Jazzitalia: la musica jazz a portata di mouse...
versione italiana english version
Bookmark and Share Jazzitalia Facebook Page Jazzitalia Twitter Page Feed RSS by Jazzitalia - Press News Feed RSS by Jazzitalia - Last Updates

Fai click qui per leggere la versione italiana


Harmonization in five parts
by Enzo Orefice

Fai click qui per leggere la versione in italiano

Hi friends, as you have perceived by invitation from the title, in this lesson I'll speak about the harmonization in five parts, of course, imagining a percussion and a double-bass that accompany our sax's section (a big band sax's section).

I would like to specify that unfortunately not all melodies are suitable to this treatment, in fact probably many arrangements techniques were born because of the need to find resolution suitable to that melody, to those harmonies and to the structure. By the way going back to our harmonization, to test I've chosen, it's a very famous standard of Tadd Dameron: Lady Bird ()

We'll realize in a clear and simple way this theme's harmonization imagining first of all to have our 5 sax (2 contralto, 2 tenors, 1 baritone):

  • the first voice (the singing) we deviously be unvaried and given to the first contralto
  • the second we'll be third descendent distance from first, the third at third descendent distance from the second, and the fourth at third descendent distance from the third. Of course thirds voice be majors and minors depending on the chord they belong to.
    The harmonization's principal aim is to keep the parts at a third distance between then except for the baritone that instead voice always be at octave with the melody for three good reasons:
    • to give more strength and compactness to the block
    • to further on mark the test's melody
    • to give tension, because in the different cases, as we'll see in the examples, it will be or at second major distance or at semitone distance from the fourth voice (second tenor), causing so an effective and beautiful tension.
MUSICAL EX. n. 1 (5 parts harmonization on just one score)

The ritmic side in this harmonization I've faithfully slicked with the original score except in the final part where I've given a light ritmic movement to "G" tied semi minimum, further or marked accent from the four final test's chords. It's very important to see how the tension take place, especially in the harmonization's first part, between the fourth (second tenor) and fifth (baritone) voice.

N.B.: in cases of measures n° 3 and n° 7, where you can clearly read one voice the sax will be distributed following this scheme:


first high, second high, first tenor written voice
second tenor and baritone under octave

Let's analyze in a more accurate way how is the procedure of each melody's note of this harmonization and let's pause or:
MUSICAL EXAMPLE N° 2 (5 different harmonization for our theme)

I won't singularly analyze each note's harmonization of the theme, because the harmonization is always the same, I will only explain the exceptions to our small rule of harmonizing a theme.

Clearly reading the examples we can notice that all the voices are included in an octave, and depends on the case, we always have two voices at semitone or tone's distance, then we can observe that:
  • in example n° 2.1 the tension (F# - G) is between the first and second voice, apart to be not very effective, it's also quite unpleasant for our ears or better it's out of tune. It's always advisable to avoid discords and tensions between the first two voices, especially if the first one belong to a melodic and thematic line.
  • in example n° 2.2 the tension (B – C) is between the second and the third voice, this harmonization isn't too bad but definitely works better with weak tunes, passing notes and so on.
  • in example n° 2.3 the tension (D – E) is between the first and second voice but unlike to example n° 1 is better, the first in fact is a third distance from the most near voice and you can't hear outs of tune.
  • in example n° 2.4 the tension (C – D – E) is double, in fact we have the second, the third, and fourth, all with tone distance between then. This resolution isn't very effective in the thematic stage, but could be used as an effect.
  • in example n° 2.5 the tension (G – A) is between the third and fourth voice. This is without a doubt the best because first of all the other four voices are at third distance (see general rule) and then when the tension is low (in the chord's general voicing) everything sound extremely clear. This part harmonization is the one I have mostly used for the melody of this test.
Carry on analyzing the test harmonization we can notice that: (b. 9 – second chord; b. 11 third chord) the thirds aren't anymore organized according to our scheme. We in fact find first a diminished chord. This chord (naturally arranged in minor thirds) is already perfect in this own

MUSICAL EX. n. 3 (diminished chord)

The procedure of this harmonization is melodically needed. If we found it on strong times it would have been very pleasant but on weak time (where we find it) it works well.

Then we have a harmonization in which the discord is between the first and second voice (b. 9 – third chord ; b. 10 – third chord)


This harmonization exists because of the melody's harmonic need. On strong time it wouldn't have been very pleasant but on a weak time (where we find it) works very well.

Many of you are asking yourself why on harmony Amin7 (b. 12 – third chord) we have an harmonization with decreased chord?
In reality this is possible because the harmonic function of that chord is D7 (that naturally doesn't module but becomes second of C tonality), consequently works well.
Another small exception we find at (b. 13) in fact happens at the first voicing of Dmin7 is just a drop (a drop is like a revolt in classical music and means putting on octave down or up, the voice more high maintaining the same voicing's notes).
Finally another small exceptions are the final chords where the discord is before between the second and the third voice (b. 15 – second chord), then between the third and fourth voice (b. 15 – third chord). This happens for a simple willingness to want to use an harmonic link between these chords. In fact as it's noticeable the parts move very little.
The past chord instead (b. 16 – second chord) is a Dbmaj7 completed putted in third order, only missing of the fundamental (which the double bass will take care of) this to have a last clear chord very definite and rich.

ell, I hope I've been quite clear and exhaustive, I hope you work well on your harmonization…..and see you in the next lesson!!!

JP Band
Le note richiamano versi

Insert a comment

© 2000 - 2001 Jazzitalia.net - Enzo Orefice - All rigths reserved

© 2000 - 2020 All the material published on Jazzitalia is exclusively owned by the author. Moreover it is protected by International Copyright, so it is forbidden any use of it which isn't authorised by the rights' owner.
This page has 6.441 hits
Last Modified Date: 17/04/2006

Bookmark and Share

Home |  Articles |  Press News |  Reviews |  Events |  Lessons |  Gallery
Artists |  Newsletter |  Forum |  Search |  Links |  Cont@cts