I'm just curious about allot of compositional techniques, and one of them is the concept of "implying" harmony because it can be useful for determining later harmonic lines for an already written melody or creating a melody that implies a preexisting harmony.
You could also toy with the melody to "imply" other keys (maybe, I'm not sure) and help you modulate more smoothly.

Is it just playing broken chords in the melody with passing notes & neighbor tones or whatever other "non-harmonic" notes / recognizing notes that could work in harmony from the melody ?

How can harmony be implied by melody ?

  • What you're asking about is harmonization. There are entire books written about harmony, there are classes in music schools, and online courses. This isn't really a topic that can be summarized fairly in a short answer... Commented Sep 1, 2023 at 20:03
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    It doesn't even need broken chords; it also relies on triggering our expectations of harmonic convention. You could play "E D C" and we'd hear I V I, because that's the foundation of tonal harmony. It's kind of like saying "Once upon a time there was a beautiful princess, an evil queen, and a handsome prince..." and letting the listener assume the rest. Commented Sep 1, 2023 at 21:54
  • @AndyBonner - Alternately, that "E D C" can imply a C major chord only (or just I).
    – Dekkadeci
    Commented Sep 2, 2023 at 6:37

1 Answer 1


Harmony can and does get implied by melody. In jazz, it's called 'playing over the changes'. Even if there is no actual accompaniment (i.e. chords underneath) a good player will be capable of letting the listener be aware of where they are in a piece, even though the head melody has long morphed into something else - improvisation.

Often this is done using the emphasised notes in a bar that belong to the underlying harmony. In 4/4 bars, usually beats 1 and 3. Or emphasising those chordal notes more, on the unstressed parts of the bar.

Broken or not, chords are chords, a set of three or more (others may disagree!) notes which blend together, such as ^1 ^3 ^5 of a key to produce the tonic chord. So when there's a place in a piece where one or more of those notes played, perhaps with passing notes between, there's going to be an implication, at least, that the chord that could be there is I.

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