View Full Version : Chord Melody
Not sure what board this topic would go under. So I put it here since we have some smart people who post here. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif
I'm trying to study Chord Melody and there is not allot written about this subject. Now one of the books I recently got was a Mel Bay Book by John Lawrence Chord Melody Songs. Now this is a guitar book. But I was going to transpose his ideas to my CGda tunning.
But one of the statements kind of got me confused. When playing chord melody the highest note you are playing in the chord matches the melody note. (heard that one before)
But than he wrote you can play a C Maj Chord with a high D. I said HUH. A CMaj is C,E,G last time I looked. How you getting a D in there? I mean you can have the C or the E or the G as the high note. But a D is not in that chord structure. (with my limited knowledge)
Can someone help me, what he is trying to explain. Thanks.
This is hard to answer without hearing the song in context, so take this answer with a grain of salt. I make chord melody decisions based on what the melody is and how everything has progessed musically up to this point.
If the D is the melody note, play a C major chord on the lower 3 strings and put the D on the highest string.
If not, put the melody note on top and figure out a way to get the D note in with the other two notes of the C major chord.
In general, chord melody takes a lot of practice, experimentation and experience. Eventually you will work out ways you like to do things.
Pete is spot on - chord melody can only be approximated from the context of the music. There is one suggestion - especially for a CGDa instrument. One of the very first books the Mel Bay company produced back in the late 1950's was a remarkable book on Melody #Chord playing for Tenor Banjo.
Obviously this is slightly skewed from a softer delivery on a tenor guitar or Mandola but - more than just the nucleus of the idea is in this particular approach. One of the things he taught #and explained is the concept of a harmonized major (or minor) scale and then - how and when to implement the non chordal tones of the same scale. This is probably really arcane but one example he used was based on the notes for an Am chord - ACE. The non chordal tones are - B, D, F and G.
So using a basic Am chord on a Mandola 0-2-2-x ... the non chordal harmonized tones would be 0-2-2-2, 0-2-2-5 (the first one adds a B to the chord, the second adds a D.
Further up the neck, you can experiment with x-5-7-8, 9-9-10-9, 12-14-14-14 and even 12-14-14-17 to embellish the sound. As this is for the Am chord on a CGDa instrument, you can experiment with this on a mandolin or Octave Mandola but you would be making an Em chord. #
The problem ... this particular book is now out of print and William Bay has no plans to ressurect it but - supposedely it was incorporated in the #Complete Tenor Banjo Method. (http://www.elderly.com/books/items/02-93236.htm) I haven't seen this edition but have been told both of the previous books are incorporated in it.
I hope this helps -
Let me take a guess.
The melody note is not always one of the three notes of the triad of the harmonization. A D in the melody over a C chord is not at all unusual.
I think the confusion comes from the author's lack of mentioning that this makes the actual chord a Cadd9, which is a perfectly legitimate chord.
Mel Bay's take on harmonizing the C Major chord from the above book is explained as a Chord being C(I), E(III), G(V), the non chordal tones in the C scale are, D(II), F(IV), A(VI) and B(VII).
Starting with a basic C chord 0-0-2-3, the harmonized, non-chordal tones would be:
0-0-2-5 (or 4-5-5-5),
7-9-10-12 (or 12-12-14-12)
and finally repeating with 12-12-14-14.
I've experiemented with a lot of these chord families and generally - the extraordinary high tension and long sustain on a mandola make the block chord approach messy sounding. But - at least I'm learning where I can fit in some of the passing tones which make playing so interesting. For me, running the notes as an arpeggio or just using the up the neck stuff as double stops really seems to work.
I haven't done any of this to speak of on mandolin (where I tend to stick to straight melody) but I've done a bit on ukulele. After slavishly following a few uke tabs note for note, I saw a pattern: play a chord and as the melody wanders from the core notes of the chord, use one or another finger to find that note while holding the basic chord shape. To a competent jazz musician, this is actually switching from one chord to another, extended chord of some sort. But I found it easier just to think, "okay, the background chord is a C but the melody is about to hit D. Where can I snag a D that will sound right?" The tonality of ukulele makes this slap-dash approach work very well on that instrument but I think, with care, the same principle could be applied to mandolin, although the nature of the instrument is less forgiving of odd tonal combinations. My apologies to jazz mandolinists and ukulele players whom my half-brained explanation may have offended.