Reharmonizing A Melody

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:
  1. Any melody can work with any root.
  2. 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):

Here was my first reharm idea for the second bar:

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.
Happy practicing,
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