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Forming a folk or country melody

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Eminent Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 12
Topic starter  

I need help, any help, on forming folk melodies and country melodies.

Whenever I strum chords and hum over them, I only find myself coming up with really generic, similar melodies to ones I either already know or have already hummed.

I was just wondering if someone could give me a little 101 in scales used in country and folk music, whether the notes in these scales have a bearing on what the melody sounds like...technical stuff like that to get me started.

Any help's appreciated,

Honorable Member
Joined: 22 years ago
Posts: 646

Well, the whole point of folk and country is that they feature very "generic, similar melodies".

They feature the major pentatonic very heavily. If you want more originality you may have to venture outside that box and then perhaps it will no longer sound like folk or country. Catch 22.

Helgi Briem
hbriem AT gmail DOT com

Estimable Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 189

You know, I used to feel badly about playing so many open chords until I read (in Guitar for Dummies lol) that the open chords are the main tool of the folk guitarist ... cuz they are ideally suited to the pick-off and the hammer-on typical of folk guitar.... :roll:
Well at least I don't feel badly about playing open chords anymore :roll:

Anyway my understanding of that comment is that when your fingers are in position for a basic chord and you have a finger left over, then you can use that spare pinky or such to play an extra note to emphasize the melody. Example: A chord, then pick 2nd fret of top string - or D chord, then try picking the 3rd fret on the top string.

The other thing you can do to pick out the melody (beside descending bass lines which - for a nooBee like myself need to worked out on a song-by-song basis) is the thumb beat (thumb/strum) on alternating bass lines or even a bass line melody.

One example (work in progress) is "Me and Bobby McGee" where you have multiple bars of the G chord before finally making a move to D7. How to break up the endless G?
OK if you finger the G chord and pick the bottom (low E) string, strum and then pick the 2nd (where your finger is anyway) fret of the A string and then the 3rd fret .... you will start to hear a melody line (which repeats itself a couple of times and then the bass note moves up to D string and THEN you play the D7).

So I've been doing this on a song-by-song basis and getting slightly faster at "arranging" as the months go by. A good guitarist can probably do this after only hearing the chord pattern once or twice - but right now, tinkering around with each song to get the sound exactly right is still a fun challenge in itself :wink:

What if the Hokey Pokey IS what it's really all about?

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