Lesson 35: Reharmonization
Reharmonization is to substitute chords in a progression. Common devices are using alternative II-V-I and I-VI-II-V progressions, the tritone/ flatted fifth substitution and largely substituting a chord, part of or an entire chord progression with one with similar function or sound - one that kind of does the same job, so to speak.
The II-V-I Progression
Check out the following cadences:
The I-VI-II-V Progression
Check out lesson 7 ( Turn-Arounds), where different ways to reharmonize this common cadence are explored. Just like the II-V-I cadence, the I-VI-II-V type cadence is also very common in jazz, and it is nice to be able to utilize less obvious variations.
In ( traditional diatonic western) functional harmony, there are three basic sound groups:
The Tritone/ Flatted Fitfth Substitution
A chord can be substituted by a chord with the root a tritone away from the original. Ex. G7 can be replaced by Db7. This is very common when the root progression is a perfect fifth downwards ( a perfect fourth upwards). Ex. the progression C7 - F7 - Bb7 - Eb7 can be replaced by C7 - B7 - Bb7 - A7 where every other chord is substituted with the flatted fifth substitute yielding chromatic downwards motion.
Some Examples Written by Me
Example 1: Reharmonization of the Last Eight Bars of Someday My Prince Will Come ( Frank Churchill and Larry Morey )
Here I have used triads for two reharmonizations of the I-VI-II-V cadence. Triads are very strong. They give a nice sense of unity to the cadence. They effectively build up the tension to a dramatic climax before going to the top of the form.
Example 2: Reharmonization of Blue Bossa ( Kenny Dorham)
This is a somewhat daring reharmonization of Blue Bossa. Warning: it doesn't go very well together with the melody... Apart from that, it's a progression that does more or less the same job as the original one.
Some Examples Written/ Played by Others
The following examples are reharmonizations of rhythm changes:
A Few Last Words on Reharmonization
It can be very powerful to substitute changes in standard progressions, like II-V-I and I-VI-II-V type cadences as well as in complete tunes. I like to think of reharmonization as being largely about doing the same job in a more clever, interesting way that provides more surprises and more possibilities for creating good music.
Also check out lesson 109, where I take a simple melody and look at different ways to harmonize it. There I harmonize the melody completely from scratch, without even referring to the composer's original harmonization.
© 2006 Tomas Karlsson. All rights reserved.