Rules For Re-Harms

Question by Mark
(Ohio, USA)

Hello Sir,

Wondering if you might be willing to write a paper on re-harms reharmonizing songs. Perhaps this would be best completed in parts starting with the very simple techniques and advancing to the more advanced.


M-A’s answer:

Please forgive my late reply.

I’m not a big fan of “reharmonizing tunes” in the first place. I often write new melodies on top of standard chord progression, but very seldom the other way around. (-:

The best use of what you refer as reharm techniques is often to deal with only a fraction of a tune and change the chords a bit, this I do quite often. For instance, I may alter only the first four (or last four) bars of a piece to make it more “personal” and fit the sounds I hear in my head.

In most cases, I do this spontaneously, just from knowing really well the actual foundation of the song’s harmonic progression. Remember, if you want to do something more “far out” that this, your bandmates should be warned and prepared to deal with the new changes! (-:

I encourage you to look at a rather old article of mine about chord substitutions. It should get you started in changing a little chord here and there :

Also, a (very good) suggestion I had from one of my teachers is to create intros / endings rather than complex reharm. Instead of changing the tune, you set the mood of how it is to be played. Start with a really nice groovy vamp of some sort (for example) and it will set the tone for what’s coming after. No need to change the chords / melody of the song … and the musicians will likely react to how you intro went. This is highly effective and I do it all the time! You can also try to insert an original interlude in between soloists.

Basically, there’s still a lot to be done without jumping into really harsh reharms.

I hope this helps. Please, let me know if you have any questions.

Marc-Andre Seguin

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