\"\"
Piano Forum logo

I suck at harmony (Read 353 times)

Offline toruss

  • PS Silver Member
  • Newbie
  • ***
  • Posts: 3
I suck at harmony
« on: June 29, 2021, 09:50:12 PM »
I'm 19 years old and I'm trying to finish RCM level 10. I barely based level 9 harmony (between 60-70), and I have my level 10 exam in august. It's not that new (only a few
new chords and more applied chords), but I still can't get the hang of harmony.

I'm terrible at it. I just can't seem to comfortably do anything. I always get stuck on basic chorale harmonizations. I often find myself clueless about what chords to use, stuck in situations where I can't seem to get out of parallel 5th and 8ves, can't figure out where modulation occurs, and I'm really clueless when it comes to chord choices with just the soprano given. 

I can get by with the simpler stuff (melody, short SATB harmonization, figured bass), but chorale harmonization just destroys me every time. I'm trying to read my teacher's notes
and absorb the material but it's just not going in. There are too many rules, exceptions to rules, and ambiguous scenarios. If you get one chord choice wrong, it messes up the rest of the chorale.

It's so mentally exhausting and I absolutely hate it.

I just want to get level 10 finished so that I can teach one day, but I'm seriously scared of failing the harmony exam.

I'm either really stupid or harmony just eludes me. I'm a university student who's learned linear algebra and integral calculus, so I'm probably not that stupid.

Are there any good resources to learn how to do this stuff? There are videos on specific
topics on YouTube, but I haven't seen anyone online cover RCM chorale harmonizations in detail.

Offline determined2learn

  • PS Silver Member
  • Jr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 55
Re: I suck at harmony
«Reply #1 on: June 30, 2021, 01:07:17 AM »
How about Josh Wright? He does high level videos.


Good luck.


Breathe!

Offline klavieronin

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 633
Re: I suck at harmony
«Reply #2 on: June 30, 2021, 03:09:17 AM »
Oh man, I hear you! I remember just what a pain in the ass it was learning harmony. What got me through my harmony course at university (which I ended up doing quite well in) was learning a bunch of clichés, not being afraid to steal or re-use examples from other composers, and not beating myself up if I lost a mark here or there. One thing worth trying is writing out Bach's chorale harmonisation by hand and analysing as you go.

What text book are you using?

Offline quantum

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 5925
Re: I suck at harmony
«Reply #3 on: June 30, 2021, 04:49:22 AM »
I can very much relate. 

When I was a teenager and learning theory through the RCM curriculum, my particular experience of the way it was taught was extremely rule based, focused on the score, focused on note spellings, with laundry lists of do-nots.  Conspicuously missing was any connection to sounded music, the keyboard, the voice.  Mysteriously failing to mention references to actual music examples and the composers that paved the way for these "rules."  They were just rules to be followed without explanation of why they were there and why music needed to follow them.  It was theory by the book, theory for the book, and theory worked out in isolation with the book.


My theory teachers at university changed all that, where we had a music-first perspective of theory.  Every theory class in university was filled with sound, the professor playing the piano, playing back recordings of all kinds of music.  We were required to sing and play examples at the keyboard (that meant everyone regardless if they were singers or keyboard players).  When a theory topic was introduced it was always backed up by real music examples.  We would hear the teacher play it, then we would have to sing it to further internalize the concept.  Musicianship skills were very tightly integrated into the theory courses, and one would not be able to get through a course by just reading a text book and regurgitating it back on score paper, one had to actually perform these concepts musically.  We had to be able to hear and identify these concepts by sound, not just by score analysis.  Transcription was a frequent exercise. Out of of a two hour class, maybe 20-30 mins talking about the concept  while the rest of the time was devoted to listening, singing, transcribing and working out examples musically. 

Making music theory in a music oriented learning approach is what really solidified understanding of  how all these rules related to real music. 


My suggestion to you is to play and sing through some real music to really understand what it sounds like.  Get yourself a hymn book and study the SATB hymns and chorales.  Study the Bach chorales.  Listen to choirs singing this music. 

Don't be afraid to make mistakes because of the "rules."  Don't be afraid to forget a rule because there are too many to remember.  Write out and play SATB chorales first, then worry about applying rules to them once you have established your flow in writing.  Intentionally break rules and observe what it sounds like, it can give you a better understanding why that rule is suggested. 

If you don't have a hymn book, start with some online hymn resources such as hymnary.org 

IMSLP also has hymn books, here is one
https://imslp.org/wiki/The_English_Hymnal_(Various)

Although, having a physical book is easier to browse and work with.  You will want to focus on the SATB hymns, because that is closer to what is studied in theory courses. 

If you want to become more comfortable with harmony start with real music, not text books.  A text book can help you understand the theory better once you have heard and played music. 

Made a Liszt. Need new Handel's for Soler panel & Alkan foil. Will Faure Stein on the way to pick up Mendels' sohn. Josquin get Wolfgangs Schu with Clara. Gone Chopin, I'll be Bach

Offline toruss

  • PS Silver Member
  • Newbie
  • ***
  • Posts: 3
Re: I suck at harmony
«Reply #4 on: June 30, 2021, 08:18:30 PM »
There are lots of Bach chorales to study from.

I found a list here: http://www.bach-chorales.com/BWV0377.htm

Which ones should I start with?

Offline quantum

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 5925
Re: I suck at harmony
«Reply #5 on: June 30, 2021, 08:38:38 PM »
There are lots of Bach chorales to study from.

I found a list here: http://www.bach-chorales.com/BWV0377.htm

Which ones should I start with?

Any one.


This one is rather well known by the general population as a hymn tune. 
http://www.bach-chorales.com/BWV0262.htm

Compare here, and observe the slight variations existing in the various hymnbooks. 
https://hymnary.org/tune/salzburg_hintze

Start with the cantus firmus and harmonize it yourself.  Then compare your solution with Bach's solution.  Make notes of where you had problems.  Observe how Bach solved those problems.

When working out the harmonization, also do the exercise at the keyboard preferably without score and work the solution only by looking at keys and listening.


If you are feeling overwhelmed working with Bach chorales, I'd suggest working first with simpler SATB hymns.
Made a Liszt. Need new Handel's for Soler panel & Alkan foil. Will Faure Stein on the way to pick up Mendels' sohn. Josquin get Wolfgangs Schu with Clara. Gone Chopin, I'll be Bach

Offline toruss

  • PS Silver Member
  • Newbie
  • ***
  • Posts: 3
Re: I suck at harmony
«Reply #6 on: June 30, 2021, 09:26:30 PM »
Where can I find some simpler SATB hymns?

Offline quantum

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 5925
Re: I suck at harmony
«Reply #7 on: June 30, 2021, 09:41:21 PM »
Where can I find some simpler SATB hymns?

Hymn books.

Online hymn resources, such as the ones I listed above.

Try harmonizing this one
https://hymnary.org/tune/quem_pastores

If you come back with specific questions we can help you.  It seems like you are just overwhelmed with a lot of this harmony stuff.


Made a Liszt. Need new Handel's for Soler panel & Alkan foil. Will Faure Stein on the way to pick up Mendels' sohn. Josquin get Wolfgangs Schu with Clara. Gone Chopin, I'll be Bach