I am writing a song and have the bassline and vocal melody how I want them to sound and would like to add two additional voices to the arrangement. Could someone give me a few tips or some help on how to achieve this. The chord progression is Cm / Eb / Bb / Ab and then it goes to Gm just at the end before going into the chorus.

Here is just the verse section which I am working on. Please note that both the bass and vocals are actually one octave lower than notated. I am a baritone so would sing this melody one octave below where it is notated.

original composition score, verse, 9 measures

  • If I understand correctly, it is not the notation part of how to add two further systems (which would be a pretty standard SATB layout), but how to arrive at matching content?
    – guidot
    Commented May 20, 2021 at 11:58
  • If you're daring enough, have you tried playing what you notated on the piano and improvising a part in between?
    – Dekkadeci
    Commented May 20, 2021 at 12:04
  • @Dekkadeci Yes but I am not really good on the piano... I actually play the guitar and have moved over to the piano just recently... on the guitar I would just play the full chord but I am looking for a 4 part harmony approach where I would start with a counterpoint bass and melody and then add two inner voices.
    – user35708
    Commented May 20, 2021 at 13:07

2 Answers 2


The most straightforward approach is to build the inner parts around chord tones. I would start by adding whole notes (which is to say, notes that last the duration of the chord) to build a harmonic framework. Additional notes can be added as neighbor and passing tones once the basic framework is in place.

So the first step I'm suggesting would look like this:

X: 1
T: Adding voices
T: Step 1: Whole-note chord tones
K: Eb major
M: 4/4
L: 1/8
%%score V1 | (V2 V3)
V:V1 clef=treble
V:V2 clef=bass
V:V3 clef=bass
[V:V1] z2 GG/2c/2- cB GE/2F/2- | FG- GG/2c/2 cB GE/2F/2- |
[V:V2] [CE]8 | [B,E]8 |
[V:V3] C,2 z C,/2C,/2 z C,3 | E,2 z E,/2E,/2 z E,3 |

The second step might look like Laurence's second example: just change the whole notes to half notes.

  • THank you Aaron. I wanted to do that but I was unsure of where to put the chord tones within the arrangement. What Michael did was a big help to me. If you get a chance, could you just do the first bar or 2 with an example so I could get a different idea? Only if youre up for it. Cheers!
    – user35708
    Commented May 22, 2021 at 9:42
  • @armani Michael? Do you mean Laurence? I'm sure Laurence would appreciate an upvote from you, as would everyone whose answers you've found helpful.
    – Aaron
    Commented May 22, 2021 at 14:10
  • Yes sorry! If I upvote now does that mean the question is closed? Is an upvote the one with the arrows?
    – user35708
    Commented May 22, 2021 at 17:42
  • @armani Voting (the up and down arrows) can happen an any time and does not affect the status of a question. Voting is just a way of indicating that a post is (or is not) helpful: however over a triangle to see a description of what that vote means. Accepting answers (the check mark) also is not final. Acceptance can be removed and changed, and it's common for answers to be added even after there is an accepted and/or highly upvoted answer. (I'll get back to you about the harmonization.)
    – Aaron
    Commented May 22, 2021 at 18:38
  • I am so sorry i didn't know this... you guys have been such a great help so I feel really bad but I promise from now on I will make sure I do this :)
    – user35708
    Commented May 24, 2021 at 7:41

You want to add two actual VOICES - i.e. humans singing? Or are you using 'voices' as a purely musical term? What instruments would be playing these 'voices'?

Either way, I don't think we're aiming for a textbook SATB harmonisation here. You've got a vocal melody, you've got the sort of bass line that would suit a bass guitar. You could add a rhythmic accompaniment. You could add sustained notes. Or a combination of the two. Here's three suggestions. The last one brings in a bit of imitation, and follows the principle of one part being busy while the other sustains.

Hope they give you some ideas!

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  • Laurence... this is great. Thank you so much for your time in doing this. I am learning a lot using what you have done here. How long did this take you to do?
    – user35708
    Commented May 22, 2021 at 8:25
  • To answer your questions. I was using voices as a musical term. THe bass guitar will play the bassline and I will sing it but I wanted to try write it as a piano arrangement in 4 parts to play it on the piano first.
    – user35708
    Commented May 22, 2021 at 8:36
  • In the 1st one you did in the 3rd bar, why did you add a C to the Bb harmony? I like the sound of it but I was wondering why you decided to do that since C is not part of the Bb chord.
    – user35708
    Commented May 22, 2021 at 10:12
  • 1
    Not much longer than it took to write it out in Sibelius! The C in bar 3 avoids a clash with the melody Eb (which is also not strictly in the Bb chord). It's nice to see a composition that actually HAS a melody, rather than just a chord sequence. It allows effective little touches like that in the accompaniment. Also the pre-echo of the melody in bar 1 of the 3rd one.
    – Laurence
    Commented May 22, 2021 at 12:35
  • Glad to hear it... I am so envious of you being able to put that together so quickly. I hope one day I can do the same . So what harmony did you use for that Eb? Is that some inverted 7th chord?
    – user35708
    Commented May 22, 2021 at 13:50

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