I created this melody and want chords to go over the melody being a bass line or just chords.
I'll answer the question, "how does one determine the harmony of a bebop line?" by offering some general techniques. Then I'll give some examples of these techniques using the piece above.
Here are the general techniques I recommend using:
- Look at the notes occurring on strong beats (downbeats); check to see if these notes spell out a chord.
- Look at the end of a measure for transitions to a new chord.
- Look at measures 1, 5, 9, etc. (every four bars) where new chords are likely to appear.
- Look for any part of the melody that would work over a II-V-I progression.
- Look for common bebop harmonies (e.g., Bird Changes)
- Write out several options when more than one possible chord exists.
Now I'll try to make these techniques a little more tangible by applying them to your melody, above.
The line in measure 1 seems to be outlining these notes:
D F♯ C♯ A, which makes me think
D maj for measure 1.
In measure 2, the fourth beat changes to a C♮. This makes me hear a
D7 transition over beats 3 & 4 of measure 2, and this
D7 transition makes me expect
G maj (or maybe
G7) in bar 3. (That doesn't necessarily mean measure 3 is actually
G maj, of course.)
In measure 4, I see the lick very clearly outlining an
A13 arpeggio: the first two notes of measure 4 are "surround tones" leading to
C♯, the third tone of
A13. The 7th through 12th notes of measure 4 very clearly spell out an
A6 chord, and the
G♮ (a crucial part of the
A13 chord) is emphasized on both beat 2 and beat 4.
Technique 3. In measure 5, I tend to expect some sort of new chord (something besides
D maj). The downbeats spell out
B A A F♯, which is consistent with a
B min chord. A
B min chord would fit in your song's
D maj tonality; in particular,
B min is the minor
vi chord of
D maj. Moreover, when I next consider the whole line in measure 5, it seems like it highlights chord tones from
In many cases, there will be some ambiguity--or at least, there will be two good chords that you have to choose between and which could both work well over a single set of notes. For example, the first two beats of measure 7 spell out an
F♯ min triad. These two beats thus could be
F♯ min, but they could also be
D maj 7. In each case like this where there are two good choices, I would write out both possible chords, and then I would read through the song sequentially, starting at the beginning, trying to make choices that provide some overall cohesion or that provide some overarching similarity to a well-established bebop harmony.
When looking for II-V-I progressions, you can look for II-V progressions or V-I progressions. For example, when I say hear that
D7 sound at the end of measure 2, this makes me expect
G maj at the beginning of measure 3 because
D7 - G maj is a V-I progression. As a second example of this technique, let's say you choose
F♯ min for beats 1 and 2 of measure 7. I would immediately check to see if
B7 works in beats 3 and 4 of measure 7, because the progression
F♯ min - B7 is a ii-V progression.
As a final note, I recommend using these techniques in an iterative fashion (take a first pass, skip around to the measure with clear-cut chords, take a second pass, skip around again, etc.). It might be helpful to remember that there's not just one correct answer. You could even try harmonizing it a few different ways, listening to all of them, and choosing the one you like best. When I write harmonies this way, I usually expect to have slight changes in my original melody in order to better fit the underlying harmony/chords that I decide upon. Good luck!