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Chord Progressions and Singing

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  • Chord Progressions and Singing

    I hope I don't sound like an idiot asking this.
    I've solely been focused on singing and am guilty of not dedicating so much time to music theory.

    Often, I see people singing with guitars and ukuleles on Youtube.
    Normally, they are just playing the chords as written in the sheet music.

    I was just wondering if playing chords helps at all with singing the melody and staying in key. I doubt all of the notes in the melody are part of the chords played. So what role does playing chords having in being able to sing the vocal melody?

    For me, if I play the melody on a piano and sing along, I'm spot on.
    But was wondering if playing the chord progressions help at all. Or
    are they more for adding something to the background?

    Are singers supposed to depend on the chord progression in any way?
    Or is it better to take an acapella standpoint and not depend on anything
    for reference (other than yourself).

    Thanks.

  • #2
    I don't think there is any one "right" answer to this.

    Personally, I play an instrument while singing as an accompaniment, but I can sing equally as well acapella.

    So I have no dependency on the instrument to sing, and look at the the accompaniment (usually a guitar) as something to provide the audience a more full sound, with additional rhythmic and musical cues.

    But others may look at this differently.


    I remember at a gig one night, the power went out in the club, and the band was dead in the water. So once the candles were lit, to keep patrons there (and drinking), I started singing songs acapella to keep everyone entertained. It worked, and about 45 minutes later when the power went back on, I got a standing-O for the effort. So losing that dependency on additional instrumentation can yield surprising benefits.


    If you want to try reducing dependency on accompaniment, try singing acapella, but at first with frequent checks mid-song to make sure you are still "in tune" with an instrument. Once you get to the point where you can sing entire songs without accompaniment or checks, and STILL end in the original key, your acapella jedi skills will be complete.

    Of course, singing a bunch of acapella tunes to a room full of strangers has it's own psychological issues...
    Talking about music is like dancing about architecture. - Martin Mull

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    • #3
      I find the chords I play for a song:
      1) contain one or more of the melody notes or,
      2) they harmonize with the melody notes or,
      3) support the melody by being in the same key.

      If I'm playing a song and hit the wrong chord, it's noticeable ( to me at least ). The melody notes I'm singing just clash with the wrong chord. I guess the technical term would be "dissonant". I just say it sounds crappy lol.

      Chords keep me in tune when singing. I can hear either the same note or a note that harmonizes, and if I'm off I can hear it.

      I haven't spent a lot of time doing acappella but EightString's suggestion sounds pretty good.
      Hamilton Steele CD's / Hamilton Steele MP3 Downloads / Hamilton Steele iTunes

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      • #4
        Chords are a funny thing. Mostly consisting of three notes, they have somehow become a standard element of modern music. I've thought about this a lot, but haven't found an answer yet - why three notes? Why mostly major/minor chords?

        Anyway, for any given song, with given chord progressions, they ARE important to the vocal melody, because the harmonies are specific to the song. I mean, if you change the notes (play a different chord, or sing a different note), the dissonance will have a different nature, and the song has thus changed.

        Mostly, chords do not contain every single note sung by the vocalist. That's not a requirement. Again, it's the harmonies between chord and vocal melody (amongst other things of course), that tell one song apart from another.
        I'm Masklin. How was your day?

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        • #5
          Chords are a funny thing. Mostly consisting of three notes, they have somehow become a standard element of modern music. I've thought about this a lot, but haven't found an answer yet - why three notes? Why mostly major/minor chords?

          Anyway, for any given song, with given chord progressions, they ARE important to the vocal melody, because the harmonies are specific to the song. I mean, if you change the notes (play a different chord, or sing a different note), the dissonance will have a different nature, and the song has thus changed.

          Mostly, chords do not contain every single note sung by the vocalist. That's not a requirement. Again, it's the harmonies between chord and vocal melody (amongst other things of course), that tell one song apart from another.


          And it gets even more interesting in jazz where any one chord might not even contain a root or 5th, but leave those tones to be implied by the changes and melody.
          Talking about music is like dancing about architecture. - Martin Mull

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          • #6
            Chords are a funny thing. Mostly consisting of three notes, they have somehow become a standard element of modern music. I've thought about this a lot, but haven't found an answer yet - why three notes? Why mostly major/minor chords?


            My theory is that maybe it's because humans have 5 fingers.
            So playing the root, 3rd, and 5th is the easiest chord to play
            because you're using every other finger.

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            • #7
              Last I checked, humans have 10 fingers :P

              I sincerely doubt that the guitar was prominent and dominating enough to influence all western music in this way.
              I'm Masklin. How was your day?

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              • #8
                Last I checked, humans have 10 fingers :P

                I sincerely doubt that the guitar was prominent and dominating enough to influence all western music in this way.


                Oops. Well you know what I meant (5 fingers on each hand).
                If we had 6 or 7 fingers, maybe the guitar would've been more prominent early on...

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                • #9
                  Guitar is fretted with 4 fingers. Also, the scales we use today originated with the ancient Greeks, over 2000 years ago, long before pianos or guitars were invented. That is why the various modes have Greek names.

                  Modern "western" composition has its roots in the middle ages with the purely vocal music of the day (Gregorian chants).
                  Talking about music is like dancing about architecture. - Martin Mull

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                  • #10
                    The first use of chords was with voice, not instruments.
                    Vocal Gear: Audix OM3xb, Boss VE-20 | Synth Gear: Muse Receptor V1.0 | Controllers: M-Audio Axiom Pro 61, Roland AX7

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                    • #11
                      Oops Eight-String beat me to it
                      Vocal Gear: Audix OM3xb, Boss VE-20 | Synth Gear: Muse Receptor V1.0 | Controllers: M-Audio Axiom Pro 61, Roland AX7

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                      • #12
                        Talking about music is like dancing about architecture. - Martin Mull

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