In the melody to Twinkle Twinkle Little Star there are places with two notes of the same pitch in a row. So far I have only studied harmonizing (four-part harmony) melodies without the same pitch in a row (for example, two Gs in a row). My understanding is that the soprano stays the same for these two notes but that the ATB does not stay the same for these two notes.

Are there any rules for this!

  • We need an example, could we get you to provide a picture? There may be some harmony that you are not seeing. – Neil Meyer Dec 9 '16 at 17:18

As far as I know, you can repeat the same harmony or change it in any way compatible with good voice leading. I would suggest (on Twinkle Twinkle Little Star) to be consistent. If I remember the tune, it start with three sets of repeated notes. If you maintain the same harmony for the first, it would sound better if you maintained the same harmony for the second and third pair. If you change harmony on the first two notes, change in a similar way for the next two pairs.

  • The normal harmony for "Twinkle" is the tonic for the first measure (the first two pairs of notes) and the subdominant for the third pair. – Scott Wallace Dec 9 '16 at 18:57
  • Possibly first inversion tonic for the second pair. – Brian Tung May 10 '17 at 21:34

The conventional harmony for 'Twinkle Twinkle' keeps the same chord under the repeated notes in bars 1,2,3 but often changes harmony for those in bars 5,6,7. This isn't about any 'rule', other than a general regard for harmonic rhythm and not messing around with it carelessly. Same idea as having a regard for harmonic texture. It's fine to use unison texture, 2-part, 3-part.. but it's NOT fine to switch between them aimlessly.enter image description here

  • Very interestig way of harmonizing it! – iamanders Dec 12 '16 at 16:30
  • Very interestig way of harmonizing it! We that the C note (soprano) is repeated twice and the other notes/voices also stay the same for two beats. A simmilar thing for the G and A notes. In bar three we see an E being repeated twice but in this case you see the bass moving. My question was not about what chords to use when harmonizing. I was actually thinking about if the four voices (SATB) should be repeated twice or do some movement like in bar three. Could you please give me some guidlines on how this works. I ask this because my textbooks only deal with a moving a soprano part. – iamanders Dec 12 '16 at 16:43
  • I considered using the same harmony but a different voicing for the second note, the fourth note etc. But it didn't seem practical. Bars 3 and 4 change harmony on each beat, there's more going on than just re-arranging. As always, the aim is to make each line singable. If you can make it interesting as well, that's a bonus, though altos accept that they're condemned to a lot of repeated notes and basses know they'll often have to jump around taking the root of chords. – Laurence Payne Dec 14 '16 at 12:05
  • We are taught 'rules' that produce nice rich 4-part harmony in a chorale style. Remember the other options. Unison - uveryone singing the tune - is very strong. As is a two-part texture, particularly when you can write a strong second part with plenty of contrart motion. Not every choir arrangement has to sound like a hymn! – Laurence Payne Dec 14 '16 at 12:07

Yes, there are rules for this. Very commonly, if you have a repeated note in the melody and wish to prolong the harmony, then for maximum interest, you should change the voicing of the chord.


C E G -> E G C

Ta-da, you've made the music more interesting.


Or why not just change the harmony under each note and throw in some accidentals for good 'measure'! The more examples, the larger your toolkit gets. enter image description here

  • 1
    This is a really clever harmonization! I just wanted to leave a comment that it breaks many part-writing "rules," so if any future readers try to mimic this for a music-theory course, beware. – Richard Oct 22 '17 at 20:25
  • Besides similar movement to 5ths (which are between the bass and an inner voice), what other issues do you see? – user3235 Oct 22 '17 at 21:09
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    Problematic spacing between soprano and alto in the first two measures, incorrect 6/4 chords (for example, beat 2 of measure 2), parallel octaves in measure 3, odd doubling on the fourth beat of measure 3, etc. It doesn't mean it's a bad harmonization; I like it! Only that it breaks standard part-writing rules. – Richard Oct 22 '17 at 22:00
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    @Richard exactly, there is a difference between "writing good 4 part harmony" and "writing good 4 part harmony which follows the counterpoint conventions of a common practice period choral". It's not clear whether OP is asking for advice about harmonisation in general, or about "strict" counterpoint – Some_Guy Oct 23 '17 at 14:35

Movement in the voices of a harmony is guided by the principles of parallel, contrary and oblique harmony. Generally, a combination of the three will work well. Parallel harmony is very common, but it can become predictable. Unless you're dealing with freak virtuosi or instruments with big ranges, you're going to run out of notes if you rely solely on contrary harmony. If you only use oblique harmony one or more of your voices will be very simple/boring. A combination of parallel, contrary and oblique harmonies is likely to be the most practical and satisfying way to move your voices.

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