Harmony 101: Basic Rules of Harmony


There are really not rules of art, but there certainly are principles you can learn to help build an understanding of what has been done and what we took away from composers before us so you can build on top of it, or ultimately go a complete other route.
With that said, harmony is a large field of art and study, and to make it easier to really understand the basic principles, we’ll be studying it under the lens of the specific framework of 4-part harmony and using tonal music as our basic framework.


  • We’re writing for 4 different voices
    • Soprano, alto, tenor, bass
  • Maximum 8ve between them
    • No jumps more than a sixth (derived)
  • Shared notes are ideally staying on the same voice
  • Always go for a blended/cloudy sound
    • Easy to sing (small ambitus, nice intervals X-7th/dim/aug V-smallest
    • Jointed voicings
  • Compulsory movements (V)

In a Nutshell

  • Not too big jumps
  • Soprano and bass must sound interesting on their own