Harmony. Is there anything more beautiful to the ears than voices raised in harmony? When music is done well, it can raise our spirits and hope quotient like nothing else. 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 defined as 1. agreement; accord; harmonious relations.
2. a consistent, orderly, or pleasing arrangement of parts; congruity.
a. any simultaneous combination of tones.
b. the simultaneous combination of tones, especially when blended into chords pleasing to the ear; chordal structure, as distinguished from melody and rhythm.
c. the science of the structure, relations, and practical combination of chords.
make Harmony in music work?
The vocalist needs to find their voice.
Often the easiest part to learn is their own. It takes work, but over time, their range and vocal dynamics begin to emerge as a soloist.
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.
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 for 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 other voices are added to the mix.
The vocalist needs to learn to blend and balance other voices with their own.
Harmony becomes exponentially harder when a third voice is added. Everyone has to breathe in the right places and use the same phrasing. One voice cannot overpower the others or the harmony is lost. And if someone sings off-key everyone is affected. The ability to blend well becomes an absolute necessity.
Adding a fourth voice can set up an interesting dynamic. Often this fourth voice will bring a sound of conflict that makes the listener’s ear yearn for resolution in a chord.
The vocalist needs to understand there is a place for conflict or dissonance that leads to resolution.
It is the dissonance in music that pulls us in. In a quartet, it is the baritone who often sings these notes of dissonance. The soprano, alto, or tenor parts can be sung by themselves and are pleasing to the ear. But listening to a baritone sing his part in isolation is difficult. His part only fits in when sung with all the other parts. His part makes the listener lean in and wait for the chord to resolve.
What can we learn about life from musical Harmony?
These musical principles of harmony can be used in personal relationships, marriage, and business.
We need to find our voice.
Our opinions do matter. We need to be heard also. We are not on earth taking up space. We were created with a purpose. We are unique and we are needed to make a difference in this world. Speak up your story is important. 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 body is communicating something different than what our words are saying. Listening involves focusing 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 we listen but our focus is on what we are going to say next. 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. There are times when someone needs to speak up. To rock the boat. To point out the danger. To make sure others are considered and included in the discussion. 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.