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Learning to apply chords?

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  • Learning to apply chords?

    Does anyone know of any ways to better myself when it comes to composing a melody consisting of chords? I know a multitude of chords...but can't really make any good progressions, I could always use common ones, but I mean progressions that I hear in my head. How do I become more expressive chordally (if that's even a word lol).

  • #2

    Melodies do not "consist of chords". They consist of notes - one by one - and more specifically the  intervals and timing between them.

    Chord sequences can often suggest melodies, because of the voice-leading that occurs between them as they change.  But they can suggest many melodic options at the same time.

    You need to separate melodic composition from chordal composition.  A chord sequence without a melody is not a song; a melody without a chord sequence is (or can be). 

    A "song" is something you sing.  Ever tried singing a chord sequence? It can't be done, unless there's at least three of you .  But what you can do is sing to a chord sequence, by humming notes that sound like they fit.  That's one way of creating melody.

    Another way is simply to sing, with no chords at all - although it does help to start with something: a single chord, or an idea for a rhythm, or some lyrics.

    Once you have the beginnings of a melody, then chords can follow, and can help inspire more melodic ideas. But the melody always has to rule, because that's the identity of the song.

    The stuff you hear in your head is probably melody, and not chord changes. When we imagine chord changes, we generally imagine one voice-line through the changes - eg a bass line, a top line, or guide tone line.  That's fine. Hum what you hear in your head, find those notes (one by one), and see what chords could fit; quite likely there'll be a few possible choices, but one choice will probably sound best.

    Generally speaking, keep chords simple at first, just enough to carry/support the melody.  Chords should never dominate the melody or distract from it.  Use fancier chords if and when the melody really demands it. 

    Sometimes a melody can be made more interesting by harmonising it with unusual chord choices, which is where increased expressiveness can come in.  Eg, if your main melody note is B, that can be simply harmonised with B, G or E major chords, or Bm, Em or G#m.  But it will sound sweeter, more expressive, harmonised by Cmaj7, or D6, or Aadd9, etc. (Naturally the best choice will depend on surrounding notes in the melody, but there's always choices.  Just remember it's easy to overdo this kind of thing. When immersing yourself in chords, never lose sight of the melody.)

    ...

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    • Music Is All
      Music Is All commented
      Editing a comment

      JonR wrote:But it will sound sweeter, more expressive, harmonised by Cmaj7, or D6, or Aadd9, etc.  

  • #3

    Music Is All wrote:
    Does anyone know of any ways to better myself when it comes to composing a melody consisting of chords? I know a multitude of chords...but can't really make any good progressions, I could always use common ones, but I mean progressions that I hear in my head. How do I become more expressive chordally (if that's even a word lol).


    The first bolded statement DICTATES the second.

     

    Think melody and the chord will reveal itself.

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    <img src="images/misc/quote_icon.png" alt="Quote" /> Originally Posted by <strong>GW348</strong>
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    <div class="message">I just let the pee flow. The places I play, no one notices or have peed themselves too.</div>

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    RIP Wayne Murray<br />
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    • #4
      This is a hard question: Do you actually hear the chords in your head? Or do you just think you hear them in your head?

      If you actually hear the chords in your head, you'll be able to find them on your instrument. The simplest method to that end (but often longest) is trial and error. Keep playing different chords until you hit that "aha!" moment. Try eliminating the chords that aren't "it"

      If you discover that you're not actually hearing the chord yet, don't fret (sorry the pun was there....) because that's more typical.

      But it's a slightly different process. Here, it's a simple question of experimentation. Lots of it!
      Thinking too much produces exactly the opposite of the intended outcome.

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      • #5
        Yeah, I can actually hear it, I've been using triads to find the general feel of what I hear, but then I'll add notes on to them in order to find the legitimate sound.

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