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Chord-Melody 101:part 1:Getting A Grip

Robert Strait (6660) · [archive]
Style: Theory/Reference · Level: Advanced · Tempo: 60
Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

In this next variation, I have added another concept called scale-wise or step-wise passages.

The idea here is actually very simple and takes us all the way back to page 1: the harmonized major scale.

When melodic passages are very scale oriented and have step-wise motion, the harmonized scale of the parent key will often work nicely underneath those melody notes. As we observed in the beginning of the lesson, when the voicings for the harmonized scale move up the fretboard, each of the notes in the chords automatically voice-lead between each other and create independent melodic lines (Most notably, a nice bass line is created). Understand that this will sometimes change the original harmony, because the chord of the moment will not share any common tones with the original chord in the tune's harmony. Also, even if a chord shares common tones, a particular voicing may conflict with a bass note (but we do not need to be concerned with that here since we are arranging a chord-melody for solo guitar, which creates more freedom to reharmonize). Scale-wise passages usually contain melody notes which are a quarter-note or less in duration. When this is the case, the temporary changes in the harmony occur quickly enough that they do not disturb or distract the ear very much. It's for this reason that I introduced the harmonized major scale at the beginning of this lesson as a "quick-and-dirty" way to quickly harmonize a line without putting to much thought into it (handy when improvising).

When you combine this step-wise use of the harmonized scale with some of the other approaches we have discussed, you can generate some interesting results.

Take a look at this next variation.

The first phrase of this melody climbs right up the F major scale, in eigth-notes, beginning on a C note and not skipping a note in the scale until after the A note, when the melody skips over Bb and jumps right on up to a C note. This is a perfect opportunity to use the harmonized major scale in a scale-wise passage, like this:


Each voice leads nicely between the chords (the bass line is very nice), but we can actually improve this voice-leading by applying concepts like dominant approach, dimished substitution, and b5 substitution:

We can use a dominant approach to Dmin and substitute A7 for Amin7, which creates a nice C# leading tone to D.

Bbmaj7 is directly from the F major harmonized scale, but it is also a substitute for Dm7. Dmin has the notes D,F, and A, and Bbmaj7 has the notes Bb, D, F, A. They share three common tones, which makes it very suitable as a substitute (remember, all chord subs are based on the same premise - that they share common tones). For this reason, we can sub Bbmaj7 for Dmin even after the dominant approach of A7. This is often referred to as a "deceptive" resolution. This particular voicing of Bbmaj7 would probably not sound very good over a D bass note (in which case it would truly be a sub and function as Dminb6), but we don't need to be concerned with that if we are arranging a chord-melody for solo guitar (where only the bass notes the guitar provides are present). The Bbmaj7 keeps the bass line moving right on up the scale.

That last bit can be confusing, so let's just be clear. The Bbmaj7, although it does share common tones with Dmin, is not truly functioning as a substitute (Dminb6), and therefore it is technically a reharmonization.

The C7 that was generated from the harmonized F major scale doesn't sound as pleasing to my ears as I would like. No problem! By using dominant approach and diminished substitution, I can insert C#dim7 (which functions as A7b9) to create a nice leading tone in the bass to the following Dmin7. Again, this is a reharmonization. You will find that dominant approach works very nicely in scale passages. For example, pretend you had the notes D, E, F, G, and A all over a Dmin7 chord. You could use a combination of dominant approach and diminished substitutions on the non-chord tones of Dmin7 to get some nice voice-leading:

Fmaj7 (Dm9)

On the last note of measure one (C), I have again used dominant approach. This time I am using an Adim7 chord as a sub for D7, which is the V7 of Gmin, the chord I am approaching. Again, Adim7 is functioning as D7b9 in a dominant approach to Gmin.

Measure 2 has this voicing for Gmin9, which voice-leads nicely from the preceding Adim7 (D7b9):


This is an interesting voicing. It is a first inversion Gmin triad, with the 9th (A) on top. The top two notes are very close together - they are only a major 2nd apart. That major 2nd on top creates a dense little cluster of closely spaced notes which rub against each other nicely. Cool.

Measure two contains the same ii / V7 approach to C7 as discussed in previous pages. There is also a variation on the C7 itself. The last melody note (D) in the measure spans a quarter-note, which allows me to change the harmonic rhythm to eighth-notes. Remember, you can precede any V7 chord with it's related ii-7 chord, so I have inserted Gmin7 on the first half of the melody note. On the other half I have F#7 standing in as a b5 sub for C7. So as the D melody note sustains, the harmony moves underneath it.

There sure are alot of possibilities for voice-leading!!

Okay...last variation!
Chord-Melody 101:part 1:Getting A Grip - Page 10