The Art of Creating Complete Song Arrangements – Solo Guitar with Chord Melodies 1

Chord Melodies are basically solo guitar arrangements of songs. Every guitar teacher has a different approach to mastering this fun way of playing music. Therefore, I am going to give “My Approach” to this interesting way of performing solo guitar.

We will be using a finger style approach. Even though chord melodies can be played with a pick, your picking hand can accomplish a lot more if you play finger style.

Even though chord melodies can be quite complicated, I tend to lean toward a simple approach to making them work. I have a priority system:

  • Number #1 is the Melody (this “is” the song)
  • Number #2 is the Bass Line (just root notes of the chords and the melody can sound good!)
  • Number #3 are the chordal tones (other notes in the chords)
  • Number #4 add the kitchen sink (what ever sounds good keep!)

In this lesson, we will assemble Melody, Bass (this time = root notes of the chords), and Chordal Tones to the A section of I Got Rhythm. I could write a series of paragraphs about how this is put together. Instead of writing about every detail… let’s just put it together and I’ll get deeper into why it works in another lesson. This lesson is to whet your appetite.

Example 1
Example 1 continued

Example #1 shows where we will play the melody (the choice of where each note is played corresponds with the chord I choose to play it with).

Example # 2

Example 2 line 1
Example 2 line 2
Example 2 line 3
Example 2 line 4

Example #2 shows the chord fingerings to each of the chord changes for every measure.

Example 3
Example 3 continued

Example #3 shows the complete arrangement of the A Section of I Got Rhythm.

Use the chord diagrams and the arrangement to put your chord melody together. Measures 1 through 5 are easy… just play the chords. Measure 7 requires you to stretch your pinkie and play the 11th fret (Eb) … and measure 6 requires you to leave the chord and play a couple of notes. In Measure 8 … just play the chord.

Once you have assembled the fingerings and can manage playing Example #3, play Example #1 again. Your melody is #1. Work with you right hand fingers to make it a bit louder than the rest of the chord. This takes a bit of practice. Don¹t worry if the rhythmic value of each note isn¹t exact… if it sounds good keep it! If it sounds bad …. fix it!

The Groove…. well, either it is there or it isn’t. When a listener wants to tap their foot to your song, you got it! This is the “Last Thing” you work on when working on chord melodies. Rhythm can sometimes be the most difficult. It will take time (give yourself a break) to groove through a complete song. Once that happens…. Yeah! It feels good. You will want to do it again and again.

In a series of lessons here on Guitar Noise, I will be focusing on ways to assemble, create, groove, and improvise over your chord melodies. I hope you enjoyed this taste of what is to come! Please e-mail me with any comments, suggestions, or questions.

I look forward to showing you something new in the near future.

Have Fun!