Melodies with Chords

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Yo, what’s up? It’s Claude Johnson; how’s it going?

I’d like to continue in this series of looking at
ways that we can add single notes with our chords.
And if you remember, we looked at two different
methods already: bass note runs and picking patterns.
In today’s lesson I’d like to just look at adding
melodies to chords. All right? So let’s get right
into it. Go!

Okay, so remember our progression goes like this:
G, A minor, C, A. Now, let’s add a melody on top
of that. All right. When I’m talking about adding
a melody, I’m not talking about improvising a
melody, which would be a lot more advanced.
We’ll get into that, too, at another time. But I’m
talking about like a melody that you kind of compose
ahead of time and then will arrange it to go with
our chords.

You can come up with this melody any number of ways.
You could play some leads over a backing track and
see what comes out of that, or you could just like
comment. You know, if I was playing — I honestly
don’t remember how I came up with this example
melody. Basically, it goes like this.
I definitely came up with the chords.
For example, if I was just humming.

So once I had that kind of like an idea in my head,
I want to work out what are the notes on the fret
board. So G, B, A, G, F sharp, E and then the same
thing G, B, A, G, F sharp, D. What I’m doing is just
translating that idea that I had in my head onto the notes.

Now, once I have that down, I can start arranging.
What I want to do is just look. The first chord is
G and the first noes are… So I can play that down
an octave here. The first two notes, G and B, they’re
already in the chord, just those open strings. A,
open G string. And it’s very easy to play that with
the G chord. The next note is F sharp. There’s no
easy way to get that open, so I kind of have to go
up here to the 4th fret and kind of get out of that
left hand position with the chord. The first notes
and then, slide down to the E.

Now this next chord, notice that the melody happens
to be playing that E on like the downbeat of the A minor.
But what I’m doing is just playing that note and then
the chord. So like the second half of that bar gets
the chord to emphasize the melody note.

Now, it would be a different story if I could play
that E in the chord. It would be like this. For example.
But that’s a very low voicing. It doesn’t sound very good,
right? You could try something like that, but for what
I’m doing here it just sounds good just to hit that
note by itself and follow it up with a strum.

Then I go to the C chord. Again, open G. Now I have
to lift-off here because the B is not in the chord.
So I have to lift-off my first finger, which temporarily
gives me a C major 7, but I’m not thinking about it that
way. And then I hit the open D. Again, I’m just hitting
the note first and then strumming the chord because if
I did it that way — well, you can do it that way, too.
The bottom line is, you need to like write your own
arrangement and figure out what sounds good to you.
And just trust your ear.

Now, you can also try in different places, different
octaves and you’ll figure out a lot of stuff. For example,
if I was just going to use the barre chords. So G, A minor,
and I’m just going up to that E string, not all the way.
Up here. Just stop right there. Here’s very nice. You can
go into the D barre chord of the 5th string, on the A string.
If you’re not familiar with basic barre chords, check out
my beginner course. I go over all that stuff.

Another thing you can do would be like this one. G up here.
You can try different voicings. I go over these voicings
in my other course, “Killer Guitar Control Secrets”. You
can always know those. Those are very good. So A minor here, C.

So play around with different voicings and try your favorite
chord progression, come up with a melody and just write an
arrangement. And practice it. I mean, it seems simple and
it can be frustrating that it’s hard to come up with a cool
arrangement. So pay attention to what sounds good, where
you’re landing on the chord or the melody note, and what’s
practical in terms of, does your hand have to jump a lot or
is the note right there in the chord? So you always want to
try to create something that’s easy technically.

I mean, this is a very easy one because, again, the notes
are right there. This is definitely a little bit harder.
You’ve got to jump up here. So have fun with that and
we’ll talk about more ways next time to combine single
notes with chords.

So there you have it, another cool thing for you to
explore on the guitar. Have fun and I’ll catch you next time.