I am a singing teacher, and have taught music theory and mechanics of singing, have directed church choir for over 30 years. I have a fairly high level of theory knowledge. I also love to harmonize. Now I am being asked to work with a country band who accompany themselves with ukulele and they want to sing more country harmony. I understand there are 3rds. Perhaps 3rd below, maybe 6th above. And that there maybe 4ths and 5ths related to the chord structure. Is there anything else I would need to know apart from the fact that the harmony voices are dependent on the main voice and are in the key of the song?

  • 2
    Welcome to Music Stack Exchange. The site welcomes answers and questions that are on topic and well focused, which yours is. You give enough background to make sure the members who answer understand the parameters of the question. Good job! Again, welcome.
    – L3B
    Apr 27, 2017 at 19:26
  • No specific useful knowledge of harmony parts in country music, but as a general approach to this kind of question I think the best answer is often to listen to recordings. Even if this band's songs are all originals, if you ask they can probably give you examples of recordings with harmony in the style they're going for, and you can transcribe parts form those recordings for ideas. The close listening may also help pick up some phrasing and other important subtleties that you might otherwise miss. Sounds fun, good luck! May 4, 2017 at 15:06

3 Answers 3


Much Country harmony is improvised on the spot, and does usually, as you say, fall into the category of 3rds & 6ths and 4ths and 5ths. I advise the people who are going to be doing the harmonizing to listen to a great deal of recorded country music, especially from the 20s through the 80s, and pay close attention to how the backup vocalists approach their task. Then emulate what they do.

A lot of more recent country music borrows heavily from the rock genre, and so the harmonies don't sound as purely country as one might hope for. Emulating rock-influenced singers is not going to give an audience the idea of what country harmony traditionally sounds like.

One last word of advice. Get your singers to feel free to go variously above AND below the melody line, and not to stay religiously one or the other. This again will give the traditional feel.


Often country harmony is accompanied a third above the main melody. Here sare some examples. The instrumentals also exhibit typical harmony. Here are some examples which explain things better than I can.

Some three part harmony.


Splash that tonic note about, up high, whenever possible. Slide the harmony around followin' the melody like an old hound dog. For example:

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