• Harmony: Keyboard Harmony Vs Vocal Harmony

    in Chords & Progressions,Experienced players,General Music,Piano,Theory

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    The goal of this lesson on harmony is to give you basic insights on keyboard and vocal harmony.

    The C major triad can be expressed using vocal and keyboard harmony:

    Vocal harmony (C major triad):

    Keyboard harmony (C major triad):

    From above-given example of the C major triad, you can see that the concept of keyboard harmony and vocal harmony are different in theory and practice.

    Attention: If you’re interested in understanding what is applicable in vocal harmony and how it’s similar or different with what is applicable in keyboard harmony, you are on the right page.

    Permit me to refresh your mind on the concept of harmony before I proceed into teaching you on keyboard and vocal harmony.

    The Concept Of Harmony — Explained

    There are so many ways the term harmony can be defined. But the definition below is my favorite:

    The relationship between notes that are played or heard at the same time (whether agreeable or not) produces harmony.

    Harmony is produced when a collection of notes (two or more) are played or heard together (it doesn’t matter if they sound agreeable or not).

    “Let’s Take A Few Examples…”

    The relationship between C and E:

    …when played or heard together produces harmony.

    Attention: The harmonic relationship between two notes produces intervals. So, C-E (in the example above) is an interval.

    Harmony is produced when C, E, and G (three notes):

    …are played together.

    Keep in mind that the harmonic relationship between three or more notes produces chords. For example, the relationship between C, E, and G, produces a chord.

    Keyboard Harmony Vs Vocal Harmony

    Beyond the basic understanding of what harmony is, it is important for us to have an in-depth understanding of keyboard and vocal harmony.

    I’m very certain a lot of people already know what keyboard harmony is, therefore, we’ll start out with a short note on keyboard harmony (the known) before proceeding to quick insights on vocal harmony (the unknown).

    A Short Note On Keyboard Harmony

    The concept of keyboard harmony is broad; having so many aspects. However, we want to start by learning about chords and how they are played on keyboard instruments.

    Keyboard instruments are known to be polyphonic. An instrument is said to be polyphonic when a combination of notes can be played at the same time.

    Due to the polyphonic ability of keyboard instruments (like the piano and organ), they can be used for harmonic purposes like accompaniment and harmonization.

    Irrespective of whether you’re harmonizing or accompanying on a keyboard instrument, the chords are played in close position. What close position means is that the tones of the chord are close enough (thirds or fourths apart).

    “Check Out The Following Keyboard Harmonies…”

    C major triad:

    C major seventh chord:

    E dominant ninth chord:

    F# half-diminished seventh chord:

    With the use of inversion and voicing, keyboard harmony gets even more interesting. Triads have two inversions, seventh chords have three inversions, then using voicing techniques keyboard chords can be rearranged.

    Quick Insights On Vocal Harmony

    In vocal harmony chord tones are assigned to voices or voice parts: soprano, alto, tenor, and bass.

    “Check Out The Standard Range Of The Voices…”

    Soprano (from C to G):

    Alto (from G to C):

    Tenor (from C to F):

    Bass (from F to C):

    As opposed to keyboard harmony where the C major triad can be played in a close position:

    …the vocal harmony of the C major triad will assign notes to all the four voice parts and in their range respectively.

    The range of the bass note is from F to C:

    …therefore, the bass note (which is C) must be played within the range of the bass voice. So instead of this C:

    …which is beyond the lowest note in the bass range (which is F):

    …we’ll rather choose this C:

    Within the tenor range (C to F):

    …we can assign the fifth chord tone (which is G):

    …to the tenor voice.

    Altogether, we have two voice parts (bass and tenor):

    Bass is C:

    Tenor is G:

    …and they are within their range. Check them out (C and G):

    ‘Let’s Proceed…”

    Within the range of the alto voice (G to C):

    …we can assign the third tone (which is E):

    …to the alto voice.

    Within the range of the soprano voice (C to G):

    …we can assign the first tone (which is C):

    …to the soprano voice.

    Altogether, we have two voice parts (alto and soprano):

    Alto is E:

    Soprano is C:

    …and they are within their range. Check them out (E and C):

    “Putting All Four Voices Together…”

    Here are all the four voices put together to produce the vocal harmony of the C major triad:

    Bass is C:

    Tenor is G:

    Alto is E:

    Soprano is C:

    Attention: This is not all there is to vocal harmony. However, I hope you have a fair understanding of what vocal harmony is from the few things I’ve been able to share with you in this lesson.

    Final Words

    It is very important for you to understand the differences and similarities between keyboard harmony and vocal harmony.

    Although the concept of keyboard harmony is unique to keyboard instrument players while the vocal harmony is sung by voices, it’s possible to sing the keyboard harmony and play the vocal harmony on a keyboard instrument.

    In a subsequent lesson, we’ll go a step further into vocal harmony and its principles. This will give you an in-depth understanding of how the harmony of Hymns and other choral music forms are determined.

    Thank you for your time.

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    Hello, I'm Chuku Onyemachi (aka - "Dr. Pokey") - a musicologist, pianist, author, clinician and Nigerian. Inspired by my role model Jermaine Griggs, I started teaching musicians in my neighborhood in April 2005. Today, I'm privileged to work as the head of education, music consultant, and chief content creator with HearandPlay Music Group sharing my wealth of knowledge with hundreds of thousands of musicians across the world.

    Attention: To learn more about this, I recommend our 500+ page course: The "Official Guide To Piano Playing." Click here for more information.



    { 1 comment… read it below or add one }

    1 Carolyn

    Thanks. Great information.
    God bless you.


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