View Full Version : Three part vocal harmony info? (CSNY)

Jake Johnson
02-06-2003, 08:11 PM
Does anyone know a good source of information about three part vocal harmony? (In the tradition of what came out of the Everly Brothers two part stuff--Buffalo Springfield, CSNY, Gram Parsons?)

(On a Giga site, I find myself asking this. Well, the musicians I meet here seem to have a wide range.)

I understand the basics of constructing chords, but don\'t understand much about the way the voices move in 3 part vocal harmony. Does anyone know of good sources of information, such as books with transcriptions?

Some of the places I get lost:

Does 3 part vocal harmony follow just the basic rules of any 3 part song?

Am I correct in believing that basically the voices sing the first, third, and fifth? And the chord inversion is chosen usually to keep the lead note in the middle?

Is there usually a preferred interval for the baritone and tenor in each possible variation? (In other words, if the melody note is the third, does the baritone fairly regularly go to the first, and the tenor to the fifth? I understand that there are no absolute rules, here. I\'m more concerned with the conventions of this specific style.

Seems problematic. If essentially, an inverted chord is always being sung, and the lead, which I understand to usually be the middle voice, leaps up to a high note, does the tenor get pushed into the soprano range?

Will I ever get to kiss Emmylou Harris or Linda Rondstat?

Jake Johnson
02-06-2003, 08:17 PM
Forgot another worry about this style. I was taught that the highest note in a chord is more prominent, so if one plays a C major in root position, the G stands out, and chord solos should thus have the melody note as the high note for simple arrangements. Does the tenor thus regularly have to reduce his or her volume to avoid overriding the melody singer in 3 part vocal harmony?

02-09-2003, 06:28 AM
Hi Jake,

Good rule when you are doing 3-part harmony is to never or very rarely use the fifth in bass.
So in bass you have two good choices, the first and the third.

Another good rule is to double only the root (first with eight) and then have the \"left-over\" voice have the third.
So in the C-major case, the bass would have C tenor have E and sopran C.
More rarely you can have the C-major chord thus, the bass have E, tenor have C and sopran C. Be aware that then the sopran must go up (example: D) and tenor goes down (example: B).

So in short:

Bass - Has the first and third as the best choice
Tenor/Alt - Has the third and fifth as the best choice, except if sopran is doubling bass (in eight) then its only the third. You use the fifth only in complete chord, that\'s when all notes of the chord (C,E,G) sounds
Sopran - Can have all notes (C,E,G)

These are your best options:

B: C C E E
T: E G G C
S: G E C G

These are your 2nd options:

B: C C E E
T: E C C C
S: C E C E

Btw. The melody/song is most often in the sopran.

Note: I come from the classical tradition.

Jake Johnson
02-10-2003, 02:23 PM
Thanks for the insight. This really helps. I\'m playing arund with these voicings now.

Does anyone know, in addition, of sources for information about the tradition of putting the melody in the middle or (in two part harmony) baritone (low) voice? (The Everly Brothers, Gram Parsons, Byrds, EmmyLou Harris tradition?) This is generally a country\\country rock tradition. I suspect it derives from arrangements in hymnals, but have not yet had the gall to creep into a church to analyze the arrangements. (Fear of being struck by lightning?)Assuming it does derive from hymns, I wonder how and when it split off from the classical tradition of voicing chords with the melody on top? (The harmony of country and blues music seems to derive from church music, which of course comes from the triad based classical tradition. How did the voicing get changed?)

Sorry if all these names cause physical pain at the memory of simple chords and voices that might drive Kathleen Battle mad, but after recently hearing the Buffalo Springfield Retrospective album and the Tribute to Gram Parsons album (with Harris redoing some of her harmonies) it\'s hard for me not fall in love with \"Kind Woman\" and \"Juanita\" and \"Sin City\" again.