A Lesson in Harmony

As an educator, one of the questions I get asked most frequently is “How can I play this without people thinking I’m bad?” Today I’m going to show you how to fix simple music so that you may play it without being embarrassed of yourself.

Let’s start with the classic method book melody “Ode to Joy”

Gross. Hal Leonard needs to fire whoever wrote this garbage.

But don’t worry, we’re going to fix it. Here it is again with some spice

Wait actually,

That’s better. A good rule of thumb is that any time you can do something, you should do it.  Otherwise, how will people know that you can?

Now I know what everyone is probably thinking: “The common practice period is over, wake up and smell the jazz chords”, well you’re right. So was I actually. Just because triads were good enough for Bach doesn’t mean they’re good.  Duke Ellington said it best: “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got those jazz chords.”

Oh yeah, also you have to end on the sharp eleven. Every time. Now we’re getting somewhere. But anyone can modulate to the subdominant. Big deal. Sure it sounds good, but if we’re going to impress people outside the nursing home gig, we need to do something a little more hip.

That’s more like it. However, it’s not art until we break the confines of functional western harmony. And it’s not intellectual until the harmony can’t fit on the page. Let’s try something a little more nonfunctional.

Ah yes. Now were getting somewhere. But in order to truly express ourselves with total harmonic freedom (the only aspect of music that matters) we simply need more notes. We need more clusters. We need more syncopation. We need a half-swung quintupletey drum track.

We have transcended. Now this is music. The general public will be so impressed they won’t even know what to say. But their silence speaks volumes. The less people enjoy it, the more sophisticated it is.

Another classic fixed. No need to thank me. Tune in next time to hear me improve our national anthem.

Ryan Michaud (PhD) has been educating the masses online for 45 years. A brilliant author, teacher, and scholar, he is a such an intellectual that he still has less than 1,000 listens on all of his music.

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