How to Sing Harmony


To sing harmony effectively, you need to start by understanding the basics of music theory and identifying the root note of the melody.

This foundational knowledge will help you experiment with intervals like thirds and fifths, which are essential for creating harmonious blends. Recording yourself and listening back is a great way to refine your ear for musical intervals and guarantee your harmonies are on point.

But how do you seamlessly blend your harmonies with the main vocals? By mastering pitch, timing, volume, tone, and texture, you can elevate your harmony singing skills to the next level. Ready to explore this further?


  • Understand intervals: Learn musical intervals like thirds and fifths to create harmonies that complement the melody.
  • Practice active listening: Focus on vocal layers in songs to identify and isolate harmony parts.
  • Use chord progressions: Follow chord progressions to guide your harmony choices and ensure they blend well with the melody.
  • Record and review: Record yourself singing harmonies to compare with the original and refine your technique.
  • Blend smoothly: Match pitch, timing, volume, and tone with the lead vocals for cohesive harmonies.

Understanding Harmonies

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Understanding harmonies means recognizing how different notes combine to enrich the sound and emotional impact of a song. Harmonies are essential in genres like pop, rock, and MOR, where they can subtly or prominently enhance a track. They aren’t just for choruses; vocalists often layer harmonies throughout a song to add depth and texture.

To get better at singing harmonies, start by listening closely to vocal tracks. Identify the harmonies and practice recognizing them in different songs. You can experiment with various vocal arrangements and harmonize in different intervals, such as thirds or fourths above or below the melody. Recording yourself and listening back can help you refine your harmonies, ensuring they complement the main vocals without overpowering them.

Harmonies typically follow the chord progression of the song, which means understanding the underlying chords can guide your harmony choices. The goal is to blend smoothly with the main vocals, paying attention to pitch, timing, and volume levels.

Effective harmonies can elevate a song, making it more emotionally resonant and memorable for listeners. By practicing these techniques, you’ll enhance your ability to sing harmonies effectively.

Basics of Music Theory

Before you immerse yourself in singing harmonies, it’s fundamental to grasp the basics of music theory. Understanding music theory will provide you with the tools to create and identify harmonies effectively.

Here’s a quick rundown of the essential concepts you need to know:

  1. Scales: Scales are sequences of notes that form the foundation of melodies and harmonies. The most common are major and minor scales.
  2. Intervals: An interval is the distance between two notes. Common intervals in harmony include thirds, fourths, and fifths.
  3. Chords: Chords are groups of notes played together. Basic chords are built from scales and consist of a root note, third, and fifth.
  4. Chord Progressions: These are sequences of chords played in a specific order. They provide the harmonic backdrop for melodies and harmonies.

Identifying Harmonies

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To start identifying harmonies, focus on recognizing the different vocal layers in a song.

Pay attention to harmonic intervals and how they interact with the melody.

Practice active listening by isolating each vocal line and noting how they blend together.

Recognize Vocal Layers

Listening closely to a song’s vocal arrangement will help you identify the distinct harmony layers woven throughout the track. By honing your listening skills, you’ll start picking out the different vocal parts that blend to create a rich, textured sound.

Here’s how you can do it:

  1. Focus on Isolated Parts: Pay attention to sections where the lead vocalist pauses or backs off. Sometimes, harmony parts become more prominent during these moments, making them easier to identify.
  2. Listen to Multiple Versions: Acoustic or live versions of songs can strip away some production elements, making harmonies clearer. Compare these versions to studio recordings to spot differences and nuances.
  3. Use Headphones: High-quality headphones can reveal subtle layers in a vocal mix that regular speakers might miss. This will help you distinguish between the lead and harmony vocals.
  4. Practice with Familiar Songs: Start with songs you know well. Since you’re already familiar with the melody, it’s easier to focus on the harmony layers without getting distracted.

Distinguish Harmonic Intervals

Mastering harmonic intervals is essential for identifying and creating effective harmonies in your singing. Harmonic intervals are the distances between two notes sung together, forming the building blocks of harmony.

To start, familiarize yourself with basic intervals like the third, fifth, and octave, as these are commonly used in vocal harmonies.

Begin by listening to a melody and identifying its notes. Sing a major third above or below each note. For example, if the melody note is C, sing an E above or an A below. Practicing this will help your ear recognize these intervals naturally.

Use a piano or a digital tuner to check your accuracy and reinforce your learning.

Next, try harmonizing using different intervals. Experiment with perfect fifths and octaves to see how they change the song’s texture. Record yourself singing both the melody and the harmony parts, then listen back to assess your blending skills.

Practice Active Listening

You’ll need to sharpen your ear by actively focusing on the different vocal layers within a song to effectively identify harmonies. Start by selecting songs known for their harmonies and listen to them repeatedly. Pay attention to how the harmony lines blend with the melody. Active listening is a skill that requires patience and practice, but it’s essential for identifying harmonies.

Here are four steps to help you practice active listening:

  1. Isolate the Harmony: Use headphones to pick apart the harmony from the main melody. Try to focus on one vocal part at a time.
  2. Sing Along: Once you identify the harmony, sing along with it. This helps reinforce your understanding and ability to replicate it.
  3. Compare and Contrast: Listen to different versions of the same song (e.g., live vs. studio) to notice how harmonies might change.
  4. Use Technology: Apps like choir training tools can help you isolate and practice harmonies.

Creating Harmonies

To create harmonies, start by identifying the root note of the melody.

Experiment with intervals such as thirds and fifths to find which notes complement the main vocal line.

Practice harmonizing by recording yourself and listening back to make sure the harmonies blend well with the melody.

Identify Melody’s Root

Identifying the root note of the melody is essential for creating harmonies that blend seamlessly and elevate the overall sound. The root note serves as the foundation upon which you build harmonies.

To find this note, follow these steps:

  1. Listen Closely: Start by listening to the melody multiple times. Focus on the note that feels like the ‘home base’ or the most stable point in the melody.
  2. Use an Instrument: Play the melody on a piano or guitar. The root note is often the first or last note of a phrase. Match the melody’s key to identify the root.
  3. Sing Along: As you sing the melody, hold out the note that feels the most resolved. This is likely your root note.
  4. Check Chord Progressions: Look at the chords accompanying the melody. The root note often aligns with the tonic of these chords, especially at the beginning or end of musical phrases.

Experiment With Intervals

Diving into intervals, start by experimenting with thirds and fifths to create rich, complementary harmonies. Thirds are a common interval in harmony, adding a sweet, consonant sound. To try this, sing the melody and then find the note that’s either a major or minor third above or below the melody note. For instance, if your melody note is a C, the third above is an E, and the third below is an A.

Fifths, on the other hand, offer a more open and powerful sound. If your melody note is a C, the fifth above is a G. Singing these intervals while the melody plays can give you a deeper understanding of how harmonies are structured.

Don’t stop there—try experimenting with different intervals like fourths, sixths, and octaves to see how they change the feel of the harmony. As you play around, you’ll notice how some intervals provide stability while others add tension and release.

Keep practicing, and your ear for harmony will become more refined. This experimentation helps you discover what complements the melody best, enhancing your overall musicality.

Practice With Recordings

When practicing with recordings, you’ll gain invaluable experience by singing along and creating harmonies that complement the original tracks. This method allows you to hear how your harmonies fit within a song’s context and helps you refine your ear for musical intervals.

Here’s a step-by-step approach to get started:

  1. Select Suitable Tracks: Choose songs with clear vocal parts and minimal instrumentation. Acoustic or unplugged versions are perfect for this.
  2. Isolate Harmony Lines: Use software or apps to isolate vocal tracks. This makes it easier to focus on the harmony parts without the distraction of other instruments.
  3. Sing Along: Practice singing the harmony lines along with the recording. Start with simple intervals like thirds and fifths before moving to more complex harmonies.
  4. Record and Review: Record yourself singing the harmonies and listen back. Compare your performance to the original to identify areas needing improvement.

Blending Techniques

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Mastering blending techniques guarantees your harmonies seamlessly integrate with the main vocals, enhancing the overall sound of the performance. Start by ensuring your pitch perfectly matches the lead singer’s. Even a slight deviation can disrupt the harmony.

Pay close attention to timing; your harmonies should align precisely with the main vocal’s rhythm. Practice singing in sync with the lead to achieve this.

Vital control is another significant aspect. Your harmonies should complement, not overshadow, the main vocals. Adjust your volume to blend rather than dominate. Listen carefully to balance and adjust accordingly. Additionally, try to match the tone and texture of the lead vocalist. Mimicking their vocal quality helps create a unified sound.

Breath control and phrasing also play significant roles. Synchronize your breaths with the lead singer to maintain a smooth, continuous blend. Practice taking breaths at the same points in the song to achieve this.

Practice Exercises

To effectively blend your harmonies with the main vocals, you’ll need to engage in targeted practice exercises. These exercises will help you develop essential skills such as pitch accuracy, timing, and blending.

Here are four effective exercises to get you started:

  1. Sing Along with Recordings: Choose songs with clear harmonies and sing along. Focus on matching the harmony parts precisely. Use tracks where the harmony is isolated, if available.
  2. Practice with a Partner: Find a singing partner to practice harmonies together. Take turns singing the melody and harmony. This will help you understand how your voice fits with another’s.
  3. Use a Piano or Keyboard: Play the melody on a piano and sing the harmony notes. This can help you visualize and internalize the intervals between the notes.
  4. Record and Playback: Record yourself singing both the melody and harmony parts. Listening back will help you identify areas where you need improvement and adjust accordingly.

Useful Resources

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Frequently, you can find a variety of resources to help you improve your harmony singing skills. Online platforms like YouTube offer countless tutorials where experienced vocalists break down harmony techniques step-by-step.

Websites like 30 Day Singer provide structured courses tailored to different skill levels, allowing you to progress at your own pace. Additionally, apps like Sing Harmonies can be invaluable, offering interactive ways to practice and perfect your harmonizing.

Books on music theory and vocal techniques can deepen your understanding of harmony. Titles like ‘The Contemporary Singer‘ by Anne Peckham or ‘Harmony and Voice Leading’ by Edward Aldwell can be great additions to your learning toolkit.

You might also consider joining a local choir or vocal group. This not only offers practical experience but also the benefit of learning from others in a collaborative setting.

For those who prefer personalized instruction, private vocal coaching can be highly effective. Many vocal coaches now offer virtual lessons, making it easier to find a coach who fits your needs and schedule.

Next up, learn how to sing high notes in this guide.

About the author

Submersible Music is a premiere music production house based in the United States. We offer recording, music production, songwriting and mixing and mastering services for musicians and companies around the world.

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