Whether you want to completely surprise your audience or just freshen up tunes you’ve played for years, reharmonization can be a powerful tool to have in your belt.
Two rules to guide you as you’re reharmonizing anything:
- Any melody can work with any root.
- Always trust your ears.
I’ve been wanting to add the Beach Boys’ “Don’t Worry Baby” to my trio’s regular repertoire and have come up with what I believe are some cool reharm ideas on the second bar of the melody.
Here’s the melody as it is on the original (transposed to Bb because I like the way it sounds on the piano):
I always start with the bass line as the first natural counter-point to the melody. Because this melody ascends, a descending bass line works great. Check out the melody and bass line on their own and then dig how I can keep the same melody and bass line but change all of the other harmony:
Not bad. Now let’s try it with an ascending bass line. It’s a little trickier:
Notice how I tried to include some descending movement in the inner voices to keep some contrary motion. How about a bass line from the circle of 4ths:
Nice! Circle of 5ths?
And finally, let’s just do it all over one pedal tone:
All of this and we’re just scratching the surface of one measure! With all of these options available it’s a good time to recall Rule #2: Always trust your ears.
Make sure you’re not turning this into a technical exercise but a practice that helps you get a sound that’s meaningful to you.