When we think of Brian May and Queen, one of the first things that comes to mind is harmony guitar parts! It's such a huge part of his sound, and you've already heard a range of harmony parts in the backing tracks of the solos that we've already covered. Now it's time for you to learn how to do these harmony parts. Check out the first video to get started and click here to check out the Materials Section below to access backing tracks and interactive tab!
At its most basic (and funnily enough, most advanced) a harmony is simply two or more sounds played simultaneously. However, as we build up an understanding of playing harmonies, there are some key rules that we will want to follow. The first rule that Dion introduces in this lesson is that you will need to choose diatonic notes. Diatonic notes are simply the notes within a scale, and in this example, within the major scale. We use the G major scale in this example:
You can essentially create any melody you like using these notes, and then create another melody over the top using more notes from the major scale. As you can see in the video, Dion really tries to get this point engrained by trying every single melody he can think of over the top, using these 7 notes. The really essential aspect is that you get the rhythm the same in each melody, but apart from that, you can go to town! This is a great place to start, and if you have a looper this is a perfect excuse to use it!
Let's now add a little more structure to this concept. We will once again take the G major scale, but this time will be a little more focused with our harmonies. We start by creating a very very simple melody. The melody is based on the G major scale and sounds like this (using the G major box 5 scale shape):
We then add our major 3rd harmony. To do this we need to step up a major third interval from the previous first note of the harmony. In this case, as G is the root note of the harmony, we step up to B (imagine your major scale G A B C D E F# G... B is the third). From there we mimic the same movement as we did in the first melody. it looks like this:
Finally, we add our 5th harmony. This is the process of now jumping up from the major 3rd to the 5th (another interval of a 3rd). Once again, picture your scale: G A B C D E F# G and find the 5th, which is D. So, we take the D note and once again mimic the movement of the melody, which looks like this:
And there we have it! A beautiful 3 part harmony using a very simple method! Have a go yourselves before the next lesson.
We'll now look at a slightly different style of harmonisation, and a very popular one at that! In this case, we will be harmonising based on the chord triads, rather than the scale. We'll be therefore using the root, third and fifth again, but this time, we need to make sure that as the chord changes, we change those notes to match the chord. First up, let's take a look at the chord progression.
So, over the G major chord, we need to make sure that we use the triad notes of G, B and D at all times. So if the main melody is playing a G, the harmony notes will be B and D. Same goes for the C major and D major, using the notes from their triads chords. Checkout the fretboard diagrams to see the triad chord shapes we are using, and make sure you can spot the chord tones within each, as we'll need that for the next lesson. For now, use the tab to learn the first melody.
Let's now add the harmony parts to this melody. So, once again, remember that for every single note of the main melody we need to have the root, 3rd and 5th in there. So, if the melody note is B, the harmony notes will be G and D. If the melody note is D, the harmony notes will be B and G. This is how we build harmony triads! So, use the tab to make sure you get each harmony right, and then have some fun with the backing tracks, using each harmony separately!
This is a really fun lesson as we watch Dion take all the ideas we have spoken about and create some cool melodies on the spot, on camera! It's a great summary of the harmony process we have worked with and should give you some fantastic inspiration and ideas to go away and have some fun with. So, watch the video all the way through, then pick up the guitar and try some harmonising yourself! Good luck 😃