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Topic: Vocal harmony?

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  1. #1

    Vocal harmony?

    (I posted a similar request around a year ago, and was wondering if anyone had run across other material. Sorry for the duplication.)

    Does anyone know of any good books or cds about harmony singing, as in shaped note singing, country harmony? Of course much of it is singing chords\stacking thirds, but the movement isn't always simple parallel harmony.

  2. #2

    Re: Vocal harmony?

    I don't know about books, but the main thing about it is that all the traditional rules (other than voice leading) go out the window. For one, it's not necessarily the highest note that's the melody, it's the loudest one.

    But you only have to listen to the Beach Boys to get my point (not that they're country).

  3. #3

    Re: Vocal harmony?

    Just use your ears! Listen to the stuff you want inspiration from, and then use that style in your own stuff. You don't need a book to tell you what harmonies are being sung when you can use your ears for free.

  4. #4

    Re: Vocal harmony?

    Maybe it would help listening some Gentle Giant stuff. They were really good in counterpoint with the voices. (Spock's Beard did some stuff of this kind too).

    I don't know any book about that but it's an interesting question.

    Cheers

  5. #5
    Senior Member
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    Re: Vocal harmony?

    Well, I'm assuming you can read music... Believe it or not, the best thing to teach yourself about this and any type of harmony is band in a box... You can play a melody in, it will harmonize it for you in a variety of ways... You can then look at the music notation, you can have each harmony line on a separate staff and look at what's going on... The reason you're not going to have parallel thirds all the time cause the harmony note is going to change when you change the chord, even though both chords will share that one note in the lead... Band in a box is going to make this process very simple and very easy to follow... All you gotta do is type in chords, play in a melody line, select the kind of harmony you want, and it will generate them for you... Study what comes out and you'll learn a lot...

    Quote Originally Posted by Jake Johnson
    (I posted a similar request around a year ago, and was wondering if anyone had run across other material. Sorry for the duplication.)

    Does anyone know of any good books or cds about harmony singing, as in shaped note singing, country harmony? Of course much of it is singing chords\stacking thirds, but the movement isn't always simple parallel harmony.

  6. #6

    Re: Vocal harmony?

    Homespun tapes have three books on the subject.Look under "Vocal" on their website.Don´t know if they´re any good, though.

  7. #7

    Re: Vocal harmony?

    Quote Originally Posted by wilx
    Just use your ears! Listen to the stuff you want inspiration from, and then use that style in your own stuff. You don't need a book to tell you what harmonies are being sung when you can use your ears for free.
    This comment triggered an odd memory...

    In the highly entertaining "Classic Albums - Meat Loaf - Bat Out Of Hell" DVD, the ever-smirking Todd Rundgren was sitting behind the mixing desk at one point, talking about how he wanted to put one of the songs together (can't remember which one), soloing specific tracks so that we could focus on particular elements...

    He described how, at that time, the vocal harmonies used by the Eagles were all the rage and they wanted to use that kind of harmony in that particular song.

    I thought to myself "I don't remember anything sounding Eagles-like on that record" (noting how many years it had been since I'd listened to any of the songs on that record) but, as he solo'd the vocal tracks -- well I'll be hog-tied, there were some completely Eagles-ian harmonies shining right through... The harmonies were, um... "harmonious" and quite effective, yet the source/inspiration was not readily apparent... at least, arguably, to the typical casual adolescent rock listener...

    The moral of the story — to tie in with the above-quoted comment — is to not only "[l]isten to the stuff you want inspiration from, and then use that style in your own stuff," but listen to the stuff you want inspiration from, and then figure out how to transform (or, at the very least, disguise) it to sound like a new style of your own... while, if possible, retaining whatever qualities made the style so effective to begin with.

    The ability to do is one of the hallmarks of a good composer/producer...

    And that's a large part of why/how Rundgren was able to shape that particular collection of songs from a laughable Off-off-off-off-Broadway Revue into a mega-multi-platinum monster "classic rock" seller.....
    — alanb

    ...........................

    http://alanb.org

    http://www.myspace.com/arsperspicuus

  8. #8

    Re: Vocal harmony?

    I guess where I get lost is in how it should be simple--just sing thirds in the chorus?--but it's not simple if it sounds good.

    According to classical harmony, the rules are there (it's all thirds to create a chord), but I'd like to see what's been said about the actual harmonies in specific songs. I want to hear the Homespun tapes, but I'm afraid they just cover singing thirds (Anyone know these tapes?)

  9. #9
    Senior Member
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    Re: Vocal harmony?

    Thnere's a book called Choral Arranging by a fellow named Ades which is pretty decent and gives a nice survey of different choral styles with a tilt toward traditional but very insightful.

  10. #10

    Re: Vocal harmony?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jake Johnson
    I guess where I get lost is in how it should be simple--just sing thirds in the chorus?--but it's not simple if it sounds good.

    According to classical harmony, the rules are there (it's all thirds to create a chord), but I'd like to see what's been said about the actual harmonies in specific songs. I want to hear the Homespun tapes, but I'm afraid they just cover singing thirds (Anyone know these tapes?)
    You'd use 3rds at some point, yes, but you don't need to get any special training, books or CDs to tell you what your ears can already. If you want a specific type of country harmony, you'd probably want a few parallel 6ths. Listen to a couple of country tracks and then apply a similar sort of harmony to your own tracks. For any given note, in the context of a song, there aren't that many harmonious options, so it's a case of picking the ones which give you the sound you're after.

    And it's not necessarily 'all 3rds to create a chord'. For a major triad it would be a major 3rd and a minor 3rd. 2 major 3rds would give you an augmented 5th/diminished 6th. Which you might want, but not too often.

    Oh - and if you want a lesson in harmony: Bach chorales. If you can't get an awful lot of what you need from Bach chorales and a good ear, you probably don't have a brain!

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