Results 1 to 21 of 21

Thread: What's a Chord Melody?

  1. #1
    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Location
    Sweetwater, Texas
    Posts
    3,199

    Default What's a Chord Melody?

    How would you define "chord melody"? When you play a melody, then add in doublestops to harmonize the melody - or go further and start adding in two or three harmony notes (chords) while playing the melody - does that make it "chord melody"?

    When does an arrangement go from being simple melody with harmony accents to being a full-fledged "chord melody" by definition?

    Asking for a friend
    Technique, theory and fun, fun, fun. I love playing, studying and sharing MUSIC.
    "Life is short. Play hard." - AlanN
    ------------------------
    HEY! The Cafe has Social Groups, check 'em out. I'm in these groups:
    Newbies Social Group | The Song-A-Week Social
    The Woodshed Study Group | Collings Mandolins | MandoCymru
    - Advice For Mandolin Beginners
    - YouTube Stuff

  2. The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to Mark Gunter For This Useful Post:


  3. #2
    but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Location
    0.8 mpc from NGC224, upstairs
    Posts
    9,805

    Default Re: What's a Chord Melody?

    I am curious as to what this turns out to be, too. I call it all doublestops, even when they are triple stops and no matter what the ratio of doublestops per melody notes is (I never reach 100% though). "Chord" is reserved for full triads for some people, and I like to keep out of the bicker from music theorists.
    the world is better off without bad ideas, good ideas are better off without the world

  4. The Following 4 Users Say Thank You to Bertram Henze For This Useful Post:


  5. #3
    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2014
    Location
    North CA
    Posts
    3,915

    Default Re: What's a Chord Melody?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bertram Henze View Post
    "Chord" is reserved for full triads for some people, and I like to keep out of the bicker from music theorists.
    Well, I was going to point out that a doublestop is a dyad, not a triad. I guess I won't.

    To me a chord melody is where a whole chord is played, with the melody line usually on top.

  6. The Following 5 Users Say Thank You to DavidKOS For This Useful Post:


  7. #4

    Default Re: What's a Chord Melody?

    Well, thinking about it, even when you play just one note there are lots of other notes that sound at the same time. The intensity of the other notes will be different depending on the character of the mandolin that you are playing, the tuning, the room acoustics etc. The octaves may be quite intense, then the fifths and to a lesser degree the thirds etc. This is why the banjo can sometimes sound sad. Aye, it's all in the minor thirds.
    So every melody is in some sense a chordal melody.

  8. #5
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Location
    Chicago, IL,USA
    Posts
    517

    Default Re: What's a Chord Melody?

    "Chord-Melody" is a fairly general term which might be thought of as "harmonized melody" or "melody in chords". In other words the number of notes of harmony supporting the melody can be 1,2,or 3 on the mandolin. Usually chord melodists are going for a 3 or 4 note grouping with the melody note on top(highest note, so as not to be obscured by the harmony notes). Realistically one cannot hit a 4 or even 3 note chord on every note of a melody, so there will be single notes interspersed in a chord melody arrangement and that's ok! What key the tune is presented has an impact on how many notes of harmony(or strings) are available to access under the melody note. So it doesn't usually turn out being a consistent thing such as those mentioned above(double-stop, triple stop, triad) so much as a melody note on either the E or A string with notes of harmony attached underneath. In fact those notes underneath are often notes of interest or color as opposed to roots thirds and fifths.
    Chord melody reference materials include listening to jazz piano and guitar players who eat this stuff for breakfast. Erroll Garner, Bill Evans, George Shearing. Guitars Wes Montgomery, George Van Eps, George Benson, Johnny Smith, Joe Pass..many of these cats refer to it as "block chords".
    On the mandolin it all starts with Jethro Burns, allthough the classical and duo style mandolinists earlier in the 20th century did chord-melody playing a ton too--check out Calace. Modern day players speaking this language include Mike Marshall, Caterina Lichtenberg, Carlo Aonzo,Evan Marshall. Mike and Caterina have a Calace book out, Evan has a Duo-style book out. Chris Thile's Bach solo mandolin album effectively exhibits chord-melody playing of a sort also.
    Jethro's Mel Bay books include some of his arrangements and approach. His Tea For One solo record is lots of chord melody, and there's quite a bit on the Legacy Sessions CD's also. Many of the columns I wrote for Mandolin Magazine present arrangements of standards in Jethro's style. In my book Jazz Mandolin Appetizers there is a chord-melody section. One of my Soundslice courses is Chord Melody Etudes for Mandolin. Aaron Weinstein has a Mel Bay book devoted to chord-melody available.He also regularly issues video demos. Some of David Benedict's Mandolin Mondays videos feature the chord-melody: We played Night and Day together on one, and another I did has Almost Like Being In Love (almost hitting the right chords! I think John Reischman's Yardbird Suite video has chord-melody playing in it too.
    I hope these leads and ideas are helpful. Happy Chording! And aren't you glad you play mandolin? Some of those other instruments can only play one note at a time!

  9. The Following 11 Users Say Thank You to Don Stiernberg For This Useful Post:

    + Show/Hide list of the thanked


  10. #6
    but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Location
    0.8 mpc from NGC224, upstairs
    Posts
    9,805

    Default Re: What's a Chord Melody?

    Quote Originally Posted by Don Stiernberg View Post
    And aren't you glad you play mandolin? Some of those other instruments can only play one note at a time!
    I'll say!
    the world is better off without bad ideas, good ideas are better off without the world

  11. #7
    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Pacific Northwest, USA
    Posts
    4,940

    Default Re: What's a Chord Melody?

    I come at this idea from 30-odd years of guitar playing before picking up a mandolin, much of that in the fingerstyle guitar world. My first exposure was with the "New Acoustic" players like Graham, Renbourn, Jansch, Fahey, Kottke, and then dabbling in Brazilian jazz guitar. My heroes eventually were players like Bola Sete, Paulinho Nogueira, and Ralph Towner, although I never got near to playing at that level. I still do a little fingerstyle arranging on guitar, with some of the Scottish and Irish melodies where it works well. Tunes like Dark Island, or Farewell to Nigg.

    Mandolin is a different animal, with fewer strings and fewer possibilities for what I'd call full chord melody. Especially in the bass, where an independently moving bass line is usually considered an element of "chord melody" playing on guitar.

    When I picked up mandolin, I swerved away from jazz and into Irish/Scottish trad, in part due to my fiddler S.O.'s interest in the music. My approach to harmonizing a melody line in this genre isn't the constant harmonization you might hear in jazz or classical playing, it's more of a partial harmony. I'll throw in a dyad (nods to David) here and there, and occasionally a full chord where it makes sense. Not stepping on the melody line too much, except where it feels appropriate.

    There are some precedents for that approach in trad with the regulators of Uilleann pipes, used to play occasional blips and bursts of harmony under the melody line. Button box accordion players often do the same thing, with little bursts of dyad notes using the left-hand buttons here and there. Nothing I would call "chord melody" in the usual sense, but it's still partial harmonization.

    A few of the tunes I play this way on mandolin and octave mandolin are The Sunset (slow reel), O'Carolan's Welcome, Far Away (waltz), La Partida (waltz), Waulkin O The Fauld (strathspey), and Kiss the Bride (jig). The OM is especially nice for this on the slower tunes, with the added sustain that allows a held chord or dyad to remain sounding underneath the moving melody line.

  12. The Following 3 Users Say Thank You to foldedpath For This Useful Post:


  13. #8
    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Location
    Sweetwater, Texas
    Posts
    3,199

    Default Re: What's a Chord Melody?

    Thanks for the guidance, fellows. Don, your suggestions for study are great, thank you for that.
    Technique, theory and fun, fun, fun. I love playing, studying and sharing MUSIC.
    "Life is short. Play hard." - AlanN
    ------------------------
    HEY! The Cafe has Social Groups, check 'em out. I'm in these groups:
    Newbies Social Group | The Song-A-Week Social
    The Woodshed Study Group | Collings Mandolins | MandoCymru
    - Advice For Mandolin Beginners
    - YouTube Stuff

  14. #9
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    NC
    Posts
    3,627

    Default Re: What's a Chord Melody?

    Check out Aaron Weinstein’s videos on here and YouTube. I still haven’t figured out how exactly to explain it, and I’m working through his book to figure out how to reliably do it, but that’s what it is...
    Chuck

  15. #10
    Registered User Kevin Stueve's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2015
    Location
    Kansas
    Posts
    443

    Default Re: What's a Chord Melody?

    Is Aaron's book something that would help someone get started with the concept or would I be better off working through Jethro Burns complete mandolin and or Ted's Getting into Jazz Mandolin first? I don't need to add to my stack of instrument instruction books that I don't /can't use.
    2012 Weber Bitterroot F5.

  16. #11
    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2014
    Location
    North CA
    Posts
    3,915

    Default Re: What's a Chord Melody?

    Quote Originally Posted by Don Stiernberg View Post
    "Chord-Melody" is a fairly general term which might be thought of as "harmonized melody" or "melody in chords". In other words the number of notes of harmony supporting the melody can be 1,2,or 3 on the mandolin. Usually chord melodists are going for a 3 or 4 note grouping with the melody note on top(highest note, so as not to be obscured by the harmony notes). Realistically one cannot hit a 4 or even 3 note chord on every note of a melody, so there will be single notes interspersed in a chord melody arrangement and that's ok!
    excellent description.

  17. The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to DavidKOS For This Useful Post:


  18. #12
    Registered User Bob Visentin's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    Decatur, GA
    Posts
    234

    Default Re: What's a Chord Melody?

    When does an arrangement go from being simple melody with harmony accents to being a full-fledged "chord melody" by definition?

    The line between them is fuzzy but I know it when I hear it.

  19. #13
    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2014
    Location
    North CA
    Posts
    3,915

    Default Re: What's a Chord Melody?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Visentin View Post
    When does an arrangement go from being simple melody with harmony accents to being a full-fledged "chord melody" by definition?

    The line between them is fuzzy but I know it when I hear it.
    In my opinion, when enough of the melody is supported by full chords to make the overall impression of the piece sound accompanied.

  20. The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to DavidKOS For This Useful Post:


  21. #14
    Dave Sheets
    Join Date
    Feb 2015
    Location
    Buffalo NY Area
    Posts
    298

    Default Re: What's a Chord Melody?

    I think DavidKOS has it, when the piece sounds accompanied, or when the whole harmonic structure of the piece is included. It's common in Jazz guitar and piano. I try to add double stopped notes on mando when I can in playing fiddle tunes, but it's just adding some flavor, if you will, it doesn't really outline the harmonic structure of the tune in a complete way. I gotta give some real respect to anybody who can do a strong chorded melody piece on mandolin, on guitar, the chord voicings are easier, particularly in jazz pieces.
    -Dave
    Flatiron A
    Way too many other instruments

  22. The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to Dave Sheets For This Useful Post:


  23. #15
    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Location
    Sweetwater, Texas
    Posts
    3,199

    Default Re: What's a Chord Melody?

    Quote Originally Posted by DavidKOS View Post
    In my opinion, when enough of the melody is supported by full chords to make the overall impression of the piece sound accompanied.
    I like that very general definition for what Don calls "a fairly general term". Also, enlightening how Don mentions that the duo-style players were engaging a lot in chord melody, I can hear that.
    Technique, theory and fun, fun, fun. I love playing, studying and sharing MUSIC.
    "Life is short. Play hard." - AlanN
    ------------------------
    HEY! The Cafe has Social Groups, check 'em out. I'm in these groups:
    Newbies Social Group | The Song-A-Week Social
    The Woodshed Study Group | Collings Mandolins | MandoCymru
    - Advice For Mandolin Beginners
    - YouTube Stuff

  24. The following members say thank you to Mark Gunter for this post:


  25. #16
    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Location
    Sweetwater, Texas
    Posts
    3,199

    Default Re: What's a Chord Melody?

    Quote Originally Posted by Don Stiernberg View Post
    And aren't you glad you play mandolin? Some of those other instruments can only play one note at a time!
    Agreed, four notes can be a rich palette! And occasionally five, with split string technique.
    Technique, theory and fun, fun, fun. I love playing, studying and sharing MUSIC.
    "Life is short. Play hard." - AlanN
    ------------------------
    HEY! The Cafe has Social Groups, check 'em out. I'm in these groups:
    Newbies Social Group | The Song-A-Week Social
    The Woodshed Study Group | Collings Mandolins | MandoCymru
    - Advice For Mandolin Beginners
    - YouTube Stuff

  26. The following members say thank you to Mark Gunter for this post:


  27. #17

    Default Re: What's a Chord Melody?

    I wonder if "chorded melody" might be an easier shorthand to convey the idea.

    Great descriptions above-- so interesting to hear a musical expression conveyed in words.

  28. #18
    Registered User maudlin mandolin's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    Buckinghamshire
    Posts
    146
    Blog Entries
    2

    Default Re: What's a Chord Melody?

    If anyone wants to just play some chord melodies without struggling through complicated theory I recommend "Just for Fun - Swing Jazz Mandolin" published by Alfred. These are great arrangements of standard tunes where, if you can play the chords, the melody will be obvious.
    There are two versions with yellow or purple covers both equally good, but I would not buy both as half the content is duplicated.

  29. The following members say thank you to maudlin mandolin for this post:


  30. #19

    Default Re: What's a Chord Melody?

    I never tried anything like Chord-Melody on my mandolin, but I try to play some on my CGDA-tuned instruments.
    There's a Mel Bay book called Tenor Banjo Melody Chord Playing System.
    https://www.melbay.com/Products/9362...ng-system.aspx
    You get the melody of a song and learn the rules how to create a chord-melody arrangement. That's pretty hard work, that's why I progress very slowly.
    The book is notation only and thus only works for CGDA tuned instruments.
    But tabbed out, the arrangements should sound good on the mandolin too.
    I tabbed out my arrangement for Hello my Baby.

    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	Hello_my_Baby.pdf 
Views:	20 
Size:	24.4 KB 
ID:	174515
    The arrangement consists of 3-note and 4-note chords, but some melody notes are played without chords.
    Guess I will try the tab on my mando...

    Thanks maudlin mandolin, I will have a look at these Alfred books!

  31. The following members say thank you to crisscross for this post:


  32. #20
    Registered User Paul Cowham's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    manchester uk
    Posts
    388

    Default Re: What's a Chord Melody?

    I found this to be a really informative lesson on the subject, thanks Aaron...

  33. The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to Paul Cowham For This Useful Post:


  34. #21
    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Location
    Sweetwater, Texas
    Posts
    3,199

    Default Re: What's a Chord Melody?

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Cowham View Post
    I found this to be a really informative lesson on the subject, thanks Aaron...
    Yes, very informative, thanks for sharing that!
    Technique, theory and fun, fun, fun. I love playing, studying and sharing MUSIC.
    "Life is short. Play hard." - AlanN
    ------------------------
    HEY! The Cafe has Social Groups, check 'em out. I'm in these groups:
    Newbies Social Group | The Song-A-Week Social
    The Woodshed Study Group | Collings Mandolins | MandoCymru
    - Advice For Mandolin Beginners
    - YouTube Stuff

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •