I possess a whole book dedicated to harmonising. It coverrs perhaps if not all chords and how they can be harmonized with a melody. However, all the examples given so far, is only concerned with melodies that are extremely simple, i.e mostly it is a note which repeats over half or an entire bar. This is however, some examples of harmonizing notes which leap, but none that covers melodies which move in stepwise motion, which I think is necessary, as this would advance nicely from the more simplistic examples.

The motivating factor in me asking this question is that I have created various melodies that I can seem to harmonize well (it follows the guidelines, and sounds quite decent). I am trying to do one of these 'chord at the beginning of every bar' type progression, since it's both popular and simple, which is a good starting point for me.

However, the main motive (as in the musical motive) consists of rapid stepwise motion between notes E and F for the first half of the 2nd and 4th bars, and playing the chord later on in the bar just doesn't seem right at all.

So of course, every chord sounds like someone's just been murdered. So, am thinking there must be various techniques/workarounds/trade offs that can be made, which have gained popularity via the years of experience from various musicians/cultures/genres.

Thank you for reading my post, if anyone could give me any sort of starting point, it would be very much appreciated :)

  • Not quite sure what you're getting at. If you're working in C major, and E and F are the primary notes of the bar, it's entirely possible to set both notes with A in the bass and C in a middle voice (with the other middle voice doubling either C or A). It's also possible to create two harmonies in the bar and use either note as a passing tone, depending on the underlying harmony. (Something like minim E in the alto with running quavers from unison E up to A in the descant can be very effective in the right spot, and you'll note that F will show up as a sharp although transient dissonance.)
    – user16935
    Jun 3, 2015 at 19:31
  • If you are working with fewer harmonies to the bar than melody notes (and that is a very normal situation), then at least some of the melody notes will normally be non-harmonic. Maybe give us an example of what you are trying to do.
    – user16935
    Jun 3, 2015 at 19:31
  • Thansk Patrx, this is the type of advice am looking for, though would you have a reference I could turn to? :) By the way, the example I gave doesn't really matter, I was just talking in a general sense
    – user108262
    Jun 3, 2015 at 19:48
  • This is a useful summary: cnu.edu/music/pdf/theory_exit_review.pdf. For beginners, I usually recommend Schoenberg's books: Structural Functions of Harmony, Models for Beginners in Composition (which is purely a reference, not explanatory), and Fundamentals of Musical Composition. If you can read French, Charles Koechlin has books out on counterpoint and harmony, even a book on passing tones (!), and he was a marvellous writer. (I shall have to translate them some day.)
    – user16935
    Jun 3, 2015 at 20:50

1 Answer 1


I think the basic of harmonization will do you good.

I think the better way of approaching harmony especially when it is for four voices is to think of it as two melody written together with the middle voices giving substance to the thing.

So lets consider the following.

  • Your melody voices need a good width. Aim for an octave.
  • Your melodies need to be interesting.
  • Your chord progressions need to be good and should include...

  • Chords with sevenths (Including proper resolutions)

  • Passing 6/4 progressions (Built on both the Tonic and Dominant)
  • Cadential 6/4 Progressions (Built on both the Tonic and Dominant)

  • You need to be completely familiar with the proper doubling of notes.

  • Make sure you always avoid consecutive octaves and fifths.
  • The Unison does not escape the problem of consecutive octaves.

But the two melodies in the outer voices should not be written independently from each other. Some further considerations.

  • When there is big movement in one of the melodies it is good for the other voices to stand still.
  • It is not good for both the melody voices to have a large amount of movement. (At the same time,)
  • When there is reasonable movement in both the melody voices it is good to have opposite movement instead of both voices going up or down rather have one do the other.
  • There needs to be form to the movements in the melody. A wave, A spike, runs etc.
  • When you jump up have a counter movement down.
  • When you jump down have a counter movement back up.

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