Chord Melody basic techniques

If you are unfamiliar with what a chord melody is you can review the previous post about it here.

We have a good song picked out, and we have learned the melody on the top 4 strings of the guitar. You may be wondering what the next step is. The next step is what we call harmonizing the melody. This implies we will add more notes under the melody note of choice. Another word for harmonizing is called “Adding Chord”. This is where specific techniques come in for chord melody playing.

Before we jump right into playing music with lots of thick chords under the melody, I want to mention that the melody is the foundation for chord melody playing. We do not need to add harmony (or chords) to every melody note. Actually the opposite can be true. Sometimes it is better to not play any harmony on a melody note. You can think of chords as embellishments. Let me give you an example of what a chord melody is like. If you go to a burger joint and ask for a hamburger. They bring one out and you can go to the bar where they have all the condiments put out for you to choose which extra flavors you want to eat with your meat. If you decide to leave off the pickles, is it still a hamburger? If you take off the bread is it still a hamburger? Yes! If you take the meat away, but have all the bread, pickles, ketchup and onions on it, is it a hamburger? No, how do you know it’s not a chicken sandwich? A chord melody is very similar. The melody is the meat and everything else just adds flavor.

Suggestions on when to leave the melody plain:

1)      Fast melody passages.

2)      Whenever you want that particular effect

So let’s take a melody note of choice and put harmony to it. There many ways to do this. In this lesson we will cover the 2 most basic approaches to chord melody. The first approach is to harmonize the melody note by adding a third below the melody note. The second approach is to play the given chord in the tune and add the melody note to that.

 

TECHNIQUE ONE:

This is the easiest approach to learning to play chord melody. This approach makes it easy to sight-read a melody and to add harmony to it. How we do this is take the key center that the melody note is in. In the same scale, add a third lower to the melody note. In other words, skip a note in the scale and there is the note you need to add below the melody note.

It is a good idea to practice playing scales with the third below. These 2 notes together give the sound of a chord, and it will make your harmonizing faster to practice scales like this. When you come across a note in a melody you will already know which harmonized note goes with it.

Warning:

1)      Accidentals should be harmonized with a note in the diatonic key. So find a third below that is in the key. Accidentals don’t mean you can play anything.

2)      Jazz tunes often change key centers for part of the song. When this happens the scale you harmonize with will change.

 

TECHNIQUE TWO:

Approach 2 is a little different. This approach is centered around the chords of the original tune rather than the melody. How you go about doing this is you play the chords of the song and figure out how the melody can fit into it. You will need to build a good chord vocabulary for this. For convenience you will need to know how to add all the extensions on to chords, including altered note (Notes not in the scale). You will also want to know these chords in multiple areas of the fret board. When you come across a melody note you will ask yourself what chord tone it is, then play that chord with that note in the highest part of the chord.

Warning: This approach by itself can be limiting and can take a lot of practice. It is a valid approach that many people use, but it will require a lot of chord shapes under your fingers. You may not want to use the same chord shape multiple times, which means you will need variations of the same chord as well.

 

Eventually you will combine these 2 techniques and have many options to make a great chord melody. There are many ways that one can expand upon these and make them more interesting. There are also other valid approaches to playing chord melodies. Check back for up coming lessons on chord melodies.

Chord Melody Basics and Introduction

 

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!

How to tune your guitar by ear

When you play guitar, it is important to stay in tune because you’re training your ear to hear different intervals. There are many more ways to tune a guitar other than using a tuner. Your ear is a valuable tool that can allow you to tune your guitar. In this lesson we are going to focus on 2 different ways you can tune your guitar by ear and then we are going to discuss how you can use this knowledge to get maximum benefit from your tuner.

The first way you can tune your guitar without a tuner is by using a piano. As you can see, this approach can be very limiting already. Pianos do not grow on trees, but it is worth talking about because most guitarists will need to tune to a piano sometime in their musical lifetime. So how do you tune to a piano? There are 2 ways. The easiest way to tune to a piano is by tuning each string to the piano note. Below is a diagram of the notes on piano and how they relate to each guitar string. This approach works, however a lot of pianos are not tuned often enough and because of this your strings will be unequally tuned. In other words, your guitar will not be in tune with itself. This brings us to the second way to tune by a piano. If you want your guitar to play in tune with itself the best way to do this is to tune the low E string to the piano. Once you do that you can tune the rest of your guitar using the approach below.

Tuning notes

Tuning notes on a piano.

If you can tune your Low E string to the correct pitch this approach will make sure your whole guitar is in tune. However, if your guitar is not tuned to the exact pitch, you can still make your guitar play in tune with itself, it will just be out of tune with a band. So this approach is still good if you are playing alone. How you do this is on the low E string you play the 5th fret and then you pluck the A string. These 2 notes are the same pitch. So using your ear you should adjust the A string to play at the same pitch (note) as the E string 5th fret.  Now that your A string is in tune you can play the 5th fret of the A string and play the open D string and tune the D string to match the A string 5th fret. This process continues. The only difference is tuning the B string. You will need to play the 4th fret G string and open B string.

Using both of these approaches with a piano or without will take some time getting use to. It will help train your each as well. One little tip to make sure your strings are in tune is listening for waves. If you hear a waving clashing noise while you play the 2 notes together then it is not in tune. Another benefit from learning to tune by ear is when you use an electronic tuner you can check to make sure it really is in tune. Depending on the tuner you use, some are better than others, but it is always a good idea to check to make sure it sounds right by ear.

There are many ways to tune. Using your ear to tune is a good idea because you can train your ear and make sure your guitar really is in tune.  You can use a piano to tune, a tuner, or if there is nothing available you can use the guitar by itself to tune. You might not be in tune with a band without a tuner or piano, but you can still play and sound good-by yourself.

Examples of slap guitar

  1. Fundamentals of slap guitar
  2. Moving forward with slap guitar
  3. adding plucks to your slap guitar technique
  4. Examples of slap guitar

 

In this Lesson I will show you some videos of slap guitar. You can see how guitar greats use this technique and you can imitate them. Most music is learned by repeating what others before you have done so here are some tutorial videos and performance videos that include slapping.

These 3 videos sum up the basics of slap guitar. Watch these videos and understand what is going on and get the sound into your head. It is a fun technique to play with and to practice. It also sounds very cool! Happy Slapping!

Adding plucks to your slap guitar technique

So we just talked about slapping guitar in a triplet feel. If you add 1 extra note you can get a 16th note feel going and this is where things get cool. A 16th note feel is going to be faster and sound more complex, but it’s really not that much harder to execute. In this lesson you will learn the basics of plucking strings, why you should pluck your strings and plucking patterns.

Plucking guitar strings is pretty self-explanatory. You take your index (first) finger, middle finger and ring finger and you pluck the string to get that harsh pluck sound. To make this technique easier for you while you are using your thumb to slap I suggest you keep your fingers curled under your hand a little bit. Keep them loose because a tense hand is hard to work with.

Plucking strings are an ornamentation to slap guitar. The note choices are not hugely important. You should pick notes that are part of the key, but the specific notes are not really a big deal. It is just to add flavor to your playing. I suggest when you first start plucking you worry about 1 note. The root would work well in the beginning. That way you won’t get bogged down thinking about notes you should pluck and you can concentrate on proper slapping technique.

I am going to show you a simple plucking pattern you can use that uses slapping and plucking. Before I had you doing the triplet slap pattern where you hit the open E on each beat and you slapped your left hand on the string then slapped a muted thumb on the strings again in a triplet feel. You will do this again except after the muted thumb slap you will add a pluck with your fingers. You will need to play this as 16th notes or else you won’t be able to get all the hits in and slap the next beat on time.  Practice this slowly and work up speed gradually.

You have now learned all the basics of slap guitar. There are more things you can do to add more interest to your guitar slapping, but you now know what you need to know to slap guitar like a real slapper. You can add plucking to your slap guitar to add flavor to your playing. The notes you choose are not extremely important as long as they are in the key. Make sure you practice with proper technique and you will see great improvement over time.

2 handed tapping like Steve Vai part 2

Steve Vai’s tapping technique is quite fun, but can be difficult to execute. If you have not read the first article on Steve’s 2 handed tapping click here to review it. Steve Vai’s tapping style can be taken much more in-depth than just the top 3 strings. In this lesson I am going to show you how you can switch string like Steve Vai. You will still be using the shapes like we talked about in lesson 1. I will leave these shapes up to you to find. There are so many possibilities that you can come up with for the shapes.  This article is going to concentrate on becoming more advanced with your right hand. You will learn switching to lower strings and higher strings.

Before we discussed how you tap with your ring finger on the high E string and the middle finger on the B and G string played in a downward motion. This is the same concept that will be used in switching strings except you will have to alter tap. You will either add 1 extra tap or subtract one. However, you will be focusing on the 3 string pattern. This 3 string pattern is what gives you the sound of Steve Vai.

When you want to go down a string and use the B, G and D strings you will need to add 1 extra tap with your middle finger. You tap the high E string with your ring finger, and then tap the B G and D with your middle finger. After you have successfully switched strings you continue with the same tapping pattern as before with the ring finger on the B string instead of the E. You can use that add note to go down as many strings as you want to the E string.

When your goal is to switch to higher strings you need to use 1 less tap with your right hand. Let’s say we are playing on the B, G and D strings and you want to go back to the high E string. You tap with your ring finger on the B string and then middle finger on the G string. Now you tap your ring finger on the high E string and you have successfully switched back to the 3 highest strings. You can use these string switching techniques to run scales as well. Or you can stick to creating interesting sounding shapes to get the sound you want.

Steve Vai’s tapping is an interesting approach to 2 handed tapping that if you want to switch strings you need to add 1 extra tap with the right hand or take away 1. Doing this technique has a very cool, unique sound. It can be difficult to perfect, but once you do, the sky is your limit. Have fun tapping away!

Moving Forward With Slap Guitar

  1. Fundamentals of Slap Guitar
  2. Moving Forward With Slap Guitar
  3. Adding plucks to your slap guitar technique
  4. Examples of slap guitar

By now you know what it takes to create a nice slap sound. If you need to review the fundamentals of slapping the guitar please review lesson 1. Slap guitar can be taken much farther than just slapping 1 string. You can become more adventurous and add more technique and more interesting ideas to your slap guitar playing. In this lesson you will learn how you can start improving your technique by adding more to what you already know.

 

A Slapped Note Does Not Hang Around.

We just covered an exercise where you play quarter notes at 60 beats per minute with a metronome. In this exercise you were slapping the low E string. The next step to slap is to stop the note when you play it. So do this exercise again and each time you hit a note let it ring for a moment, but stop it with your left hand before you slap again. You can stop the sound by placing your fingers over the strings. This will make your slap sound cleaner and make it more focused.

 

Guitarists can be drummers too!

Slap guitar is very rhythmic. Slap would be boring if it was not. So to make your slap more rhythmic you can use your left hand to make a noise. Do this exercise: Slap the low E string on the beat at 60 beats per minute. On the & of each beat slap your left hand fingers down on the strings.  The left hand is a rhythmic tool for your slapping. A very small percentage of slap guitar is actual played notes. These percussion sounds are what makes guitarists similar to drummers.

 

A Guitarist and a Drummer Had Triplets

A lot of slapping can be done with a triplet feel. Before you attempt doing this exercise make sure you have worked on the 8th note exercise above. This time you are going to play an 8th note triplet. You hit the low E string every beat. You will then make the left hand percussive sound and then you leave your left hand fingers down to mute while you slap your thumb again. The third hit is a muted thumb slap. No pitches should be played; it is just a percussive sound.  Once you are comfortable with this you can start to speed up your slapping. Speed it up slowly to ensure proper technique.

 

Conclusion

Slapping guitar will sound more refined if you stop the note from ringing every once in a while. You can use this opportunity to be rhythmic by stopping the note with a rhythmic noise by slapping your left hand down. If you mute the strings with your left hand you can still use your right hand thumb to slap again and make a percussive sound without a note ringing out. A lot of slap guitar is done with a triplet feel so you can practice slapping with triplets. Enjoy!

Fundamentals of Slap Guitar

  1. Fundamentals of Slap Guitar
  2. Moving Forward With Slap Guitar
  3. Adding plucks to your slap guitar technique
  4. Examples of slap guitar

Welcome! Have you ever come across a guitarist who was slapping his guitar? Typically this technique is done on bass, but it can be done on guitar as well. It is a fun technique to learn and can sound very cool. Slap is primarily used in the funk style and sounds best with a funk sound. After reading this lesson you should be able to know how to slap the guitar, and the challenges of slapping. This lesson will focus primarily on the thumb. Later on we will talk about adding finger plucking to your slap to make it even more fun!

Slap Guitar Is Like a Bounce House

Pretend you are in a bounce house for a minute. When you jump you go down, then bounce right back up. The same principle applied in slap. When you slap your guitar strings you should bounce back up. If you don’t bounce up it won’t work well. Another illustration of slapping the guitar is being on the moon. Have you ever seen movies on people on the moon? They float down and back up. This does not mean that you constantly have to be going back down to slap the string over and over, but when you slap the string you should bounce up quickly.

Slapping Is Not Hard, But The Part Of Your Thumb You Use Should Be.

Think about it. Slapping has a pretty bumpy harsh sound to it. Do you think you can get that sound better by dropping cotton on the strings or dropping a hard bouncy ball on the strings? Of course the bouncy ball is going to make the sound better. Same concept goes with your thumb. When you play slap guitar you should use the side of your thumb at the knuckle. This is the hardest part of your thumb. This will make that pop slap sound better.

Low Strings Make the Best Slappers

When you are using this guitar technique you will find that the 2 lowest strings make the best strings to slap on. Once you get higher than the A string you are better off using other fingers to pluck them. Typically the easiest string to slap on is the low E. It may take some practice to get the A string to sound good slapping, but it will get easier.

Practice Simple To Perfect Your Happy Slappy Technique

To start practicing this technique I suggest you put on a metronome at around 60 beats per minute and hit the low E string each beat. You can use our metronome at GitGuitar here. Concentrate on hitting the string with the correct part of the thumb. You should also concentrate on bouncing off the string. For an extra little note: You will find some areas of the guitar string are easier to slap on. So you may want to experiment to find the hot spot on your guitar. Once you can play quarter notes at 60 slapping with perfect technique you can move on to more advanced techniques using slap.

Conclusion

Slap guitar is a fun technique you can use to sound more funky. Typically this technique is a funky bass technique, but guitarists can use it also. To get the perfect sound in this technique you need to bounce your hand quickly off the strings. You should also use the hard part of your thumb. Practice quarter notes at 60 beats per minute and you will improve dramatically. Enjoy!

Repeat a note to get more mileage in your guitar solo.

Every guitar player wants to fly all around the fret board hitting a bazillion notes. This is cool, but this will get very boring. Most of the amazing guitar solos you hear have fast lines in them, but they sound very fast because they are mixed in well with melodic ideas and concepts that bring in the listener. The whole idea behind creating an awesome guitar solo revolves around the listener. Always ask yourself: if I was listening to this would I like it? Listening to blazing lines all the time will get mundane.

One way you can create a phrase in your guitar solo that allows the listener to catch up with you is to hang on to 1 note for a moment. You may find that play a quarter note triplets using only the G note gives that sound that brings you back to earth. You can vary the rhythm in any way you find that you like. Playing quarter notes of 8th notes with 1 note might sound good to you. You can also vary the length you hold on to the note. Some people hold on to one note longer than others. Use your ear to find what really works well. Your ear won’t lead you wrong.

Another way that this idea can be applied is using a technique called pedal tones. In a pedal tone you have a tone that is repeated while other notes change. For example you play the note G, then you play D, then G, then A, then G. Sometimes pedal tones can be a repeated 2 notes. There is an unlimited amount of things you can do with pedal tones. This is a busier version of the first idea suggested. You have the repeated note; you just add more color to it by adding extra notes.

You don’t want to rely on just one of these techniques. Use them both. The more options you have available to you, the better you will sound in different situations. Each technique is equally valuable, and you may grow to like one more than the other. However, learning to use both will give you more options. Some styles may sound better with pedal tones and another may sound better with just 1 repeated note.

Playing a lot of notes and playing fast is fun, but the listener won’t grasp your story line if you never slow down and lay it out in simple terms. Adding repeated notes can help the listener grasp what you are saying and help them understand it more. Making music accessible is one factor that makes an average musician different from the great musician.  You can repeat one note by itself or repeat notes within a phrase by playing pedal tones. Both will add interest and make it easy to grasp.

What is string bending and how do you do it?

String bending is a technique on guitar that makes the pitch goes higher.  Depending on how much you bend the string it can get up a half step, whole step or anything in between. This technique is a very useful and very common technique. It can give you options to play things that you couldn’t play without bending. There are some things you should know before you start string bending.

To bend on a string you push the string up or down. How do you know when to push up or down though? A general rule would be on the 3 highest strings push up and on the 3 lowest strings pull down. However you may find that you bend on the D string easier upward. The whole purpose of this is so you do not push the string off of the fret board.

Bending strings can be hard to do, so to make it easier you can use your other fingers to give you more strength. If you are bending up with your ring finger, you should put your middle and index fingers on the string behind your ring finger. This will make bending the string much easier than it was before. There are times when you cannot do this. For example if you are bending with your index finger you cannot use other fingers for more strength.

When you first start with bending it will seem hard. This technique will get much easier and more fun to use. You may need to work on it for a few days straight just to get the jest of how it works. It is almost impossible to improve without knowing this technique. So you will thank yourself for spending the time to master it. Make sure when you bend strings that you are putting enough pressure on the string so the note comes out. This may require a little strength in the hands, but you will gain this after some practice.

Bending strings is a very common and extremely useful technique that should be mastered. It will take time to learn it, but it can be fun to use. When you are bending strings you should push to 3 highest strings up and the 3 lowest strings down. If bending seems hard you can use any extra fingers to give you extra strength to bend more. The only time you can’t use other fingers to help you bend is the first (index) finger. Practice this technique for a while and get the hang of it. Happy Bending!