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Melody and Chord Tips

Guidelines for creating melody and chord arrangements.

PUBLISHED: Nov 10, 2013 UPDATED: Mar 1, 2019 • VIEWS: 15 • LESSON CODE: UL125a

Instruments: ukulele ANY guitar Subjects: intermediatesongwritingarrangingchordsmelody

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Melody and Chord Tips

Guidelines for creating melody and chord arrangements on ukulele.

Creating Melody and Chord Arrangements, in theory are as simple as harmonizing the melody with a chord. Which is playing a chord that has the melody note as the top note of the chord voicing. In practice it is a little more involved, but not much more.

The Art of Playing Melody and Chords at the Same Time

Ukulele-SoloChord Melody or Melody and Chord is the art of playing the melody and chords at the same time. This is what solo piano players do all the time. They have two hands to do it. On ukulele we have to do it all with one hand and only four strings. In the common high "G", C tuning, the available range of notes for creating melody and chord arrangements on ukulele is around two octaves, give or take a few notes. A little more on the lower end for a low "G", C tuning.

Crafting Melody and Chord Arrangements

Creating Melody and Chord Arrangements, in theory are as simple as harmonizing the melody with a chord. Which is playing a chord that has the melody note as the top note of the chord voicing. In practice it is a little more involved, but not much more.

A few things you should know before starting:

The notes of the Ukulele Fingerboard and what they look like in Standard Music Notation . TAB will NOT help with this.

The ability to identify the notes and chord intervals of a chord. Chord Spelling - A C major chord is C E G, the root, third and fifth of a C major scale. A G7 chord is G B D F, the root, third, fifth and flat seven of a G major scale.

Melody and Chord Guidelines

A few tip, tricks and guidelines for creating melody and chord arrangements.

You do not have to play a chord for every melody note. Chords can also played before or after the melody.

Example from measure 2 of the Beatles classic Yesterday.

Play a chord for dotted quarter notes and longer.

Play a chord when there is a chord change.

Add melody notes if needed and wanted.

If melody is an arpeggio, play as single notes and sustain the notes to get create the chord.

If only one melody note is changing in a chord play the changed note while sustaining the previous unchanged notes of the chord.

Example from first measure of Yesterday.

Change all diminished triads to dim 7th 4-part chords.

Augmented triads to can be played as a 7#5.

Do not avoid the effectiveness of triads

Use chord substitutions to fit the style.

The original chord for this measure is the I chord of the key ( Bbmaj7 ). A III chord, a diatonic sub is substituted and its V chord added. Also creates a nice chromatic movement to the IV chord.

Example from Autumn Leaves. A full Melody and Chord Solo Arrangement for Autumn Leaves .

Look for places for parallel, oblique, similar and contrary motion in your chord voicings.

Double stops, octaves, intervals, arpeggios, sequences and chord scales.

Example from Walk Don't Run. A song written by jazz great Johnny Smith and made famous by the Ventures.

The full melody and chord solo Melody and Chord Solo Arrangement for Walk Don;t Run

Use the principles of Voice Leading

Chromatic passing chords and fills.

Close chord voicings. The re-entrant tuning of the ukulele gives you this automatically.

Incorporate an open strings chord voicing in to the arrangement.

Use a Free form chord voicing.

A Free Form Chord is a chord that does not fall into the open position, movable form or 4-part chord categories.

Alterations, upper partials (chord extensions) and substitutions. Root to 9, b9, #9, third to 11, #11, fifth to 13, b5, #5 to fit the style

Alterations should not change the chords harmonic function.

Embellishments - slurs, hammer-ons, pull-offs, tremolo, etc...

Idiomatic Cliches - These are things such a bend or glissando (slides) in blues.

Alternate Chord Voicings - A melody of a ninth can be harmonized by raising the root of a chord 2 frets or lowering the third of a minor chord one fret and the third of a major seventh or seventh chord two frets.

A melody of an eleventh can be harmonized by raising the third of a minor chord two frets and the third of a major seventh or seventh chord one fret. Or, lowering the fifth of a seventh, minor seventh or major seventh chord two frets.

Learn the critical notes of a chord such as the thirds and sevenths of major, minor and sevenths chords. Without these notes in the chord you loose the essence of the chord.

The two most critical notes are the melody and the seventh of a chord.

Leaving out the root and fifth of a chord implies 5, 6 and 7 part harmony. This is very useful on an instrument such as the a ukulele.

Crafting an arrangement using Introductions and Turnarounds and Endings

Theme, variations and re-harmonizations.

Fake Books

A Fake Book is a music book that shows the melody and chords for a song only. This is called a lead sheet and a musician is responsible for creating their own arrangement for the song. Long ago this was called ”faking” a song.

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Related Books

Related Books for Melody and Chord Tips at this time.

A Guide to Advanced Ukulele Chords - Volume I
Updated: Feb 13, 2020

A highly organized and efficient approach to the mysterious subject of advanced chords.

Exploring Jazz Chords on Ukulele
Updated: Nov 24, 2009

Using a variety of common chord progressions based on songs from the standard jazz repertoire.

A Guide to Blues Chord Progressions for Ukulele A to Z
Updated: Jun 15, 2006

26 blues progression in C and G tuning, progressing from basic to advanced jazz progression, with chord grids and substitutions

QuickStart Arpeggio Fingerings for Ukulele - Triads C Tuning
Updated: Jan 10, 2020

A highly organized, efficient system of scale and arpeggio fingerings for C tuning.

Learning the Ukulele Fingerboard - C Tuning
Updated: Apr 19, 2017

Finally, learn the names of the notes of the fingerboard. - C tuning

QuickStart Scale Fingerings for Ukulele, Volume I, C Tuning
Updated: Jun 24, 2006

A highly organized, efficient system of scale fingerings for C tuning.

The Advanced Guide to Chord Progressions for Ukulele - Volume I
Updated: Jan 10, 2020

Exploring voice leading and chord magnetism.

Related Songs

Related Songs for Melody and Chord Tips at this time.

While My Guitar Gently Weeps
Updated: Aug 8, 2020

Written by George Harrison of The Beatles for their double album The Beatles (also known as The White Album)

Yesterday
Updated: Jan 28, 2020

Recorded by The Beatles for their 1965 album Help.

Blue Bossa
Updated: Feb 9, 2016

Blue Bossa is one of the easier songs that beginning jazz players tackle.

Blue Skies
Updated: Dec 27, 2017

Written by Irving Berlin in 1926 as a last minute addition to the Rodgers and Hart musical, Betsy.

Classical Gas
Updated: Nov 4, 2016

Composed and originally performed by Mason Williams with instrumental backing by members of the Wrecking Crew.

Eleanor Rigby
Updated: Oct 28, 2016

By The Beatles, originally released on the 1966 album Revolver.

Feliz Navidad
Updated: Oct 23, 2019

A Christmas song written in 1970 by the Puerto Rican singer-songwriter José Feliciano.

Related Lesson Files, Resources and Assets

Related Assets for Melody and Chord Tips at this time.

Ukulele Fingerboard Chart for C Tuning, Low or High G
Updated: May 11, 2019

Basic Ukulele Chord Chart
Updated: May 11, 2019

Movable 7th Chords for Ukulele Chord Chart - C Tuning
Updated: Dec 31, 2016

Key Signatures - Cycle of Fourths and Fifths
Updated: Oct 14, 2019

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