How To Write Vocal Harmonies In Your Songwriting Process Thursday December 14 2023, 8:15 PM
Yona Marie
Singer, Songwriter, Producer.
How To Write Vocal Harmonies In Your Songwriting Process

How To Write Harmonies 

Creating harmonies can be a tricky thing, but it's actually my favorite part of the songwriting and singing process. I love the harmonies and fullness that background and group singing can bring to a song, often more than the lead part or solo. 

As a songwriter, mastering the art of creating harmonies can add depth and complexity to your compositions.

But as a beginner, it can also be challenging to know how to create your own harmonies in your song creations. Here are a few tips that can help you a ton along the way! 

Study Basic Music Theory

Harmonizing is when you layer a note above or below the lead part with a different pitch that will perfectly fit the chord progression of the song. 

Understanding scales, chords, and intervals is like having a toolkit that empowers you to create harmonies that not only sound good but also make sense in the grand musical scheme.

Some people have a natural ear for music that will get them far with singing melodies and harmonies with no problem, but many will need some basic training.

I find it fairly common to come across people who can write a melody with their good ear but need help studying music theory concepts to really understand how harmonies work. 

Establishing this foundational knowledge will be the foundation upon which your harmonic prowess will be built.


Highlight Key Parts Of Songs With Harmony

Picture harmonies as the secret sauce. Learn the ninja moves to strategically sprinkle them throughout your song – beefing up that killer chorus, adding sparkle to a verse, or constructing a bridge that launches your song into the stratosphere.

Harmonies don't need to go everywhere, and if they did, they would make the song a bit overwhelming in many cases. In some cases, it really works, but it's pretty rare and not likely what you're going for in most songwriting sessions. 

Know That Harmonies Don't Have To Follow The Main Melody

Break free from the conventional and let your harmonies chart their own course! The notion that harmonies must trail the main melody is a myth worth debunking.

You could ooh and ah in the background instead of following the lead directly, or you could be doing something completely different with harmonies. 

In this space of musical exploration, counterpoint and contrary motion can become your allies. Read about my counterpoint tips here!

Make Sure The Harmonies Make Sense For Range

Harmonies aren't just arbitrary notes; they're the carefully selected companions of your melody, and their placement within the range is crucial.


Ensuring that harmonies make sense for the range involves crafting a complementary synergy and avoiding dissonance or awkward stretches.

You also want to make sure that the singer (who may be you) will be able to hit these harmony notes comfortably, especially in a live performance. 

Go For One Or Two Harmony Notes

Keep it simple yet impactful by starting with just one or two harmony notes. Think of it as the minimalist approach to harmonies, a strategic choice that allows you to dip your toes into the vast pool of musical possibilities.

By limiting the number of harmony notes, you create a focused and digestible sonic experience, which is especially crucial for beginners.

Also, if you're writing in a genre that's more popular, the harmony parts usually benefit from being more simplistic, although a good 7th chord or more can really get a listener's attention. But again, you probably don't want to attempt all that as a newbie.  

In the case of layering, it's best to play around with it and see how it sounds as you go. Many times, I find myself adding a bunch of layers and taking some out later if I realize it's too much.  At other times, I do the exact opposite. 

Consider How Harmonies Can Compliment Lyrics 

Harmonies possess the transformative ability to amplify the emotional impact of your lyrics.

Strategically aligning harmonies with specific lyrical moments can create a powerful synergy, intensifying the overall emotional resonance of your song.


Whether it's accentuating a poignant line or adding a burst of energy to a chorus, harmonies become the artistic brushstrokes that elevate your lyrics into a multi-dimensional sonic experience.

Try Instrumental Harmonies

Harmonies aren't exclusive to vocals; they can work wonders in instrumental sections too. Whether you're playing a guitar, piano, or any other instrument, integrating harmonies can elevate your instrumental passages.

Experiment with chord voicings, intervals, and counterpoint to find harmonies that complement and enrich your instrumental melodies.

You can even get creative and harmonize your voice with another musical instrument, which I've heard done in a lot of hit songs! My first time hearing this was when John Mayer harmonized with his guitar in "I Don't Trust Myself". 

Get Help If You Don't Have The Ear For It

Having a natural ear for harmony isn't universal, and that's perfectly okay. Collaboration becomes a strength rather than a weakness.

Embrace the opportunity to collaborate with fellow musicians, find a mentor, or consider formal lessons to enhance your harmonic sensibilities. This spirit accelerates your learning and transforms the journey into a shared and enjoyable experience.

Don't hesitate to lean on the expertise of others, as they can provide valuable insights, tips, and perspectives that can significantly enhance your harmonic prowess.

In the realm of harmonies, getting help is not a fallback; it's a smart and empowering move towards honing your craft and turning your musical aspirations into a harmonious reality.

Yona Marie

As a session singer, writer, and producer that has worked with over 300 clients to provide high-quality jingles, singles, and features, Yona spends her time creating and marketing new music and helpful resources for creators. Check out Yona’s latest releases on her Spotify, her Youtube and share if you like it!

If you are in need of singer, songwriter or song producer services, see what Yona Marie can offer you on her services page.

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