What you need to know about Harmony.

harmony sheet music

Is there anything more beautiful to the ears than voices raised in harmony? Music can lift our spirits and hope quotient like nothing else when it is made well. But harmony doesn’t come easily. It takes lots of practice.

What is harmony? What makes harmony in music work? What can we learn about life from musical harmony?

What is Harmony?

Harmony is:

  • 1. agreement; accord; harmonious relations.
  • 2. a consistent, orderly, or pleasing arrangement of parts; congruity.
  • 3. Music.
  • a. any simultaneous combination of tones.
  • b. the simultaneous combination of tones, especially when blended into chords pleasing to the ear; chordal structure, distinguished from melody and rhythm.
  • c. the science of the structure, relations, and practical combination of chords.

What make Harmony in music work?

harmont soloist
Harmony. A soloist can work on their delivery.

The vocalist needs to find their voice.
Often the easiest part to learn is their own. It takes work, but their range and vocal dynamics emerge as soloists over time.

It is the addition of other voices where vocalists begin to experience difficulty.

It takes effort to sing with others. For example, consider a duet.

What you need to know about Harmony. 1
Harmony. A duet is dependent on listening well to another person and blending voices.

The vocalist needs to listen to themselves and others at the same time.
It goes against human nature to focus on others more than ourselves. A vocalist needs to listen to what other individuals’ voices sound like. For what their voices sound like together. A successful duet will not happen without both parties listening intently to the other.

Finding the right blend and balance between the voices is exponentially harder as others join.

What you need to know about Harmony. 2
Harmony. A trio has to listen and blend well to deliver a pleasing sound.

The vocalist needs to learn to blend and balance other voices with their own.
When a third voice is added, Harmony becomes exponentially more challenging. Everyone has to breathe in the right places and use the same phrasing. One voice cannot overpower the others, or harmony is lost. And if someone sings off-key, everyone is affected. The ability to blend well becomes an absolute necessity.

What you need to know about Harmony. 3
Harmony. A musical quartet can take dissonance, and our ears will yearn for the sound to resolve in a unified chord.

Adding a fourth voice can set up an interesting dynamic. This fourth voice often brings a sound of conflict that makes the listener’s ear yearn for resolution in a chord.

The soprano, alto, and tenor parts can be sung independently and are pleasing to the ear. But it is the dissonance that draws in the listener. In a quartet, the baritone frequently sings dissonant notes. Listening to a baritone sing his part alone is difficult. His contribution is only effective when sung in tandem with the other parts. His vocal entices the listener and keeps them waiting for the chord to resolve.

harmony hug
Harmony is a beautiful thing in relationships.

What can we learn about life from musical Harmony?

We can use musical principles of harmony in personal relationships, marriage, and business.

We need to find our voice.
Each of us is unique and important to this world. If you can’t speak up for yourselves, at least speak up for others. It’s scary to speak up. There is a danger of being misunderstood or labeled as a troublemaker. Speak up anyway.

We need to listen to ourselves and others at the same time. Listening is hard work. It takes practice. But in listening to others, we earn the right to be heard. Listening involves words, inflection, and body language. There are times when our words and our body language contradict each other. Listening focuses on what the other person is saying and what they mean. Thoughtful questions can lead to clarity.

We need to learn to blend and balance other voices with our own.
Too often, our focus is on what we will say next. As a result, our conversations often degenerate into two monologues instead of a dialogue.

We need to understand there is a place for conflict or dissonance that leads to resolution.
We need to learn to disagree civilly and work toward a common good. In our relationships, we instinctively look for harmony. But there are times when dissonance is needed. Someone has to take a stand now and again, disturb the flow, and call attention to a potential problem. When this happens, we need to be gracious to the dissenting voice. We need to be grateful for their courage to speak up. We need to value the person whether we value their ideas or not.

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