey, etc. And perform that catchy repeated melody to those non-lyrical vocal sounds.

This helps a song writer by not only making the melody catchy and easy to sing, but breaks the language barrier allowing anyone that can make those sounds sing along.

You probably don’t want to include it on every song you write, but it is a great tool when you are in a pinch to make some ear-candy.


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Tip #75 – Doing Some Diatonic Harmonization on Passing Tones

For the instance that you want to harmonize a non-harmonic passing tone in a jazz/commercial style 4-way close, here is a tip for you:

Using a process of diatonic harmonization, you can make some smooth and boldly beautiful harmonized lines without interfering with the harmonic make-up, or relying on dissonance.

First, analyze the passage. Does the non-harmonic passing tone occur between two chord tones? It should.

Next, analyze the harmony. Is the melody taking place over an acting I, ii, or V chord?

If so, harmonize the chord tones properly with the passing tone remaining.

To harmonize the passing tone, choose from one of the remaining chords (I, ii, or V) and do so. Meaning, if it was a I chord, harmonize the passing tone with a ii or V. If it was a ii chord, harmonize the passing tone with a I or V chord. And if it was a V chord, harmonize the passing tone with a I (more common) or a ii (rare).

Below are some examples with some rough and basic harmonization:


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Tip #74 – Harmonizing an Appoggiatura Over a Diminished Chord

In the very rare case that you will ever need to do such a thing, let’s dive in a take a look at the steps you would take to actually make a “good” 4-way close harmonization of a melody that exhibits an appoggiatura over a diminished chord.

In the example above, we see that the Bb is an appoggiatura. It is a dissonance on a strong beat caused by a leap in one direction, and resolved in the opposite.

In four-part writing harmonization, the appoggiatura over the diminished chord will replace the next lowest chord member. It that case, the Bb‘s nearest close chord member from below is the Ab:

Also, take notice that it is a whole-step away, too. Next, you would harmonize using the tones of the Ab diminished chord, but omitting the Ab pitch.

From there, you can harmonize the rest of your passage in 4-way close, drop voicing, etc.


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Tip #73 – A Reminder for Subtle Influences

Over the past few months, I have detailed of aspects of certain genres and styles, from their unique scales to chord progressions, form, treatment of melody, motifs, rhythm, etc.

While you as the composer can certain take these bits of advice to compose something uniform – say, like in the style of an “authentic” delta blues song for example – there is nothing forcing you to.

You very much can Frankenstein your piece by having subtle influences to a composition, but not let it be overbearing. For example: your entire composition could be classical in nature, but have a blues based melody. A country song you are writing could have a Latin percussion beat in the backing rhythm for some spicy flavor. Or your next electronic club hit could sample some passages from Renaissance era vocal counterpoint.

Be creative, but keep in mind that a little goes a long way!


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