Improvise Harmony Exercise
“from discord, find harmony”…..Albert Einstein
“Music is an agreeable harmony for the delights of the soul”…..Bach
“Improvise Harmony” is an instructive, entertaining, or therapeutic exercise to directly engage you with the three fundamentals of music: harmony, melody, and rhythm. It is an improvisational practice of playing random melodic notes over harmonically supportive chords in rhythmic time.
While listening to a “backing track” of chords in progression, the participant plays random notes that harmonize specifically with those chords. As the player improvises harmonious musical sounds, the structure of music and the art of improvisation is revealed and experienced. The exercise can be an excellent and rewarding way for a music student to practice skills on their instrument.
Success in the exercise is made easy by using the “2 Sounds of Music”” format, which divides the scale of notes in two sound groups. The backing track alternates between identified chords of the two groups, inviting any instrument or vocal harmonizer to join along with it. Visible colored tape on piano or xylophone keys makes the exercise doable for total beginners. The core structure of music is revealed in the interplay of notes and chords as they shift between colors of the two basic sound domains.
Step 1 – Watch the “Improvise Harmony” exercise video on the “2 Sounds of Music” website, or on YouTube.
Step 2 – For piano, put colored spots or tape on the even, 2, 4, 6, notes of at least two octaves, and a smaller spot on the 1 notes, which fit in both sound groups.
Step 3 – Turn on an “Improvise Harmony backing track in C” on Youtube to play along with, and listen to the chord progression repeating. The track chord progression shifts from one sound group to the other at every chord change; on piano, from chords made of the 1, 3, 5, 7 white keys, to chords of the 2, 4, 6, colored keys.
Step 4 – Proceed to play notes that harmonize and shift with their corresponding chord. Start very simply with just one or two notes as seen in the video. Play mostly notes that fall within the chord, however, any quick passing notes will sound fine. Progress to playing patterns or riffs you create.
The backing track chords hold for two measures of eight counts, giving you time to fully sense the sound and improvise your harmony with it. As you play, listen to and sense the resolution from one sound group to the other; imagine it’s a musical duality like a question followed by an answer, hope versus doubt, home or away, joyous or blue.
As a live alternative to using a backing track, laying down chords on a loop, or jamming live with multiple players is suggested. Use a repeating chord progression, for example, the 1 chord, then the 2 chord, or a progression of the 1, 2, 3, and the 4 chords in the Key of C, or other chords of your choice. Playing each chord for two measures at about 100 to 120 beats per minute gives enough time between chord changes to fully improvise.