Guitar Lesson - Building Harmony Solos

Building Simple Guitar Harmony Solos


Wednesday, June 06, 2007 
By Stephane Brault


Ok it seems I am going on about guitars lately. I've actually been playing guitar for 17 years. I never really wanted to make it professionally although it would have been nice but I played in a few bands and mostly kept that as a hobby. It doesn't mean I'm not passionate about it though. All the opposite in fact.

I have been playing a lot of hard rock and heavy metal "back then". This kind of music was just ruling the scene. We're talking 1989 (I lived in a small town so the 80's kind of lasted until 1995 there...). There never was a song without a Van Halen-esque solo after the second chorus with tapping and whammy bar all over the place. But Metallica, Slayer and Iron Maiden, as well as many others who were really successful at the time, came in with some more agressive solos. And there were also harmony solos. Not that they invented it but metal bands sure did pick up the ball and ran with. Who never tried to play the bridge solo from Master ouf Puppets until their parents went crazy ? Wow, I remember playing it like shit. Seriously, it did sound like shit. Ah the good old days...

That gets us to today's post. You're going to learn how to write some basic harmony solos. I have never been a real fan of music theory although I know a little. But we're not gonna rely on it a lot.

Recording the single-note line

I suggest you take a simple tape recorder, or even better if you have a DAW, and record your single-note line. It doesn't really have to be fancy equipment. Just something to record your guitar so you can work out the harmony with. If you have a drum machine or a metronome use it, otherwise try tapping your foot on the floor when you record. I always add four beats at the beginning so I have something to cue me when I listen to playback.

Now let's say we try this simple A minor line : 

E ------------------------8---7-----------
B ----------------6---5-----------8~~~~---
G --------5---4---------------------------
D ---/7-----------------------------------
A ----------------------------------------
E ----------------------------------------

Work out the harmony

Now that's you've recorded the first line, play it back so you can work out the harmony. A simple and efficient way to do it is to play the exact same lick three frets higher up the neck (A minor third).

E ------------------------11---10---------
B ----------------9---8-------------11~~~~
G --------8---7---------------------------
D ---/10----------------------------------
A ----------------------------------------
E ----------------------------------------

 

Most of the harmony notes will work but some will require that you adjust them. There are like two or three notes that will sound wrong. Try to move them one fret up the neck (1/2 tone). Now just work out all the bad notes until everything sounds ok. Maybe there are other notes you'll need to figure out.

E -------------------------12---10--------
B ----------------10---8------------12~~~~
G --------9---7---------------------------
D ---/10----------------------------------
A ----------------------------------------
E ----------------------------------------

Well that's pretty much it. Just rely on your ears!

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