A chord melody is exactly what the name describes. The Chords of a song and the melody of a song played at the same time. This is a style of music all on its own, but often times it is used for jazz tunes. Almost any song can be played as a chord melody, but some make for a better arrangement than others. Let’s take a look at some things that make a song worthy of playing as a chord melody.
1) Easy melodies. This typically means a slower melody with fewer notes. If a song has a melody with lots of long fast lines in it, it may not be the most friendly to this style of playing.
2) Longer songs. I am not suggesting that a blues cannot be turned into a chord melody, but why? If a song is short, the essence of the style is missed. A lot of the beauty of a chord melody is that it doesn’t end too soon.
3) Chord changes. Chord changes make songs typically more interesting. I am not saying that you cannot harmonize a song that is modal (1 chord), rather It is easier to start out with a song with built in interest.
4) Any style. Any song in any style of music can be made into a chord melody.
Now we know what type of songs make good chord melodies. You may be wondering what rules go into making a chord melody. This is very simple. Let’s look at the rules.
1) Play the Melody. Preferably an octave higher than written. This means that you will need to work out (or sight read) the melody on the top 4 strings. As a rule of thumb, melodies sound bad on the lowest 2 strings. (There are exceptions)
2) Harmonize certain notes in your chord melody. Without any kind of harmony in the background, it is just called a “melody”.
We have covered the essence of what a chord melody is. We have talked about picking a good chord melody song, and we discussed the rules of a chord melody. If you follow on to the next lessons on chord melodies you will find specific techniques that you can use to create chord melodies. Next Lesson. Good luck!