• Learn to play harmonized melodies and scales.
• Understand the basics of diatonic harmony.
• Create phrases in the style of the Allman Brothers, Iron Maiden, and Metallica.
Whether it’s the country-blues stylings of the Allman Brothers or the sinister tones that Iron Maiden helped pioneer, dual-guitar harmonies can be found in almost every style of music.
Playing twin-guitar harmonies restricts you to specific parts, with little or no room for error or improvisation, yet to perfectly sync up with another musician requires such skill and control that it’s inspiring for the players and audience alike. Unfortunately, you won’t always have another guitarist readily available to work out harmony parts, and even if you do, skill levels are not always compatible between two players. One obvious way to get around this is to learn how to play harmonized lines yourself, on one guitar in real time. It’s a potent technique—well worth exploring and mastering.
Let’s take a closer look. First, where do these harmonies come from? Typically, harmonies are built around diatonic thirds, with additional harmony coming from fourths and fifths. Other harmonies do appear, but these three are the essential building blocks. They are also the easiest to simultaneously fret on the guitar when playing lead.
To get us started I’ve tabbed out a G major scale (G-A-B-C-D-E-F#) played on one string (Ex. 1).
Examples 2, 3, and 4 show the G scale harmonized below using diatonic thirds, fourths, and fifths, respectively.
Examples 5, 6, 7, and 8 show the same scale, this time written down an octave and played on the 4th string. Again, we’ve harmonized it using the same intervals, but this time the harmonies lie above the scale. Now we know we can build harmonies using notes both above and below the melody. Okay, let’s get to some melodies.