Unveiling the Mysteries of Negative Harmony in Music

Negative harmony is a mesmerizing concept in music theory that flips melodies and chords around a specific axis, producing a “mirror image” of the original composition. This intriguing method, extensively discussed by theorists like Ernst Levy, offers musicians and composers a novel approach to reimagining musical pieces. Here’s a beginner-friendly guide on how to dive into the world of negative harmony.

1. Choosing a Tonal Center:

Your journey into negative harmony begins with selecting the tonal center or key of the piece you’re working with. This decision will dictate your axis of symmetry. For illustration purposes, let’s navigate this concept in the key of A.

2. Finding the Axis of Symmetry:

The axis of symmetry lies midway between the 1st and 5th scale degrees of a major key, specifically between the flat 3rd and the 3rd. In the key of A Major, this axis falls between the C and C# notes, serving as our mirror for inversion.

3. Inverting the Notes:

The core of applying negative harmony is reflecting each note in your melody or chord across the chosen axis. A practical way to achieve this is by utilizing the circle of fifths, aligning your key’s tonic at the top, and pairing each row accordingly. This process will effectively mirror your notes to their counterparts.  The example showing how we rotate the circle for the key of A is:

4. Applying to Chords:

Similar to melodies, chords undergo reflection of each component note. An A Major chord (A-C#-E), for instance, transitions to an A Minor chord (A-C-E) under negative harmony, revealing how each note inversely aligns to form a new chord.

Here is a reference guide that can be used for any key’s melodic or harmonic construction:

5. Adjusting Rhythms and Melodic Contour:

While pitches undergo inversion, the rhythm and overall direction of the melody, whether ascending or descending, generally remain intact. However, some adjustments might be necessary to preserve the musicality of the piece, ensuring the inverted version flows as naturally as the original.

6. Experimenting and Adapting:

Negative harmony can lead to unexpected and sometimes dissonant results that may not seamlessly integrate into your music. The beauty of this concept lies in its potential for creativity and adaptation, encouraging you to experiment and tailor the outcomes to enhance your musical expression.


Negative harmony provides a fresh lens through which to view and understand familiar melodies and harmonies, sparking unique and captivating musical ideas. It stands as a testament to the depth and versatility of music theory, inviting composers and musicians to explore beyond conventional boundaries. Whether you’re reworking a classic melody or seeking inspiration for a new composition, negative harmony offers a rich playground for innovation and artistic growth. Embrace this concept with an open mind, and let the musical mirrors reflect your creativity in new, exciting ways.


If you want to set up a free trial lesson either in person or online, simply fill out this form and we’ll get back to you within 24 hours.  You’ve got nothing to lose and an amazing musical world to gain. 🙂