Harmonizing a Phrase

How to turn one or more takes into a Harmony parameter

Multiple views of Synfire feature a Harmonizer that turns one or more Takes into a Harmony parameter guided by your instructions and feedback. The final result is saved to the current Container or Phrase.

This way you find chords that match a MIDI recording or the rendered output of one or more instruments.

To open a Harmonizer, select one or more instruments on the Track Sheet and do Phrase > Harmonize. This takes you to the Harmonizer tab with the selected instruments ready for harmonization. You can also just switch to the tab at any time.

Tip: To harmonize a melody you have in Standard MIDI File format, first select the desired instrument and import the MIDI track with Phrase > Import with the figure recognition preferences set to Input for Harmonizer (static).

Workflow Summary

  1. Select one or more instruments as input.

  2. Verify the global key and other settings.

  3. Generate chord suggestions with Harmonize.

  4. Listen to chord suggestions and make a choice.

  5. Add or remove chord transitions as desired.

  6. Accept the final result with Apply.

1. Select Inputs

Select one or more instruments as input source. The Take parameter is used by default. Alternatively you can use rendered Output for interesting surprises. The Parameter View shows a piano roll style representation of the input.

Trouble: If you recorded a melody incrementally in multiple steps, the Take might hold only the most recently recorded input. Make sure you have a complete take before harmonizing it.
Tip: Use static pitch symbols for vocal melodies, if you want to arrange a song around them. These won't change when they are rendered against new harmony.

2. Global Key And Settings

Click on this button or call Transform > Pick Global Key to select a global key from the menu. If a Harmony parameter already exists, its key is considered with priority. This setting has a profound influence on the resulting chord suggestions.
Algorithm that determines the positions of chord changes.
  1. Auto: Selects an appropriate algorithm automatically.
  2. Search: Looks at the input and estimates where chord changes can most likely be assumed.
  3. Polyphony: Assumes every cluster of notes is a new chord. This algorithm is very simple and works with sequences that contain sustained chords only.
  4. Keep: Keeps existing transitions unchanged. In order to protect your edits, this mode is enabled automatically after you changed a transition manually.
Influences the complexity of chords and potential key changes being suggested. You should experiment to find the settings that best match your input.
Clusters of notes whose onsets fall within this span of time are considered as potential chords. The setting helps with input that is not quantized.
Potential chord changes faster that this will not be considered.

3. Generate Chord Suggestions

Click Harmonize to run the algorithm on the selected input. Selecting a span in the Parameter View will harmonize only the selected range.

Check the option Retain Harmony to use the current Harmony parameter to make initial default selections in the list of chords.

CAUTION: If you want to (re)harmonize the entire input as a whole, you must make sure you have nothing selected in the Parameter View. This can be easily overlooked.
Note: The Generic and Simplified styles deliver basic (vanilla) chords only. If you want more elaborate extensions like Am9 or C7(9,13) instead of Am and C7 respectively, you can add these extensions in the Progression Editor later.

4. Select Chords

Select any of the detected transitions and pick a chord from the list to use it for this transition. Although chords are sorted by probability, some chords further down in the list can also offer interesting solutions.

If only a single chord is listed, the selected transition was not yet harmonized. Press Harmonize to search for potential chords.

When you select a transition, the Global Instruments play a short preview to illustrates the result so you can assess it.

Tip: There are thousands of possible chord progressions that match a melody. Harmonization is a creative decision. Trust your ears and personal style preferences to find the best results.

5. Insert or Remove Transitions

Select a position or span in the Parameter View an press + or - to add and remove chord changes, respectively.

6. Accept The Result

Test your current choices in context of the arrangement.
Render a preview of the chords only.
Match Neighborhood
Synfire picks selections from the suggested list of chords automatically in order to optimize the overall progression. This affects transitions that follow the position you have changed. Hence, a large portion of the progression may change after a single edit.
Optimize Scales
Before the result is finally accepted for the container, all scale selections of the progression will be optimized.
Saves your current choices in the Harmony parameter. You may select a partial span to save a limited range only.
Tip: The Harmonizer assist you with finding a chord progression, but it won't create a contrapuntal movement for you. If that is your goal, you need to create a melodic Figure for the desired instruments instead.

Drag & Drop

Drop a chord from a palette or progression on the Parameter View to insert it as a choice. Copy & paste works as well. No checks are performed. Whether it makes sense or not is your decision.

Preview Mixer

Use these faders to adjust the volume of the Global Instruments used to render results.