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I was writing a lower harmony to an existing (rock) lead voice with a given chord progression and there is a point in time, where it seems like the two voices need to sing the very same note. The only alternatives to this are: Letting the second voice jump around alot (which does not sound right to me), making the voice generally lower (but I want the voices to stay relatively close to each other and it sounds dull to me anyway) or changing the lead voice (which I simply don't want to do, because it was already existing for quite some time).

The question is: Is it "acceptable" to let the two voices sing the same note occasionally? Are there any notable examples of works or rather popular songs where this happens? Or would people think, that it sounds strange and/or that I am just a lazy composer?

  • 1
    This happens a lot in rock and pop. See Indigo Girls for examples of two voice harmonization with occasional to frequent unisons. – Todd Wilcox Jan 2 '16 at 13:54
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First off, everything is allowed in music. Whether it's appropriate can be another question, but especially in rock most people basically go by “if it sounds good, it's ok”.

Even by the rules of classical counterpoint, it's not forbidden for two voices to share a single note, as long as they don't move parallel in unison. In two-voice counterpoint, it's still a bit eschewed because you loose the sense of harmonicity (sometimes used deliberately for final notes!), but this doesn't really matter in an accompanied setting.

So, yes, by all means use a single uni sono note if that feels more natural than alternative options!

3

Yes, unison notes are possible and have precedent in well-known classical pieces.

Case in point: The violin parts in IMSLP transcription of Johann Pachelbel's "Canon in D" are constructed by starting violin_common.ily at measure 3, 5, or 7. I plugged the first and second violin parts into an NES music converter that takes a LilyPond-derived syntax. In one listening, I heard unisons between the first and second violins at 8:3, 28:3, 32:3, and 35:2. (They recurred two measures later between the second and third violins, and I didn't listen for unisons between the first and third violins.) This doesn't count other cases where one violin starts a note and another plays the same note while the first is holding it, such as 11:3 and 42:4.

G unison
G unison in measure 8

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Absolutely! This happens in pop music all the time. Great example would be More Than Words, by Extreme. Notice how the two vocal lines come together on "then you". Unity followed by divergence catches the ear in a very satisfying way. Most importantly in harmony writing, I find, is that both lines make musical sense when heard individually.

  • +1 for the last sentence :) I usually play harmony, and although it's not necessary that my part makes sense for the overall sound of the music, it generally will help it overall. (Not to mention being easier :)) – Cullub Jan 3 '16 at 0:16
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Yes, absolutely OK. Two voices can hit a unison for one note, or can fall into unison for a passage. Some very effective vocal arrangements are in unison apart from brief passages, maybe just the final note!

It MIGHT sound odd if the voices fall into unison for just one note. It MIGHT sound even odder if one voice makes an awkward jump just to avoid a unison. Your artistic choice. You can't really write music 'by the rules'.

1

No two voices even when singing the same pitch will sound the same, your voice is one of the things that make you unique. So unison in regards to singing can still lead to a harmonically rich sound. Even just something as simple as a man singing with a women adds richness.

Now proper voice leading still applies, it is probably going to get borin quick if it is just two voices singing constantly in unison but still as an effect it is fine.

  • The Beatles were renowned for their vocal harmonies. But when you look at the songs, there was a great deal of unison, and rarely more than two-parts. If something simple says what you want to say, don't be afraid to leave it there. – Laurence Payne Jul 30 '17 at 18:21

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