How to Sing 3-Parts Harmony

(Last Updated On: April 10, 2021)

In music, when we talk about “Harmony,” we are talking about the process by which the superimposition of sounds is carefully analyzed by hearing. This means you examine the pitches, frequencies, and chords that are simultaneously occurring. Harmony is often referred to as the “vertical aspect of music.” It is distinct from the melody, which usually refers to the “horizontal aspect of music.” In this article, we will discuss the vocal parts and the techniques that you can use to sing 3-part harmony more easily.

The Voice Parts

Creating harmony parts is not that easy. In some tracks, harmonies seem invisible while in others, they compose the whole song. Our goal is to help you learn more about harmonies and the concept of the three parts harmonies.

The 3-parts include;

  • LH (Lower Harmony)
  • M (Melody)
  • UH (Upper Harmony)

Techniques that You Can Use to Sing 3-Parts Harmony More Effectively

If you are working with great singers, vocal harmonies can get fun and interesting. The main reason why you need three singers is to ensure that someone represents each and every part of the harmony.

Know The Music Theory

If you want to understand what notes that you can sing, learn more about the music theory and you will be able to perfect your skills on the three parts harmony.

When you look at music scores or the SATB (Sopranoaltotenorbass) on how they are arranged. You will discover that they do not follow a 3 part procedure. The melodies are used as the top note in soprano while the harmony is below.

Instead of creating the harmony on the fly, just have its parts worked out early enough. There are some singers out there who can harmonize easily, but most of them know how to sing their parts perfectly. While this can be a great thing to look forward to, we recommend singers whose voice is a second instrument to work out on their arrangements.

Create Your Harmony

Having known what Harmony is, we can now proceed to how you create your Harmony. You usually create a harmony that has three parts. The middle part is called the melody. There are also the upper part and the lower part. You can best practice the 3-part Harmony by creating three samples of vocal lines. Of course, the middle sample is the melody. 

You should pick first the melodic line, which is usually on the same octave as that of the main vocals. Then, you should pick another harmony part that is distinct from the melodic line. Sometimes this part is against the melodic line. So, try to sing this line against the melodic line. Afterward, you can move on to singing the other harmony part and focus on it. Sing it well without letting yourself be swayed by the first and second lines that you’ve sung earlier.

The trick in making a good harmonic line is that the notes of the other two vocal lines should complement the melodic line. Always remember too that music theories are good guides in creating a good song. But when you create Harmony, you are simply finding the best-sounding nearby notes whether those notes are above or below the melodic note.

Even if the notes of the melody change, you are not required to change or move the harmonic note along with it. You can keep playing the harmonious note in the same way that you play the melodic note on your keyboard. You should, however, carefully listen to how the notes blend, or how they relate feelings. You should also figure out if they are clashing with each other.

You can surely create your Harmony for a song. You simply need to be more experimental to find the right combinations of notes. Moreover, you simply need to try different note combinations to find a beautiful harmony. If notes do clash, however, you can simply move the harmonic note to find the best note that would complement the melodic note.

How to Simplify the Rhythm?

If you encounter a melody that moves fast or that is syncopated, you can create Harmony by just slowing down its rhythm. Then, you can sing a harmonic line against the melodic line in chordal Harmony. Sometimes, you need to drop some lyrical phrases or words to make the notes blend. This can really work out well from a poetic viewpoint.

How to Complicate a Simple Rhythm?

Sometimes you need to complicate a bland and straightforward rhythm by creating a faster rhythm for the harmonic lines. Sometimes, you can add lyrics to complicate the arrangement. As such, you can work out an excellent chordal harmony too. You will readily notice that chordal Harmony becomes better if you don’t sing tight along with the melodic rhythm.

“Echo and Hold” Techniques

If you are familiar with the Barbershop Quartet or the Doo-wop, you will notice that they are using echo and hold to enhance Harmony. This works well if you got a melody that shows a significant break at the final phrase or with a melody that has two harmony parts. Sometimes, you would echo the final line or the final few words using tight Harmony.

On the other hand, you can also echo the harmonic lines while omitting the melodic line. As the melody comes again, you simply let the Harmony do a “hold” again up to the next break. In summary, you can use echo and hold to enhance your harmonic lines. 

Things You Must Be Careful When Singing 3-Parts Harmony

Aside from learning the tips on how to create your Harmony, you should also learn some caveats when singing Harmony.

1) First, You Should Not Get Too Dissonant From The Melody

You should refrain, however, from letting your voice go too far apart from the melody. Don’t move more than an octave away from the melodic note, especially if you have two parts harmony. But if you have three-part Harmony, you can go further apart, and you will encounter no problem with it.

2) Refrain from Crossing Voices!

You should not let the upper harmony cross below the melody nor let the lower harmonic part move up the melodic line. It may be unavoidable in some instances, especially if you got a high melodic line that has intervallic leaps in succession. In some cases, it can sound nice. Yet, you should not thrive in doing so, for, in most instances, it detracts from the Harmony.


Guidelines For Lead and Backup Voice Parts

Lead Singer (Melody Singer)

A lead vocalist also known as the “frontman” is a singer who sings the songs melody in front of other musicians and takes the lead to control the band regardless of its size. The lead singer is usually the main singer of a band and the main focus of the audience, although there might be other singers providing harmony vocals. If you are a lead singer, it doesn’t matter how you sing your lines; you should have enough confidence and a good range that will enable you to present your song in a good way.

Depending on the chord structure, the simplest three parts harmonies are the ones with the minor and major chords (Gmaj is G-B-D) in 3rds.

Be imaginative and creative. Even if you can’t sing well, think about how the team can come up with a clear melody. The lead singer must not always lead the band if there is a nice instrument that can be played, use it to lead the band. Rehearse your singing parts without the help of anyone else to master your notes. By doing this, you will find it easy to present your music and lead a band or a group of singers.

You don’t have to be a good musician, but you must be good in tuning and timing. Any good lead singer has great skills in perfect timing and tuning. Flat vocals are bad for a lead singer to start with, and sharp vocals are even much worse, but don’t be afraid to take lessons and improve your skills. Regular breathing exercises and proper warming up will help you to stay relaxed and also do wonders for your tuning.

As a lead singer, you don’t have to choose between singing tenors and harmonies or singing the bass line, but you have to be careful with this, though. If a song melody runs counter to the chord progression, you will find yourself singing a sour note, even if the sound is matching well with the bass.

Backing Vocals (Upper & Lower Harmony Singers)

If you are arranging a band, don’t miss out on the chance of including backing vocals. They add richness, interest, and depth to your sounds. One of the best ways you can create good backing vocals is teaching your singers or vocalist how to blend. Teach them how to match starts, phrasing, stop, vibrato and volume tone. When you do background vocals, you have to be very creative in order to make good notes.

For lower Harmony singer you have to emphasize vowel tones and sing in a counter melody. Upper harmony singers should try to listen to the song and pretend that they a trumpet or saxophone. Practicing these techniques will help you to become a good singer of the three parts harmony.

A great backing vocalist should be able to come up with his or her lines. If you practice regularly to sing a particular song, you will be able to feel the music and create lines that make sense. If there are more than one backing vocalist, try to stick with your harmony part, and you will notice how the song gets easy to sing. For example, if you are singing bass, you should not try to sing lines of a soprano backing vocalist.


My Final Thoughts & Advices

If your three parts harmony singers are new to music, give them some practical’s that will help them to perfect their skills. This is one of the best ways; you can help your singers to become great musicians and vocalists.

One of the most important thing that you should learn from this articles is that the 3 parts harmony are essential to making good tunes, and modern notes sound great. If you take your time to give more attention on learning how to sing harmony at professional level, performance, and arrangement, you will invariably achieve better results.

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1 thought on “How to Sing 3-Parts Harmony”

  1. Very good. I’m a singing teacher and have three sisters who had a bad pitch problem. I’ve worked them out of that and now it is harmony. I’ve always been a natural so this helps me with their problem.

    Reply

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