• Harmonizing Melodies

    in Playing songs

    In this lesson, we will learn how to take a melody and form various chords to accompany it. This is a common technique used especially by musicians who work with choirs.

    For example, if one composed a melody which included the i, iii, iv, vi, vii, and viii tones of a scale, harmonizing this melody would mean playing a chord to accompany every note of the melody (either one chord or a combination of chords). The above melody in C major is:

    C – E – F – A – B – C

    Using a few techniques (as explained in my workbook; https://www.hearandplay.com/course), you can easily find the corresponding chords to each of those notes.

    To HARMONIZE a melody means to create a chord accompaniment for it. Since the I, IV & V chords contain all the notes of the major scale, many melodies in a major key can be harmonized with just these three chords.

    To determine the chords to be used, analyze the melody notes. Refer to the following chart to see which chord is generally used with each melody note of a major scale. When more than one chord can be chosen, your EAR should always be the final guide.


    1 , 3 , 5 ——————– I Chord (Major Chord)
    2 , 4 , 5 , 7 —————– V Chord (Dominant Chord)
    1 , 4 , 6 ——————— IV Chord (Major Chord)

    There is also one scale degree which can be accompanied by a minor chord


    2 —————————- ii Chord (Minor Chord)

    From personal experience, here are the most common chords that I play with the following scale tones:


    1 , 3 , 5 ——————– I Chord (Major Chord)
    2 —————————- ii Chord (Minor Chord)
    4 , 6 ————————- IV Chord (Dominant Chord)
    7 —————————– V Chord (Major Chord)

    Using the above table, here is an example in C major.

    “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee”

    E — E — F — G — G — F — E — D — C — C — D — E — E — D — D

    With this “one-fingered” melody, I am going to show you how I can turn each and every one of the notes above into 3-fingered chords. However, if you are REALLY serious about learning this technique, you owe it to yourself to at least read about my 300-pg course as it covers several techniques to harmonize melodies. For more information on how you can receive my course at over 50% off (If you order by tomorrow), visit: https://www.hearandplay.com/special.html?offer

    …. Because I prefer the melody to always be the highest tone of my accompanying chords, I use different inversions of each chords. If you do not know what inversions are, please visit: https://www.hearandplay.com/course

    Notice that the first 2 notes of the melody above is E (the 3rd scale degree of the C major chord). If you look on my chart above, I most commonly associate E with the (I) Major Chord. The (I) chord in the key of C major happens to be a C major chord! So, the first two chords are C major chords in the 2nd inversion (which makes E the highest tone).

    If you do not fully understand inversions, you need to check out my 300-pg course as these FUNDAMENTALS are key to your success!

    Root Position: The keynote will always be the lowest note (for example, C major = C – E – G in Root position).

    1st Inversion: The keynote will always be the highest note (for example, C major = E – G – C in 1st inversion). Keep in mind that the notes are the same, but they are simply arranged differently with C on top instead of the bottom.

    2nd Inversion: The keynote will always be embedded in the middle. This inversion will always put the third tone on top. (for example, C major = G – C – E in 2nd inversion). Notice that the “E” is on top.

    More References: https://www.hearandplay.com/course — Chapter 4-6

    … … Back to the lesson … Since we want E on top, we will choose a C major chord (2nd inversion) because it is this inversion which makes E the highest tone.

    By simply following this same pattern, you can figure out all of the other chords. I have already done the work for you below.

    “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee”

    E — E — F — G — G — F — E — D — C — C — D — E —

    E — E — F — G — G — F — E — D — C — C — D — E —
    C — C — C — E — E — C — C — A — G — G — A — C —
    G — G — A — C — C — A — G — F — E — E — F — G —

    E — D — D (end)

    E — D — D
    C — A — A
    G — F — F

    Above, you will find each melody / harmony combination (written vertically from highest tone to lowest tone). As we studied earlier, the first two chords are inverted C major chords. The third chord is an inverted F major chord. Try to figure out the other chords … HINT: There are only 3 different types of chords (different inversions however) used in this example and I have given you two of them already!

    Until next time —

    The following two tabs change content below.
    Hi, I'm Jermaine Griggs, founder of this site. We teach people how to express themselves through the language of music. Just as you talk and listen freely, music can be enjoyed and played in the same way... if you know the rules of the "language!" I started this site at 17 years old in August 2000 and more than a decade later, we've helped literally millions of musicians along the way. Enjoy!

    Comments on this entry are closed.

    Previous post:

    Next post: