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D.I.Y. Harmony Notes

Singing is possibly the most natural and universal human activity. It is NOT a special gift or a specialised skill.

Singing in harmony is just as natural, since some of our voices are naturally higher, some lower. We may have felt how uncomfortable it is to strain to sing the tune, in church for example, when a hymn has been arranged for four parts. This is because the melody has been given to the top part (the sopranos), and the whole thing has had to be set high enough to leave room for three other parts underneath! This is the key of the music in the organist's hymnbook - no wonder most of us struggle - and end up singing an octave lower, or making up something that goes along with the tune (harmonising).

If you find yourself in this kind of situation, try one of the following:

  • find a low note that seems to go well with the tune, and drone on it till you need to move - one step up or down will usually do, and if you keep listening carefully, your ear will tell you which to do, and when to come 'home' again to your original note.

  • try shadowing the tune, below or (easier, if you can reach) above. The magic interval is a 'third' - i.e. two steps down or up from the tune. See if you can get the note at the start of a phrase or line, and just follow the shape of the tune, as long as it feels/sounds right.

  • Keep listening, and your ear will do the rest.

©Yvonne Burgess, 2006