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Vocal harmony - California Dreamin'

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Prominent Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 677
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So the urge took me this afternoon to arrange a guitar version of California Dreamin' (original Mama's & Papa's version), harmonies n all. But I'm not actually knowledgable about this kinda music at all and I'm having trouble establishing whether certain parts are unison or not. Listening to it there is a clear harmony distinction between the men and women. But its the question of harmony within either pair thats got me stuck. Sooooo:

The first chord is C#m which comes in on the word "brown". Guy 1 leads in and rests on G# (5th), guy 2 joins in and holds C# (root) while at the same time the girls come in on E (flat 3rd). Thus the C#m chord is completed.
Now that first line is quite an easy one but the next couple of lines I'm having trouble distinguishing. I can only distinguish two parts - I hear the men singing in unison and the girls harmonizing, but doing so in unison (with me?). But it sounds so much more complex than that?? Like a 3 or 4 part harmony. :( Is it actually more complex than I can figure out? Or is it just that a few clean guitars can't compete such a "full" sound?

Also am I right in saying that volume is very important in such vocal harmonies? Cos if you harmonize above the lead at the same volume, then you tend to actually be shifting the lead to that position...

Vic Lewis VL
Illustrious Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 10264

Simon, I love this song - one of my all time faves. The harmonies are sublime....

So, I played it a few times this afternoon....and it sounds to me (although I could be wrong, and it wouldn't be the first time!) as if they're using that old Everly's trick of singing in thirds, ie the harmony vocals (the girls) are a third of an octave (a major third, I think!) higher than the male vocals.

Try it, see what you think....I'll have another listen in the AM....

I remember trying to teach my daughter, when she was about 10, the difference between lead vocals and harmony vocals - I used to play California Dreaming for her and point out the differences. That was about 13-14 years ago though!

:D :D :D


"Sometimes the beauty of music can help us all find strength to deal with all the curves life can throw us." (D. Hodge.)