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Reharmonization

"Reharmonization" is to take a piece of music and swap out the Chords within the Accompaniment for others. We are "re-doing" the Harmony, hence the term "Reharmonization".

The musician Adam Neely has a great video about the ways that this is often done within Jazz. [Warning: There is some cursing in the video, particularly at 11:26 onwards.]

We will summarize the techniques that he uses here.

"Beginner" Jazz

• Use "Diatonic Reharmonization"

Take a piece in a minor Key and change the Chords to ones in the Relative Major Key.

Example:
Dm → Gm → B♭ → C
becomes
F → F/A → B♭ → C

• Use "Non-Cyclic Chord Progressions"

In the most general sense, this would be to extend a Chord Progression to encompass more Measures instead of merely repeating in a loop.

Example:
F → Gm → B♭ → A7 → Dm → B♭ → Gm → C

• Vary "Harmonic Rhythm"

Use more or less Chords per Measure. (This may also change what Beats the Chords fall on.)

"Intermediate" Jazz

• Add Some "Tensions", "Upper Extensions"

Stack Notes that are a 3rd Interval away from one another on top of Seventh Chords to make "9ths", "11ths", and "13ths".

• Use "Cycle 5 Root Motion in Seventh Chords"

Play Seventh Chords whose Roots follow The Circle of Fifths order.

• Use "Tritone Substitutions"

This is a type of Borrowed Chord (i.e.: a "Non-Diatonic Chord", one that falls outside of the Key)...

Example:
C7 → G♭7 → F

The C7 is the V7 in the Key of F Major. The F is called our "Target Chord" (i.e.: the one we are moving towards).

The G♭7 is the Tritone Substitution. Notice that its Root is a Tritone down from C7.

You can also think of the G♭7 as a Half-Step above the F Target Chord.

Refresher:
When Chords accompany a Melody, the Notes within the Melody are either...

1. Chord Tones - They coincide with the Notes in the Chord played underneath it.

2. Non-Chord Tones - They lie outside of the Notes of the Chord, whether they are other Notes in the same Scale ("Diatonic"), or if they are completely outside of the Scale ("Chromatic").

3. Upper Extensions - They are Notes interpreted by the ear as being stacked on top of the accompanying Chord.

• Use A "Chormatic Baseline"

Make a Baseline that Ascends or Decends by Half-Steps (i.e.: "Chromatically"). Then, find Chords that have those Notes as Roots. It doesn't matter if the Chord is from the same Key so long as they still work with the Melody in some way. [One can also use Whole-Steps instead of Half-Steps in their Baseline.]

By using Chords that don't have a Function within that Key, this can be considered "Non-Functional Harmony". The listener cannot anticipate where the Chord Progression might go because it seems like it is all over the place.

The technique covered here is called "Melody-Baseline Technique" by Wayne J. Naus, author of the book "Beyond Functional Harmony". There are a lot of other compositional techniques for doing Non-Functional Harmony though (e.g.: see the book "Twentith-Century Harmony" by Vincent Persichetti).

Like the above technique, all of the techniques which are listed below sound pretty Dissonant...

• Use "Intervalic Mirroring"

The Bass and Treble contain Chords that are the same Intervals mirrored across the Tonic of the piece.

• Use A "Multi-Tonic System"

Use multiple Tonics that are equidistant from one another on The Circle of Fifths simultaneously. This can be combined with "Constant Structures" (i.e.: repeatedly using Chords with the same quality).

• Use "12-Tone Rows"

Play each of the twelve Notes once before repeating any. They do not have to be in Chromatic order. This is a "Tone Row".

Tone Rows, like regular Melodies, can be transformed in the following ways:

1. Retrograde - Play the Notes of the Tone Row backwards in order.

2. Inversion - Switch the directions of Intervals between the Notes within the Tone Row (e.g.: if they are Ascending, make them Descending, and vice versa).

3. Retrograde-Inversion - Do both of the above simultaneously.

4. Transposition - Shift all Notes by the same amount.