Best Published Resources for Learning Harmony
  • ACabezon
    Posts: 20
    It would be useful to hear from experienced musicians about their preferred resources for learning harmony.

    You can assume basic ability to read music and play the keyboard at the intermediate level, but not much else.
  • M. Jackson Osborn
    Posts: 6,735
    I was reared on Piston.
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  • Liam
    Posts: 3,703
    I was reared on Roger Sessions "Harmonic Practice" but Piston was more widely used at the time 40 or so years ago. I believe Hindemith's Traditional Harmony also had a wide following, but I might be wrong about that.

    I cannot commend enough that harmonic study (especially if one is more of a keyboardist than singer) be complemented by study of sung counterpoint - classic species counterpoint to start. Why? Because instead of thinking "vertically" moment-to-moment the way studying fingers/feet might prefer, it forces you to consider sung lines, and what is more and less natural for amateur singers to do in the course of singing a line. There is so much music written for church in more recent times* that betrays a strong keyboard bias in composition and relative lack of engagement with the voice as the primary instrument. I see things on the page and it become immediately evident that a pianist or organist wrote this without a thought given to how ungraceful or awkward it is for a human voice to render it. Don't be one of those. End of rant.

    * Oh, yes, I know there are examples from more distant times, but the worst examples weren't written for church but the theatre. Eg, a number of Handel's choral tenor lines in his oratorios. And yes JS Bach could slip into treating voices like string instruments. Et cet.
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  • The RCM in Canada (and then elsewhere) used for a long time a few books by Mark Sarneki for harmonic study, called Basic, Intermediate, and Advanced Harmony respectively. I find those books to be quite comprehensive and easy to learn from while not leaving out any material. This is certainly in comparison to the current RCM curriculum which has changed basically everything.
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,105
    I cut my teeth on the three Walter Piston books ("Harmony," "Counterpoint," and "Orchestration"), and I lived across Alexander Street from Roger Sessions (in Henry Norris Russell's house) while a graduate student at Princeton. Personally, I am ever fascinated by Thomas Morley's "A Plain and Easy Introduction to Practical Musicke," which he dedicated to William Byrd, who had been his Master.
  • JonathanKKJonathanKK
    Posts: 411
    Part-writing or voice-leading rather than harmony, but:

    The 371 Four-part Chorales of Bach HERE. Play through the whole book.

    Also, Fux's Gradus ad Parnassum. Work through the two-voiced stuff.
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