Harmonising Step-Wise Melody Lines
Welcome to this 5 minute masterclass on harmonising step-wise melody lines. We are going to take the well-know tune “In A Sentimental Mood” and look at the different options we have available to harmonise the ascending melodic motif at the start of each A Section.
We will explore the 4-way-close, drop 2 voicings, passing chords, and finally reharmonising the melody with quartal voicings.
Why would we want to use this you might ask?
Well these techniques are optional things you can do to enhance, tweak, or even completely change the sound of the melody.
The reason I’ve chosen this tune is that the same ascending melodic figure repeats 3 times in the head of the tune and understanding these concepts will allow you to add a variety of colours, textures, and expression to an otherwise identical melody line.
The 4-Way-Close & Drop 2 Voicings
The 4-way close is a method to harmonise a step wise melody line with alternating 7th chords and rootless dominant b9 chords. For each chord tone we simply play the root position 7th chord with the top of bottom note doubled.
For none chord tones, we simply build a diminished chord with the top and bottom note doubled.
We can then create a more open sounding voicing by dropping the second note into our left hand.
Add Passing Chords
We can introduce a passing chord for the last note of the ascending line to create a stronger sense of resolution into the next bar. We can use the normal V7 chord, or alternatively, the tritone substitution.
A more complex option is to rehamonise the whole passage. I like to do this So What Chords. The So What Chord is a quartal voicing which are harmonically ambigious – making them well-suited to rehamonise melodies.
It’s now over to you to apply these concepts to the tunes you are playing. If you do have any
questions with the material I have covered, just drop it in the comment box below.