Unit 19: Harmony and Composition
Harmony or ‘backing’ vocals often play a significant role as part of a successful or memorable piece of popular music. Research has suggested that people subconsciously latch on to the sound of different voices when hearing a song, as a kind of ‘hook’. Additionally, composers and songwriters will often look to incorporate either innovative or familiar use of chords, chord progressions, modulations and textures in order to ‘catch the ear’ of their audience. Over the years, many composers in a variety of genres have used harmonic ideas and this unit is about recognising and developing these, as well as other contrapuntal conventions, in order for learners to integrate them within their compositions. Learners will not be restricted in their compositional styles and, indeed, should be encouraged to compose pieces in different styles in order to build up a diverse portfolio.
Developing a practical awareness and understanding of accepted harmonic and contrapuntal conventions will achieve this and so it is essential that learners hear and appreciate a wide cross-section of harmonic styles from a variety of musical eras. Additionally, they should become aware of what harmonic devices have been utilised within songs they may have been exposed to. Learners will develop a practical understanding of harmonic conventions by studying chords, chord progressions and the use of modulation. Additionally, they will develop their use and awareness of contrapuntal techniques, such as the use of different figuration and voicing. Once these have been established, learners will have the skills required to create original compositions using these techniques.