Probably the easiest route to learning to sing in Harmony is through, Echo Songs, Rounds, and Partner Songs.
“Row, Row, Row Your Boat” is an example of a Round. In a round, the harmony is provided when the phrases of the tune imitate each other on parallel but different pitches. This fun little tune has two musical phrases constructed over one harmonic center (tonic chord only). The melody contains repeated notes, short scale passages, and an arpeggiated chord all sung to a catchy rhythm. It can be subdivided so that second, third or fourth groups can start at 2 beat intervals. And they continue singing their part at least three times making the melody go round and round and round. Other well-known rounds are “Make New Friends But Keep the Old,” “Hey Ho, Nobody Home,” “Come, Follow Me,” ”Scotland’s Burning,” and “Are You Sleeping, Brother John?”
“Sippin’ Cider Through a Straw” and “The Other Day I Met a Bear” are two examples of Lead and Echo Songs. The first phrase is sung by the leader and echoed by the group and so on through the first four phrases. Harmony is provided when the last note of the phrase is held out while the echo is sung. Then everyone sings the recapitulation together. This procedure usually goes on for many verses.
The prettiest girl_______ (the prettiest girl)
I ever saw_______ (I ever saw)
Was sippin' ci- ________(was sippin' ci-)
Der through a straw________ (der through a straw)
The prettiest girl I ever saw
Was sippin' cider through a straw
Partner Songs are two complete melodies (or more) that can be sung separately but go together because they are the same length and follow the same harmonic progression. These contain non-imitative harmony. Sometimes partner songs are written specifically to go together, other times people just discover that two songs will magically go together because they have similar constructions. Sometimes they even pair a duple meter with a compound meter.
Possibilities for partnering:
1. “Bicycle Built for Two, ” “The Sidewalks of New York,” “In the Good Old Summertime”
2. “She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain,” “When the Saints Go Marching In”
3. “This Old Man,” Skip to My Lou,” “Ten Little Indians,” “Here we Go Round the Mulberry Bush”
4. “Oh Susanna,” Arkansas Traveler,” “Turkey in the Straw,” “Camptown Races” (verse)
5. “Why Shouldn’t My Goose,” “Muffin Man,” “Adam Had Seven Sons,” “Ring-a-ring-a Rosie”
6. “Jolly Old St. Nicholas,” “Up On the Housetop,” Pachelbel’s “Canon in D”
Echo Songs, Rounds and Partner Songs are favorites for singing around a campfire or to pass the time on long trips in the car. But I am afraid that the practice of community singing is dying out. Too bad, because it can be so fun and entertaining. When I was young, my mother would pair us children up to do the dishes and we were told we had to sing together in harmony (usually singing Partner Songs or Rounds) until the chore was done. Of course, we goofed off and complained, but actually it was rather fun. These kinds of songs are usually the first introduction to harmony school children get if they are lucky enough to have a music class. Some children’s sacred songs are also fine examples of rounds and partner songs.
Lest you think that Echo Songs, and Rounds and Partner Songs are not real music, let me site some examples from famous composers.
1. The Sherman Brothers of Disney fame, wrote “Truly Scrumptious” and “Doll on a Music Box” for the movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. These paired songs are a wonderful example of a Partner Song.
2. “Canon in D” by Pachelbel is probably the most famous use of the Round in classical music. A canon is an imitative device employed by composers to use one musical idea in many imitative ways. A fugue is also a type of Round. Many popular composers and singers have also used Pachelbel’s “Canon” paired with their own tunes to create Partner Songs.
3. The Broadway composer Stephan Schwartz in Wicked creates several Partner Songs (or counter melodies going at the same time) for his main characters Elphaba and Galinda.
4. “The Candy Man,” a song by Leslie Bricusse, writer/composer of the movie Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, uses the Lead and Echo formula.
5. If you are looking for an excellent song for Christmas which uses many carols sung together as Partner Songs, check out “If This Child Were Born Today” by Poorman and Poorman, Alfred Publishing.
Composers use these devices all the time because they are so accessible for the performers. I have even tried my hand at writing using these devices. You can check these songs out on my web pages.
Lead and Echo – “Wintertime” from the children’s musicals The Empty Pot and A Successor to the Throne located at BaileyKidsMusicals .com
Round – “The First Noel” located on the Easy Choir page is an example of a canon which is a type of Round. "The Christmas Day Round" by Janie Thompson is actually 3 partner songs intended to be sung as a Round.
Partner Song – “Under the Christmas Tree” found in the Songs for Children pages at betsyleebaileymusic.com