Lesson 109: Harmonization
Bemsha Swing by Thelonious Monk
Let's look at a very catchy, hummable/ singable melody. Let's look at Bemsha Swing by Thelonious Monk, a 16 bar miniature AABA tune:
Now let's pretend that you have just come up with a melody like that and want to harmonize it to make it a complete song/ tune. Many melodies strongly suggest harmony and you really have to fight if you want to go against nature, so to speak. Bemsha Swing, on the other hand, has a melody that can be harmonized in a lot of different ways.
Different Ways to Harmonize Bemsha Swing
1) A I-VI-II-V type cadence
2) Rhythm Changes
3) Cmaj7 Ebmaj7 | Abmaj7 Dbmaj7#11 |
4) C7 Bb7 | Ab7 G7 |
In the above cases you have to modulate to F for bars 9- 12.
5) The A part of One Note Samba by Antonio Carlos Jobim
6) The harmonies of St. Thomas by Sonny Rollins
7) II-V-I type cadences
Dm7 | G7alt | C | / |
8) Freer Harmonization #1
C | G7 | C | / |
9) Freer Harmonization #2
C7 | Bb7 | C7 | Dbmaj7#11 |
10) Freer Harmonization #3
F | Fm | C | / |
11) Freer Harmonization #4
C | Abmaj7 | C | Dm7 G7 |
12) Freer Harmonization #5
C | Dbmaj7#11 | C | Ab A Bb B |
13) The harmonies of Beatrice by Sam Rivers
C | Dbmaj7#11 | C | Bb6/9 |
14) The Blues
I took the liberty of leaving out four bars, bars 5- 8, and came up with this:
15) Starting with a Bass Line
Another way to go about harmonization is to start with a bass line. Try the following strong/ singable bass lines for a start ( modulate to F for bars 9- 12.):
Yet another way to go about this is to write another line that goes nicely with the melody line. I have not written out any examples of this - do it yourself as an exercise, you may come up with some very interesting stuff...
17) Monk's Harmonization
So, how did the maestro himself do it? I am not going to give it away here - you can find it in several of the good old fake/ "real" books. Check them out - every version has different changes! Go figure... :-) The very best thing you can do is to get a recording of Monk playing the tune himself and lift the changes yourself...
As you can see, there are very many possibilities. Take another melody, for example:
© 2007 Tomas Karlsson. All rights reserved.