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Harmonization 101

Happy new year! I can’t believe it is already 2002.Where does the time go? I don’t know. Well, to kick in the new year, I thought that I would write about something that I haven’t talked about yet. Harmonization. Let’s face it, guitar harmonies kick ass! Anyone who begs to differ, well no on likes you anyways ;). Harmonizing licks makes for a very cool effect. It can take the average boring lick and add a whole new dimension to it. So, before we go over how to harmonize, you need to learn your intervals!


In western music, there are 12 chromatic tones that function as the basis of all music. A major scale is comprised of 7 diatonic tones. If an 8th tone were used, you would be simply repeating the tonic (hence an octave, C to C). If we start with one note, we will use “C” for example, we will make intervals from the 7 notes used with in the major scale. So, how does all this confusing jargon work? Simple. Start with an C. Now, going from C to D is what we call a second. This is because D is the 2nd note of a C major scale. Simple hey? So, here is a list of intervals:

C to Db/C# = minor 2nd

C to D = major 2nd

C to Eb/D# = minor 3rd

C to E = major 3rd

C to F = perfect 4th

C to Gb/F# = tritone (The “Devil’s” interval as it was called back in the day. Not a good interval for harmonization)

C to G = perfect 5th

C to Ab/G# = minor 6th

C to A = major 6th

C to Bb = minor 7th

C to B = major 7th

Here are your options for creating harmonies: m2, M2, m3, M3, 4th, Tritone, 5th, m6, M6, m7, M7, Octave

How do you harmonize?

Simple, record yourself playing a guitar line, then play the same melody what ever interval you want higher or lower. The result is harmonization. Makes for a cool effect.


Below are 3 examples. Each one is separated with a bar line. My goal is not to give you hundreds of examples of harmonization. This is a concept where your creativity will lead you to your own unique style if you pursue it. I am going to simply lay down some examples to get the idea across. The key thing to do with harmonies is just experiment until you get what you want. I can’t unlock your creativity, but I can give you an idea and then let you go off on your own. It’s your job to record each of these licks to a metronome and then overdub the harmony line. Listen to how the intervals compliment each other and make the lick more exciting. The tab is not to be played as chords!!! Play the top line first and then record the bottom one second.

1st Example

This is an alternate picked line using minor 3rds. Minor 3ds are probably the most commonly played interval in rock/metal licks. A good example of a song that uses minor 3rd’s, is the main melody form “Black Star” by Yngwie Malmsteen.

2nd Example

This is a lick that harmonizes in perfect 4ths. It kind of sounds Japanese to me.

3rd Example

This is a diminished scale harmonized with minor 6ths. The minor 6ths make this one creepy sounding lick! The last cord in this is simply to resolve the lick.

The more you attempt to harmonize, the better you will become at it. If you go back a few months, to my column on using 2 contrasting guitar lines to make good melodies, you should implement that technique with harmonization. An example of this would starting a solo with a harmonized lick, and then breaking off into 2 contrasting guitar melodies. It’s ideas like that, which can really turn some heads. The possibilities are endless. Be creative and experiment. Soon you’ll be a harmonizing god. Happy new year to you. See you next month.

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