What Is Harmony?

Kendrick Lamar vs. Radiohead

“Have you heard Kendrick Lamar’s album? There’s this one song…” he said.

”‘How Much A Dollar Cost?’” she replied.

“Yeah that’s the one! How did you know? Hah. Yeah, there’s just something great about it.”

“It’s a great song. Love the beat. But that piano part… I think that’s what makes it. So rich and beautiful. It reminds me of Radiohead.”

“Uh… Wow. I never thought of it that way. But I think you’re right. The piano makes that song!”

“Yeah, I actually think it has the same chord progression as ‘Pyramid Song.’ Let me see… [plays both on piano]. Yup. It does.”

“Whoa. What are you, some kind of musical genius? My jaw just hit the floor.”

“Nah, the notes in these chords all have the same basic relationships. That’s all.”

“I wish I understood harmony like you do.”

“Well, it takes some time and effort. But if you understand melody, you’re halfway there,” she said.

Understanding Harmony

In the conversation above, “she” is a figment of my imagination. But everything she said is true, but perhaps more importantly, attainable when you have a foundation in Melody.

If Melody can be thought of as a line, Harmony (i.e. chords, chord progressions) can be thought of as colorful structures.

Structures can be stacked up high like skyscrapers, or built up low, like one-floor homes. They can be plain and simple, or vibrant and complex. They can be dark and ominous, or light and pleasant. And they can be viewed and enjoyed from many angles.

Chords As Vertical Relationships

On a fundamental level, to build these structures in theory is to understand chords, chord progressions, and Harmony as a whole.

Chords are built when you have two or more notes that occur at the same time. They relate from low to high, and how they relate… well, that’s pretty much all you need to know about chords.

Whereas Melody deals with relationships between notes horizontally over time, Harmony (at least initially) can be thought of as dealing with multiple, simultaneous notes relating a vertical fashion.

“That’s a major triad!”

“I think that’s just a power chord there.”

“Oh, this sounds like a tricky one. Have you tried a fully diminished 7th chord? The root is on the #V (‘Sharp Five’).”

Recognizing chords begins NOT with tutorials and tabs, but with understanding chords and being able to hear them for what they are: vertical tonal relationships.

When you get to know chords in a vertical way, you start recognizing them everywhere. You get familiar with them, you develop a history with them. You get Kendrick on a whole new level. You understand Radiohead.

These unique relationships can be described and organized in such a way as to be useful for you now, and for every chord or chord progression for every song you ever want learn or write in the future.

Work Smarter, Not Harder

Don’t waste all of your precious time on learning one song at a time from someone telling you where to put your fingers. Instead, invest it into learning Music. And from there you’ll find how closely songs become, how much more they fall within reach.

In the second installment of the WARRENMUSIC Series, we’ll be tackling all of above head-on and at great depth: how chords are built, how to hear what’s happening in harmony, and so much more.

You can pre-order Harmony and the rest of the WARRENMUSIC Series here today.

Now go listen to some music!

  • Skills you can use to work out real world chords and chord progressions by ear
  • Working knowledge of Diatonic Harmony via popular songs, fun demonstrations, and digestible music theory breakdowns
  • Introduction to Chord Numerals expanding The WARRENMUSIC Grid**
  • 10 in-depth episodes ranging from 10-40 minutes in length
  • Lifetime access
  • Visual Aids
  • Audio Examples
  • Worksheets (Song Puzzles)
  • Interactive Tools
  • Access to Members-Only Harony Module Forum
  • Direct help from fellow learners and Warren
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