Reharmonization is the art of modifying the harmonic structure of a song. For that, musicians work with many concepts, almost all of them we already saw here in the website.
How to reharmonize
In practice, reharmonize is taking a song which is already done and change its harmony keeping its original melody. Let’s say that a friend of yours show you a song he did. With the concepts of reharmonization, you can take this song and make it better, creating a complex and interesting structure.
Another use is working in songs that are well known. For example, you could want to play a famous hit, but with another version, to show personality from your own. To this, it would be necessary reharmonize its structure. Remember, however, that more complex doesn’t always mean more beautiful. The main function of reharmonization is providing a base to alternative ideas, wherein the quality of these ideas will depend on the good taste of the composer.
How to work with reharmonization
Many composers gain their lives doing this. People come to them with songs they want to record, doing their “dry” and “square” chords (the only ones they know). So composers observe the intentions of the “artist” and reharmonize the song, making the structure better and enriching the composition according to the taste and motivation of their “client”.
You will perceive, over this study that any reharmonization needs to be done considering the melody. It is it which will say what we can or can’t do. This topic will emphasize this point, showing how the melody is the flagship and what we can create of harmony in it.
Types of reharmonization
In order to have this articulation we mentioned and learn well this concept, we will show you here 6 ways of possible reharmonization:
1. With the addition of notes to the chords.
2. With the substitution of chord with the same harmonic function.
3. With the substitution of the used Greek Mode.
4. With the utilization of chord progressions.
5. With modulation.
6. With borrowed chords.
We will show each method separately, because each approach is extensive. Let’s go to the first one:
1) With the addition of notes to the chords:
This method is nothing more than adding notes to the chords in the song. Many authors don’t classify this addiction as reharmonization, but here we will consider any change in the harmony as reharmonization (even if it is changing isolated notes in the chords).
Think then that a song was created with the following chords:
| G | D | Em | C |
| G7M | D7 | Em7 | C7M |
This structure would give another “body” to the song. But maybe the singer didn’t like this D7, saying that it was quite aggressive. So you choose to put a D9, which is “smoother”.
| G7M | D9 | Em7 | C7M |
Since that, in the D9 chord in the guitar, the ninth (E note) entered in the place of the third (F# note), we can use this F# and put it in the bass.
Check the chord D9/F#:
This also would make an interesting sequence in the bass of the song; that would be decreasing: G, F#, E:
| G7M | D9/F# | Em7 | C7M |
As we will have a return to G7M after C7M, and as the fifth of G7M is D, we could add this D to C7M (it would be the ninth of C7M) to let this structure more static. See the examples below:
Notice as the note of the second string (D) didn’t move in the transition of these chords. This technique of trying to keep some notes static during the transition is really used, because it makes the harmony be “smooth”. Many composers argue that, as less “punches” and octave abrupt changes, the more pleasant and “smooth” the harmony will be. We have to search for notes which are near, that move our fingers a little. In the keyboard, this approach is exercised in the chords.
Keyboardists generally search for the best inversions and shapes to play “near”, without jumping far away in the keys. It is interesting that you think in extension notes considering this. Try to do the least movement as possible with your fingers in each change of chord. Of course that this “smoothness” will not be always your sound objective, but when it is the case, remember that.
Well, compare the initial harmony with the final one:
| G | D | Em | C |
| G7M | D9/F# | Em7 | C7M(9) |
This was just an idea. We could think about putting fourths, sixths, inverting some chords, anyway, you will always have many possibilities to work with. It is just to consider the tonality you are and include the extension notes that will please you, also combining the static effect we mentioned and the bass move. Consider that, even some extensions mischaracterize some chords (depending on the context), any extension can be useful as surprise factor, since there is no impact with the melody.
The next resource of reharmonization will be analyzed in the second part of this topic (chord substitution).
Go to: Chord substitution
Back to: Module 11