How to Harmonize FASTER
What is the best way to learn how to harmonize? There are a couple of methods that have been used for music readers for generations. But here at The Voice Club we’re pretty obsessed with making things ‘better, FASTER’. I’ve used this process to teach choirs of singers who have never harmonized to do just that in a just a few weeks. So, skip the long road and let’s zoooooom on down to getting you some RESULTS!
A QUESTION FROM OUR FREE FACEBOOK GROUP
One of our cherished facebook group members, Anne Emmanuelle asked this: “Do you have any special tips about how to become really good at acapella? I don’t have other singers nearby to practice it with.” Anne-Emmanuelle is a great singer. I think most singers would be surprised that she sings like a beast in her band in Paris, has a good hold on music theory and kills it on the harp….but doesn’t harmonize. But today, the majority of singers don’t have the benefit of hearing harmonies all around them. Before we polished it up, over filled it with instruments and started telling everyone they weren’t good enough to sing out loud, we ALL used to do it.
Think about it: From the earliest recorded history all people sang. Families, church congregations, groups of workers…and very rarely with instruments. Today, the majority of singers haven’t had enough exposure to simple complimenting note options to pick harmony up instinctively.
It’s no longer a simple process to pick out another part in a song. Instead of hearing a goup of people singing a few different parts, as we have for the bulk of history, our brains are now trying to pick out those notes in the swamp of 20 tracks of instruments and 50 effects and filters.
HOW MOST PEOPLE LEARN TO HARMONIZE
The typical answer to this is to learn music theory, then read music and follow the notes that are yours. Do you have any idea how long that takes if you’re not familiar with music theory? Toooo long. Like a lot of singers, I grew up in a singing family and was taught how to harmonize when I was four. That was WAY too young to learn music theory. Between the natural harmonizers I’ve worked with or coached, almost all of them learned by hearing, not with sheet music. For those who didn’t grow up exposed to harmonizing at a young age, the process for learning to sing harmony is the same process your brain used to help you identify the melody in a song. We hear a clear example and are given suggestions for which note is ‘our part’. BUT, we can utilize this same process you used to learn the main part to learn harmony and we can do it ‘better, faster…the voice club method way’!
HOW TO LEARN TO HARMONIZE THE “BETTER, FASTER” WAY
– 1 –
FIRST: learning to harmonize in a song filled with instrumentation and effects is like expecting a toddler to learn how to ride a bike by ramp jumping with a dirt bike: highly frustrating – and unnecessarily complex. So let’s do what we do best…whittle it down to the simplest, fastest way to succeed.
– 2 –
Skip the distractions and listen to only a simple acapella song – no music, not 17 voices…more like 3. This allows a clean slate for your brain and narrows down the options for a ‘note path’ from dozens (in a typical song with music) to very few. I’m not using ‘harmony’ for a reason: you should never be limited to finding the THIRD or the FIFTH. That’s the theory angle. Today’s music requires you to fill the song on the fly. That means you’ll be going in and out of both of those and few other notes: don’t limit yourself; give your brain the freedom to choose and you’ll skip learning a typical harmony to finding parts a lot of singers can’t…because they’ve been taught to lock into the 3rd or the 5th.
– 3 –
Start listening to one acapella song over and over. Don’t sing along yet. If you jump in right away, your brain will instinctively try to drag you back to the melody, not the ‘note path’ you want to learn. No singing along until can pick out decent portions of any other ‘note path’ (it doesn’t matter which you choose…all notes other than the melody are fair game)
– 4 –
Once you have a decent feel for a different ‘part’ in a few sections of the song, start humming the notes along with the song, keeping the volume of the music just one click louder than your voice. This is a “kill 2 birds with one stone” trick that replaces having someone with you to pick out the part and sing along. By having the music just a little louder than your voice, your brain will now prioritize finding the new ‘note path’ you’ve been picking out. If your voice gets louder than the music, your brain will try to shove you back to the melody. Once you feel like you’ve got a handle on those few sections, sing along with words, still keeping the music one click louder. Start filling in the other notes for your ‘new part’ in the rest of the song. **Don’t wait to learn the entire harmony before you add your voice. We’re skipping the traditional ‘memorization mode’ and skipping right to ‘problem solving’. In this mode, your brain just needs a couple of options and to be rewarded for the right ones. The more you do this, your brain will start filling in the blanks. Trust me, it’s MUCH faster, especially for 3 out of the 4 types of learners.If you’re in the 4th (the reading/writing learners), print out the lyrics, double spaced, and note *ANY WAY that makes the most sense to YOU of where you plan to do what. ***We have a special process for that too in The Voice Club Academy.
– 5 –
The more comfortable you become with the new part, turn the music up until your voice and the music are equal. In this stage, it’s pretty easy to find the notes you thought you knew that weren’t solid. For those, just go to step 4 in those parts until they’re as solid as the rest. Once you’re 75% solid on your new part (you’re only getting yanked back to the melody or forgetting the note in 1/4 of the song or less), yank that music up one more click until your voice is step louder to the music.
– 6 –
Once you feel pretty solid with that…..find a new song and repeat!
HOW MUCH TIME DOES IT TAKE TO LEARN TO HARMONIZE
It depends on how much ‘competition’ you give your brain. For instance, if you’re really struggling at picking out the new part, listen to ONLY your acapella song, & I mean ONLY, until you progress to the next step. That’s a sign that your brain is being a bugger about change and wants to go back to what you’ve done before. Once you’re getting comfortable finding parts and following them (again you don’t have to know EVERY note) in a couple of acapella songs, start trying it out on songs with music. ***They key is always follow this order:
1. LISTEN ONLY
2. IDENTIFY A NEW PART: charting the hard parts (not musical notation) and styling options makes this go even faster)
3. HUM THE NEW PART w/music louder
4. SING THE NEW PART w/music louder
5. SING w/music that’s equal to your voices volume level
How do you chart music to be your technique and vocal map to success? We’ve made that one ‘better and faster’ too and it’s crazy effective for much more than just learning to harmonize quicker. It lives with our best ‘better faster’ training in The Voice Club Academy, our 24/7 video based learning library.
Try our quick-fire harmony-learning method and tell me how it goes! Leave a comment below or use the contact form and maybe I’ll do a how-to video for you!