Reharmonization Lesson: Descending Chromatic Bass Line Exercise


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Reharmonization...a fun topic for the more daring musician!

Simply put, reharmonization is the process of taking a melody and altering the harmony that accompanies it.

The melody I chose to reharmonize for this lesson is the classic "Mary Had A Little Lamb". I chose this song due to its widespread familiarity and its simplicity.

There are no hard and fast rules for reharmonization. Creativity is the name of the game.

However, leaving it at that wouldn't be very helpful. I find it's best to impose strict limitations on yourself when practicing.

For this particular exercise: You must reharmonize the melody using a chord progression based on a descending chromatic bass line, and the harmony must change with every melody note.

In the video, I first play a very simple arrangement of the tune in E, using only 2 chords...E and B.

Next I demonstrate the reharmonization I came up with using the limitations mentioned above.

Here are some tips to help you out with this exercise.

  • Start by learning the melody plus the bass line only. This is your foundation.
  • Next, analyze the intervallic relationship between the bass note and the melody note.
  • The final step is to fill out the harmony. This is both the fun part and the difficult part. Keep in mind that the bass note does not necessarily have to be the root of your chord. Experiment with inversions!

    Another point I'd like to leave you with is this...trust your ears. You may not know what to call some of the chords you stumble upon with this exercise. You're ok! The labels can come later. The main point of this exercise is to learn to hear chromatic harmonies and find them on your guitar.

    Let me know how it goes for you. And feel free to record your own video with your take on this exercise.


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