Why do harmonic scales sound creepy

This is how you create guitar harmonies that sound really good!

Arrange polyphonic guitar parts and double leads correctly

(Image: Background: © Shutterstock / R_Tee, guitarist: © Fotolia / Andrii IURLOV)

Multi-part melodies on the guitar are a fixed stylistic device of many rock bands, from classic rock to modern metal. And sometimes they have such a lasting impact on the band's sound that you inevitably associate some representatives with this style of playing, think of Iron Maiden or Wishbone Ash, for example.

Surely some of you have already asked yourself how these two-part parts come about and how one should even approach such a solo. One more reason to dedicate today's episode to this topic and learn some basics.

In theory, guitar harmonies spring from the key in which the piece moves. Therefore, the fundamental knowledge of our scales is undoubtedly helpful if you want to know how a second voice can be built up to a melody line.

However, the beginning should be made with a convincing melody that already sounds unanimously good. If that is the case, it works so much the better in two voices.

Next we choose an interval that we either set above this melody or below it. Since a two- or three-part part is ultimately nothing more than chords that "pass" at melody speed, some intervals are more and some less. This means that intervals that appear in chords and their inversions sound particularly harmonious, but still by no means that others cannot work as well.

1. Parallel harmonies

Let's first look at a few intervals and listen to their sound. Here you can see the above-mentioned intervals as we encounter them in chords, namely thirds, sixths, fourths and fifths. Thirds / sixths and fourths / fifths have a very similar coloration to one another, as they are inversions of one another - from c to e we get a third, from e to c 'a sixth. The only intervals we are missing here are the second and seventh. In the following examples you will hear a G major scale, which I have harmonized in parallel, i.e. always with the same interval above:

Thirds

Thirds are the secret recipe for two voices and can be found in many harmonized lines. As a donkey bridge, you can remember: Simply start the line two notes further in the scale!

Sexten

Sixths are also very harmonious in terms of mood, but open up a larger interval jump:

As you may hear, thirds and sixths sound very lovely, whereas fourths and fifths get something very static and "medieval-like", which we can, however, also make use of.

Pentatonic

If we have moved within the major scale in the following examples, we can also use the pentatonic scale as a great source for two-part ideas. For example, you could play a pentatonic upwards and simply use the pattern after the next as the second voice.

Here you hear the Am pentatonic in position V and then as a harmony in position X.

Pentatonic riffs are also ideal as ostinato over several chords:

2. Two voices adapted to the chord progression

You may notice that it sounds a bit strange at times when only the same interval is used, especially at the beginning of a measure or when there is a longer note. If so, it often has to do with the fact that your second voice is not a particularly harmonious tone, and possibly even an "avoid note" for the respective chord. If that is the case, you are welcome to break up your interval logic a little and take another interval for this point.

In the following example you can hear two variants of a third harmony over Am - Em. The first dissolves somewhat unhappily, whereas the second sounds much more harmonious by using a fourth at the end:

3. Specials

Of course, there are also a few special cases of two voices that I do not want to withhold from you. A couple of oblique intervals and secondary rubs find their place here, which, however, can be very effective when resolved.

The pedal tone:

One guitar stops on a note while the other plays a movement that rubs against itself in some places, but sounds good overall:

The counterpoint

With counterpoint we have two melodies, but they run in different directions. Here e.g. a line over Em. Both voices start on the E:

"Evil" harmonies

If you want a somewhat sinister, creepy sound, the chromatic and of course the tritone are the perfect "Black Metal" interval:

With all these tips we want to give you clues and rules of thumb on how you can develop two-part parts that work in every case. However, you should first and foremost let your hearing decide which melodies you implement and how.

Do not be afraid of weird sounds, of chromatics and secondary rubs, because sometimes such moments have a very nice charm. And always remember: whatever you like is allowed!

And have fun with the two-part harmonies!