Magazine article Guitar Player

How Not to Suck

Magazine article Guitar Player

How Not to Suck

Article excerpt

Problem Weak concept of harmony

Solution Get a grip on parallel motion.

Just as a glossy, candy-apple red paintjob will instantly "pimp out" an old, rusty Cadillac into to an eye-catching ride, the right harmony can transform an ordinary melody into a magnificent musical passage. Take, for instance, the simple melody in Ex. 1. This motif suits the Am7-D7 background progression perfectly, yet sounds a bit dull and uninspired. How would you liven up this snoozy rift with harmony? More elaborate arranging solutions might involve contrapuntal countermelodies, droning pedal tones, or melodic echoing via canonic imitation. But the simplest and most effective way to harmonize a melody is through parallel motion.

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For guitar players the worldwide purveyors of the power chord--the interval of a perfect fifth comes naturally. But if your first inclination is to harmonize the riff in fifths [Ex. 2], it's time to broaden your concept of harmony. Parallel fifths sound awesome in heavy metal-and also, inexplicably, in the quirky vocal harmonies of new wave pioneers the B-52's--but in traditional classical music and typical pop, soul, and jazz, this harmonically-limiting tactic is generally a no-no. You'll get a much fuller, open sound if you at least harmonize your melody in thirds [Ex. 3], an approach you can hear on guitar intros to classic songs such as Van Morrison's "Brown Eyed Girl," AC/DC's "Rock & Roll Ain't Noise Pollution," and Fleetwood Mac's "Rhiannon. …

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