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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

Below is a sample arrangement for our eight measure section of "Polkadots & Moonbeams".

** I apologize for the appearance of the sequence below. The WN Composer is not equipped to handle certain note divisions (such as 16th note triplets), and when I force those rhythms into the sequence, an anomaly in the composer causes it to display this way. Sorry!

The example below contains some additional devices (for harmonization and performance) that will be explored in the next installment of this lesson series, such as:

  • embellishment of the melody (measure 5)
  • use of single-note lines or licks (measure 5)
  • Rhythmic and Melodic Devices for performance, such as chord arpeggiation (measures 5 and 8)
  • Quartal Harmony (measures 7 and 8)


There are some additional uses of devices which are covered in this lesson in the example below. I won't point them out or analyze them...see if you can spot them yourself (hint: measure 8).

A brief summary of harmonic concepts outlined in this lesson:

  • The Harmonized Major Scale - Chords constructed on each of the seven degrees of the major scale.
  • Modal Usage of the Harmonized Major Scale - Any of the chords derived from the major scale can be utilized for any of the seven modes
  • Voicings - the order of the notes (voices) within a chord
  • Voice Leading - voicing chords within a progression so each note moves smoothly (preferrably stepwise) between them and creates independent, melodic lines
  • Secondary Dominant - an altered diatonic chord having a dominant or leading tone relationship to a chord in the key other than the tonic.
  • Modal Interchange - the practice of "borrowing" chords from a parallel mode to the parent key
  • Passing Chords - Chords whose primary purpose is to link two chords via chromatic movement
  • Slash Chords - Chords over bass notes. Specific bass notes for the voicing are indicated by a /, i.e. C/G is C major with G in the bass
  • Dominant Approach - On rhythms of a quarter-note or less in duration, any chord can be preceded by it's related V7 chord. Any V7 chord can also be preceded with it's related ii-7 chord.
  • b5 Substitution - any dominant 7th chord can be substituted with another dominant 7th chord whose root lies a b5 away. This generates a dom7(b5,b9) sound
  • Diminished Substitution - you can substitute a dom7 chord with a diminished 7th chord whose root lies a half-step above. This generates a dom7b9 sound.
  • Relative Major Substitution - you can substitute a minor 7th chord with a major 7th chord whose root lies a b3 above it to generate a min9th sound.


I realize this lesson covers alot of material, so don't feel you have to "master" every concept which was covered. I applaud you if you have made it this far!! Treat the lesson "buffet" style - take what you want, and come back for more later. Little by little you will begin to incorporate these techniques in your music, and they will become second nature...you will begin to simply "hear" these options in your mind's ear and be able to make quick decisions in using them.

I hope you have enjoyed this first installment of Chord Melody 101. The entire lesson was written in "parallel" with creating the chord-melody...IOW, I wrote the lesson pages at the same time as I began to arrange "Polkadots & Moonbeams" for the first time (I had never even explored it before whatsoever). Although it has taken on sort of a "rambling" quality, my hope is that this has created a unique and different lesson experience, providing a first-hand glimpse into my thought processes when attempting to arrange a piece of music for the first time. Thank you for visiting, and...

Keep Pickin'!!
Chord-Melody 101:part 1:Getting A Grip - Page 12