Yesterday I had my 3rd harmony class for church organists where I taught people how to add a middle voice to the hymn tune. Previously the homework for them was to supply only the bass line but now the texture sounds much fuller.
Three-part harmonization is very useful when you have church choir without tenors. This is very often the case in a lot of church choirs in Lithuania. Men voices in general are more rare than women's voices but tenors are twice as rare.
So the way the two-part harmonization works is only to employ intervals which sound sweet or pure - major or minor 3rds, major or minor 6ths and perfect 8ves and perfect 5ths. However, people had to avoid parallel 5ths and 8ves by writing as much contrary motion as possible - if the melody goes up - the bass goes down and vice versa.
Two classes in a row we worked on this arrangements of voices and actually it already sounds nice, if played with a full Principal chorus with mixtures. For some students this is easier than for others, of course. It depends on their talent, skill level and experience.
While adding a middle part, people were free to imagine it as an alto or as a tenor or a combination of both - writing it either in the upper or the lower stave. The rules are basically the same as before - no parallel 5ths and 8ves and no hidden 5ths and 8ths either - when jumping into a 5th or an 8ve from the same direction. Only opposite motion here is OK. No dissonances (2nds and 7ths).
Most importantly, in every chord use either all 3 chordal notes (like C-E-G), or if you must skip something, skip a 5th (G in C-E-G chord), but leave a 3rd of the chord (E in this case).
I plan to have one more class with three-part harmonization before moving into a full SATB texture.
Try it out if you're curious how it works on any melody you like.
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Drs. Vidas Pinkevicius and Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene
Organists of Vilnius University , creators of Secrets of Organ Playing.
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