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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

Okay, now that you have the melody and harmony for the first 8-bars of the song, what's the next step?

The next step is to harmonize the melody using voicings for the indicated harmony. This means remaining true the original composers chords and not reharmonizing them.

In order to do this, we must place the melody in a register which allows it to become the top voice in our chord voicings. We simply transpose the melody up an octave to acheive this. Now we can choose a voicing for the appropriate chord quality (maj, min7, etc., as indicated by the lead sheet) which contains the melody note(s) as the highest voice.

The way I like to approach the first rough draft of a piece is to play the indicated chords sustained, for the length of their respective melody notes, to allow myself an opportunity to hear the melody against the composer's harmony. For example, in the first half of measure 1, we have the melody notes C, D, and E, over an indicated Fmaj7 chord. You will see that I have used an Fmaj7 chord, in first position, which allows me to play those three melody notes while sustaining the Fmaj7 for 2 beats. The entire section should be harmonized this way. Remember, our main goal at this point is to hear the song's original melody and harmony together. This will allow our ears to absorb the sound of the tune, while we simutaneously create a basic chordal structure from which our expanded ideas will grow.

Take a look at the example below. Here I have taken the original melody notes, exactly as written, and, wherever possible, placed them over sustained chord structures. The chords are all from the composer's original changes, as indicated on the previous page.

Earlier in the lesson (on page 1), I suggested that you pay close attention to what note is in the top voice of your chord voicings. This will allow you to more quickly, and easily, visualize those voicings which will place a desired melody note in the top voice. Keep this in mind as you work thru the examples in this lesson.

The harmonized major scale voicings on page 1 provide us with three different four-note voicings for maj7, min7, dom7, and min7b5. You will find that in this first 8-bar section, 90% of the chords are from these four families of chord qualities. In addition, you will find that most of the melody notes in this section can be accomadated with some of those voicings. There are a couple of exceptions here, and as a result, you will encounter these new voicings:


Note the repeated use of the min7 chord shape above. The same shape is used for Dm7, Gm7, and Em7. This is a very handy shape to use when the melody note is an 11th.

Play thru the example, and then go to the next page for a measure-by-measure analysis on what I have done so far.
Chord-Melody 101:part 1:Getting A Grip - Page 5