Reharmonizing Melodies

Hey Jazz Guy,

What are some more ideas for re-harmonizing a melody? –Standard in Syracuse

Dear Standard,

Using re-harmonization to spice up a melody can be very exciting. One method that is useful and interesting is to change the bass note. In the examples here we’ve used F as the melody note, and re-harmonized it using all 12 notes as bass notes. The melody note (F) then becomes every possible interval in relationship to the bass. The quality of each chord reflects the tension or chord tone that the F becomes, with the other notes chosen for variety. Ex 1 starts the F as the root of F6 and the b9 of E7b9. F next becomes a major 9 (EbMaj9) and minor 3rd (DminMaj7). In [Ex 2] F becomes the major 3rd of Db with a #5, C7sus4 creates a perfect 4th and BMaj7(#11) makes F a #11. Bbmin7 lets F be the natural 5th. An A bass note [Ex 3] makes F the #5, Ab13 gives the F a 13th tension and a regular G7 makes F the 7th. When F becomes the major 7th we use GbMaj7(#11). Now that all the bases are covered [Ex 4] shows a cluster voicing and spread voicing with F as the melody note. The texture, not harmony, is what matters here. Finally, the symmetrical scales are always available for harmonization, [Ex 5] gives F as a chord tone to a D dim7 chord and F augmented. Using the interval between the melody note and the bass note to inspire new chord changes can be beautiful and exotic. So shed hard, and your chords and maybe your mind, will be reinvented.

In-Depth look at Reharm:

The two most important questions you have to ask when re-harmonizing something are: 1) Does this make sense? and 2) Does this sound good?

If the answer to both is yes, than it is an effective re-harm. Sometimes, you will find something that makes theoretical sense, but sounds awful. These are usually the worst choices. Remember, music is like math, there is no right or wrong answer. Other times, you will discover something that really doesn’t mesh with the theory, but sounds amazing. This can be great. Just don’t go completely random with it, and you can create something quite unique.

The technique in this video, re-harm by the bass note, is a very effective way for you to ‘try all the possibilities’. Literally. There are only twelve notes! So shed hard, be creative, and experiment. That’s what jazz is all about!

Link to PDF Example: HJG – Reharmonizing Melodies

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Categories: Harmony

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