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  1. #1

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    Anyone have technical advice for a beginner to chord melodies? This part of jazz playing seems to be the hardest technical work. I understand the concepts (fundamentals anyway) of creating a chord melody but I find them very difficult to play. Any suggestions of a very simple song to start with?


    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
  3. #2

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    Ironically, I can't get started by Ira Gershwin/Vernon Duke. Two good versions: Tal Farlow (The Legendary TF 1978) or Johnny Smith (The sound of the JS guitar).
    Autumn in New York : Kenny Burrell (Blue Lights album) or Johnny Smith
    Days of Wine and Roses: Jimmy and Doug Raney (Duets)

    I picked these songs because if you know the chords and the melody, the intetresting inversions will virtually pick themselves. They also have good gaps where you'll have to add some walking bass, again the progressions will tell you where the bass needs to go. I'm sure there are many others: Moonlight in Vermont, Embraceable You, Valentine. I'd suggest you get the Jimmy/Doug Raney album because it has some wonderful ballad playing of standards on it.

  4. #3

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    All the Things You Are is great because the melody is a chord tone on 90% of the chords. This makes it easy to work out because you can just use chords you are already familiar with and don't have to build any new chords to fit any odd melody notes.


  5. #4

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    Do you know the Miles song "Tune UP" ? That's a fairly easy one to start with.

    Another thing to consider is to take any of the chord melodies here and check them against the original lead sheet to see how they were built. Then taking the CM and changing it to better suit the chords that they liked better. I know that one person took the CM for Nuages and changed it around to suit them. I guess all he needed was to be pointed in the right direction.

  6. #5
    Thanks for all the tips guys, but keep in mind i'm looking for something that's not too technical - the theory of building a chord melody i'm fine with it's just actually playing it. Most seem quite difficult (changing a chord on every beat raises a dilemma for me) so I guess ballads would be a good choice to slow it down.

  7. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by seagullc View Post
    Thanks for all the tips guys, but keep in mind i'm looking for something that's not too technical - the theory of building a chord melody i'm fine with it's just actually playing it. Most seem quite difficult (changing a chord on every beat raises a dilemma for me) so I guess ballads would be a good choice to slow it down.
    If you understand how to build them, then I would suggest picking tunes that you really like, as you will need to play them a ton before they start sounding good. It took me a year to work up a dozen tunes I felt comfortable with when I first got into it.

    It only takes a week or two now. Good luck with the process.

  8. #7

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    'Tune Up" is a nice relaxing tune to start a gig with. I am thinking that Pierre Richards' instructions to me to develop my own chord melody for 'California Dreamin'" may have sabotaged me..I can play it but having the
    talents available in this website ( John Whitford, Matt Warnock to name two)
    allow me the luxury of reading a truly embellished California Dreamin'".....
    Something outside my own horizon.....
    I just learned I have three gigs next week:21st, 23rd, 25th.
    Maybe someday I'll have as many as Matt...
    One thing I have learned is that on this site we have players worldwide-
    we have people e-mailing here and it is not in their native tongue.
    One must consider such.......These players have insightful comments but the language barrier is a problem....

  9. #8
    I'll give Tune Up a listen and see if I can make anything happen with it. Also gonna try out All the Things You Are

    I guess Pierre is right it's just time on the instrument just seems like compared to other areas of jazz playing i'm not improving in chord melodies much even as i continue to practice.
    Last edited by seagullc; 03-14-2009 at 10:21 PM.

  10. #9

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    Don't forget seagull that the more we play the higher our own standards become and every artist is his own harshest critic.

  11. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by m78w View Post
    All the Things You Are is great because the melody is a chord tone on 90% of the chords. This makes it easy to work out because you can just use chords you are already familiar with and don't have to build any new chords to fit any odd melody notes.


    I'm working on this one now and the fact that it's all chord tones is actually confusing me a bit.. how can I differentiate these notes from the rest of the chord? I tried using the voicing with that chord tone as the highest note but this results in a lot of jumping around.. pretty much the opposite of good voice leading.

    Here's what I have for the first 5 bars, I tried isolating the notes rhythmically but i'm not sure how good it sounds..

    Changes are F-7 | Bb-7 | Eb7 | Abmaj7 | Dbmaj7




    Last edited by seagullc; 03-15-2009 at 12:15 AM. Reason: kept screwing up the tabs

  12. #11

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    Looks ok. But a bit of advice. the first two notes are whole notes. Since your just starting out, play each chord for the time value of the note.

    The late ,great Harry Leahey once told me that you could harmonize the tune anyway you wanted as long as the melody and bass line made sense. So, next piece of advice to you is to play the melody and the bass. After you've stablished what you hear in the top and bottom voice , "flesh out" the chord (Thanks Jeff, I love that term) with some more chord tones and your good to go.

  13. #12
    Thanks for the advice..

    Here's a chord melody i'm working on for blue in green, i'm not sure what to do for the 5th bar since there's so many notes in the melody, also i think i might have to jump an octave higher at this point.. any suggestions would be appreciated

    this is the first 4 bars, I think it sounds pretty good, tell me what you think guys. it was tough to keep the melody line without jumping octaves so there's some hard/weird inversions in there



  14. #13

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    I would have started an octave higher and the following bar - Bbmaj7(b5maybe) would have fitted much easier. You could just hit the Bb bass note then play an embellished arpeggio starting with your bottom E as a grace note. With some embellishments you can still fit a fairly long line in the second half of Bar 5, without ending too high.

  15. #14

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    Try inverted quartal voicings (4-2) for the next measure with Bbma7#11. or try these sub's :

    Gmi13 like you have in the 1st measure then
    Fma7#5 to Gmi to cover the C# to D melody to a
    Bbma7 Bbma7/D to a C triad over C# for the A7 (9x10 or mute,9,8,8)

    you should get this (6-1 strings)


  16. #15
    Thanks for the help guys, i'll try that out and post back when I get the rest of the chord melody done.

    edit: here's what I've got for the first chorus guys, your help was much appreciated as this sounds pretty nice i think, i'm going to try writing another chorus but moving back down to the first low g chord so I can loop it without a huge jump.. still need to figure out the outro too.





    Last edited by seagullc; 03-19-2009 at 09:31 PM.

  17. #16

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    like the tunes mentioned above and when looking at the tune you want to play chord melody style you sometimes have to transpose it to a different key because the melody is written too high or low on the not skip it because of it..transpose it and learn it in the different will improve your playing ability..

    for extra credit you should learn to play tunes in at least 4 or 5 keys if not all will make you a better player

    time on the instrument..pierre

  18. #17

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    Look's good. Just a suggestion for the Dmi to E7#5 on line 4. Either barre your 1st finger to get x53533 or make it x53553. Also in that measure I think the second chord should be E7 so you would have 7 SIX 7 x 8. (G#)rather than 757. (G natural). Then you could barre your first finger and get 076768 (open E if you like, if not , x76768.)

  19. #18
    Thanks again for the suggestions

    The D-7 definately sounds better with the octave note added in on 3rd fret 2nd string, good idea.

    The E7 i'm not sure about.. the real book (which may well be wrong) says it's an E7#5(#9). The C played on the first string is both the melody note and the #5. Then the G# on the second string is a major third. The reason I put a G rather than G# on the fourth string was to get the #9 in there. However, I think it sounds better (and more like the song) with simply an E7. The b9 you added in on the 2nd string sounds good but they have written #9. I suppose when writing a chord melody one doesn't have to follow the chords 100% though.

    Also do you have any suggestions for an alternative for the final D-7... it sounds very dissonant but this point in this tune is more of a release of tension I believe.

  20. #19

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    If you're talking about the last chord, then the F# on the 3rd string , 11th fret is the culprit. It should be 10th fret F natural. Your version is more dissonant as you have two major 7th intervals there. D (4th st, 12 ft) to C# (2nd st, 14th fr) and F- F# ( 11th fret 4th str. - 13th fret 1st string)

    As far as playing the excact chord type in a CM, you can usually take liberties with such things as b9 versus #9, etc. but heres a voicing that puts the # 9 in the chord, and the melody note. 076799 (EEG#DGC).

    also if your interested I posted a comp study for this tune. It's in the Chord Melody PDF's thread.
    Last edited by JohnW400; 03-20-2009 at 01:41 PM.

  21. #20
    Ahh, thank you, not sure why I had a major third in there.. and a major seventh too :S it should be xx12.10.13.13

    edit: C on the high E should be 8th fret not 9th so i'm not sure how I could finger that chord.. however the b9 chord you wrote earlier sounds great so as liberties may be taken then ill keep it in for sure

    ill check out the comp study, thanks
    Last edited by seagullc; 03-20-2009 at 01:47 PM.

  22. #21

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    You're right about the C being on the 8F. The simplest fingering is to play your basic E9 then use fourth finger on 8F to cover the C+G. My choice for that E7 bar is E7b9#5 - 076768 followed by E7 - 022434. This gives you the melody notes C + G# and also gives a more interesting transition to the next bar - Am9 because your G# melody note is saying "A Harmonic Minor"
    As for the final Dm I play Dm6 and just leave it hanging there in mid-air. I believe that, in the context of that album, issues like dissonance or comfortable familiar resolution are irrelevant. That album, more than most, is one where you play the "spirit" of the music - not the notes.
    Last edited by Banksia; 03-20-2009 at 08:52 PM.

  23. #22

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    'Let's Fall in Love"-Cole Porter. Matt-any chance? Shel, California

  24. #23

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    Sure thing, but it'll have to wait until Friday when I get back into town.


  25. #24
    Here is a cool page I found on Jerry Hahn's Site:

    A Foggy Day
    Groovin’ High
    Our Love Is Here To Stay
    Afro Blue
    Half Nelson
    Over the Rainbow
    Have You Met Miss Jones
    All Blues *
    Here’s That Rainy Day
    Polka Dots and Moonbeams
    All of Me
    How High the Moon *CM
    Prelude to a Kiss *CM
    All of You
    I Can’t Get Started
    Quiet Nights
    All the Things You Are *CM
    I Love You
    Alone Together
    I Remember You
    ‘Round Midnight *
    Angel Eyes *CM
    I Should Care
    Satin Doll *CM
    Au Privave
    I’ll Remember April
    Scrapple from the Apple *
    Autumn Leaves * (G&Bb)
    Back at the Chicken Shack
    Impressions *
    So What *
    Billie’s Bounce *
    In a Mellow Tone
    Blue Bossa *
    In a Sentimental Mood
    Some Day My Prince Will Come
    Blue in Green
    In Walked Bud
    Song For My Father *
    In Your Own Sweet Way
    Sophisticated Lady *CM
    Body and Soul *CM
    Soul Eyes
    But Beautiful
    It’s You or No One
    Speak Low
    St. Thomas
    Joy Spring
    Star Eyes
    Con Alma
    Just Friends
    Like Someone in Love
    Stella by Starlight *CM
    Darn That Dream *CM
    Stolen Moments *CM
    Days of Wine and Roses *CM
    Stompin’ at the Savoy
    Donna Lee *
    Misty *CM
    Straight No Chaser *
    Mood Indigo
    Emily CM
    Moonlight in Vermont CM
    Summertime *
    My Foolish Heart
    Take Five
    Every Thing Happens to Me
    My Funny Valentine *CM
    Take the “A” Train *
    Foot Prints
    My One and Only Love *CM
    The Night Has a Thousand Eyes
    Four *
    My Romance
    The Song Is You
    Freddie the Freeloader
    My Secret Love
    There Is No Greater Love
    Gentle Rain
    Night in Tunisia *
    There Will Never Be Another You
    Georgia On My Mind
    Now’s the Time *
    Thrivin’ from a Riff *
    Giant Steps *CM
    Oleo *
    Tune Up
    Girl from Ipanema *
    On Green Dolphin Street *CM
    God Bless the Child
    Once I Loved
    Well You Needn’t
    Gone With the Wind
    One Note Samba
    What Is This Thing Called Love
    Goodbye Pork Pie Hat CM
    Ornithology *
    Yardbird Suite *

    * Required
    CM(Chord Melody)
    --------------------------- --------------------------- ----------------------------
    --------------------------- --------------------------- ----------------------------
    --------------------------- --------------------------- ----------------------------
    --------------------------- --------------------------- ----------------------------
    Completed Date Instructor’s Signature

    Jerry Hahn
    P.O. Box 3424 • Wichita, KS 67201
    (316) 648-8271

  26. #25

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    Great - another guitarist who thinks that songwriting ceased in 1962!!!
    I hadn't realised Jerry was such a progressive thinker.

  27. #26

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    I had a long look through the Jerry Hahn site. It includes the curriculum for Jazz Studies at Wichita State Uni (or is it SUW?) The Seniors are required to be able to perform songs from a prescribed list. The newest song on the list (I'm not sure of my dates) is Days of Wine and Roses or maybe Girl from Ipanema. Clearly graduates of WSU (or SWU?) will be well-prepared to carry Jazz forward into the 1950s, and will silence all those critics who claim that Jazz is dead.
    If that is the state of jazz education at any tertiary institution, then Ira Gershwin was right: "Let's call the whole thing off!"

  28. #27

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    You're right Banksia. There's not even Chick, Herbie, Steve Swallow or any of the other 'modern' composers from the Real Book from the late 70's. Looks like all they did was to take the more common tunes from that book and use them. If that's what they're teaching at the University these days, It's nice to know that I'm "up to date" n my studies

  29. #28

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    ANyone able to give the Beatles' 'A Day in the Life" the CM treatment?
    bEGGING in advance in CaLifornia!