Three Part Harmonies. How?

Been writing some country songs lately. 3rds and 6ths are no problem. But I’m looking to get some really sweet Dixie Chicks type harmonies. Can anyone reference a book or article or just give me some tips? My background in theory is “classical” so it helps some, but not enough.

I’ve had good results sometimes using the “generate harmony voices” but I never get the results I’m looking for (i.e. the voices stay too stagnant on one pitch–no nice melody line). Also with “trial and error” (like the last issue of SOS said–what a joke!) by copying the lead voice and pitch shifting 4 steps up and kind of moving things up and down until it sounds good depending on what chords I’m playing. Often times I’ll write a higher harmony and a lower one. Each sound good with the melody INDIVIDUALLY but sound horrible when played with each other.

I notice sometimes the harmony moves in parallel with the melody and sometimes it stays on the same note while the melody moves around. How do I know when to do this?! I want rules! :smiley: Things get ugly when I hit a perfect interval or something or a parallel perfect 4th or 5th. Any ideas?

You can study counterpoint. First species (note against note) will give you some solutions to build good melodies to work with your track. But you can use all types to create independent lines that works alone and on a given harmony.

If you like the Dixie chicks, and can hear the harmonies, transcribe as many of their songs as you can. Similarly with other groups. Once you hit a critical number, it will start to come naturally.

If you like the Beatles, with all their three part harmonies, there are a few books with note-by-note transcriptions. And this site, if you do better by ear, is nothing short of wonderful: How to Sing This Boy Vocal Beatles Vocal Harmony Cover - Galeazzo Frudua - YouTube

Did you see the variaudio tutorial from Steinberg ? Here’s the link:

There is beautiful magic to hamonies created by the terrific voices of the Chicks and Beatles etc. that variaudio doesn’t inflect. Still, I have succeded in vastly improving my vocals using vari. The recent Quick Tips has a good video on it. My approach is that for 5 part I am simply creating chords. I have to do a fair bit of hunt and peck in the editor followed by assigning different effects to each vocal line to give each what they deserve. Panning separation works wonders and I double up the main vocal track and separate them by about 8 panning points each side of center to provide thickening without volume. My voice is mediore but my results are far from embarrasing so I at least can present a song to singers as a good starting point. I have much better success using Create Harmony as a start than I do by dragging my original up or down. My harmonies end up 6 to 20 db below the main vocal and a touch of compression to each harmony track seems essential.

Am I the only one who thinks those harmony voices sound atrocious?

Another way I have improved my results is to offset each harmony track timing by 20 to 100 milliseconds from the main vocal since real harmonies are never exactly in time. (in the Inspector under the volume and panning sliders). Also, If I sing just one harmony within my range live then use Create Harmony on that I get a slightly different inflection to help represent a different voice and help create the effect of two different singers. When one of my harmony lines sound too synthisized I just scrap it. I have used pitch shift to alter sections by a few cents to make my voice sound less similar. Pitch correct can also provide a slight change in inflection. All of this is time consuming but for me it has been rewarding. Under Chords, in the inspector where you choose to follow or not follow the chord track you can alter what results you get. For some processes I turn off Follow Chord Track, select all the vocal tracks and open them in the editor, open the variaudio balloon, choose Pitch and Warp, then build my chords. Very cool.

You are not.

It’s been a long time since I went to Berklee (Jazz Comp) but even back then they had some really great literature for composition, arranging and orchestration, both in jazz and popular music. I’d definitely look into their course literature actually.

And I know I sound like an old fart, but I think that’s heading down the right road in terms of improving your music.

I wish I had no use for it but I do. Back in the days of Boy Bands when this technology was emerging a ton of money was made putting an In Your Face mix of it out. Cher used it extensively on some hits. It does have some sensible application just like Cheeze Whiz, I-Robot and vitamin suppliments. For me, Generate Harmony and Variaudio have been terrific educational audiovisual tools as well as making a voice that only Mother could love palatable. Plus they give meaning to the phrase Get a Life. :smiley:

She actually sounds better than Ellie Goulding. Seriously… The dixie chicks were an amazing group, amazing career before they dissed… Great vocals they didn’t need much pitch correction. It’s always best to use tools like variaudio as least as possible. One should always record the best possible vocals. In other words make sure the vocals sounds good before applying processing. I good vocalist only needs a little bit of variaudio.

I learned vocal harmonies from playing Simon and Garfunkel. No joke.

Just FYI: I only use variation to hear what the harmonies will sound like. Always re record them. Also, I find the voice leading that variation comes up with pretty stagnant and not usable for coming up with harmonies “automatically.” Hey Lydiot, I’m not afraid to crack a book open. I’ll check out Berkeley.