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  1. #1

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    Just wondering how everyone here defines "Chord Melody" as a way of playing solo... or is there a generally accepted definition for it?

    I know when I HEAR chord melody, and it may be my favourite way of playing - but is there a particular ratio of bass : chords : single-line melody?

    Cheers

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    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #2

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    I will be watching this thread.

    The term "Chord Melody" has been discussed before. What I got from previous conversations is that it depends on who you talk to. What some call "Solo Guitar," others might call "Chord Melody."

  4. #3

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    Chord melody is just playing chords and melody. It's a lame term, anyway.

    It doesn't have to stand on it's own, like a Joe Pass style solo guitar thing. Think of like Johnny Smith on "Moonlight in Vermont," or Wes on "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face." They're harmonizing almost the entire melody with chords, but there's still bass and drums.

    Piano players call it "playing the piano."

  5. #4

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    I think of chord melody as playing virtuoso - or - accompanying ones-self.

  6. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by p1p
    Just wondering how everyone here defines "Chord Melody" as a way of playing solo... or is there a generally accepted definition for it?

    I know when I HEAR chord melody, and it may be my favourite way of playing - but is there a particular ratio of bass : chords : single-line melody?

    Cheers
    No universally accepted definition. So, it's one of the most contentious things in jazz guitar I guess. People get really angry apparently over the use/misuse of this term or with the use of it for so many different things.

    I think you have to be pragmatic and just understand that it basically means a lot of different things, because it's definitely used in all of those contexts, at least until we evolve a more standardized use of terms.

    The way it's actually used, I'd say it's "melody played generally in the context of chords". If you want to be more specific, you can use terms like "solo guitar" or "block chord solo" etc., but they aren't really accepted as terms, and most people just call everything chord melody.

    I'm not as bothered. I tend to play very broken, solo guitar but still view things very much in the context of block chords etc. To me, it doesn't matter how much you break up the chords or how much you separate out into fewer voices etc., I still hear it is basically being vertical harmony, simply manipulated rhythmically .

    I personally think that this view of "pure" contrapuntal independence, with autonomous "separate" voices in bass , melody, and chords is a very guitar-centric view. I don't think pianists view things this way. Everything they play is broken up rhythmically, but they spend a lot of time arpeggiating block chords anyway. The concept of bass as being separate, is really a rhythmic feature more than some kind of fundamental organizational separation. I don't think that most great players are thinking a separate thing for bass necessarily the way we imagine as we listen to it.

    So, I don't really have a problem with the term so much , but I think differently probably. Anyway, pianists play block chord solos as well. We have kind of a goofy term for the same thing I guess, but I don't really go for the notion that it's simply an "idiot guitarist" way of talking about something in a vastly different way from pianists etc. I don't know that they have some agreed-upon term for doing the same thing in the right hand , whether block chords or arpeggiated somewhat.

    The term may suck or whatever, but the only practical alternative is to say something like "you know, that thing where you go Du ba Du ba". What's the alternative? We could put it to a poll on the forum and decide for the rest of the jazz guitar universe what this thing should be called. Maybe a decree from us would change the world. :-) Ha!

  7. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by mr. beaumont

    Piano players call it "playing the piano."
    I like this analogy.

    We can’t quite play like pianists though.. just the restrictions of the instrument. Maybe this is how we could define it? “As much like piano as I can.”

  8. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by p1p
    I like this analogy.

    We can’t quite play like pianists though.. just the restrictions of the instrument. Maybe this is how we could define it? “As much like piano as I can.”
    I don't think there is much help in subordinating the guitar to another instrument. I don't try to play like pianists nor horn players, but like a guitarist. Just wish I was a better one. Way better.

  9. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by ESCC
    I think of chord melody as playing virtuoso - or - accompanying ones-self.
    Accompanying ones-self. That is the best explanation you could get, close the thread now, great way of putting it.

  10. #9

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    You could call it "Solo Guitar" as our own Tim Lerch does. This is a very good CD. Well worth the cost.


  11. #10

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    from a very basic melody that is harmonized with triads to a complex melody harmonically enriched with complex inner voice movement and a counter point bass line all surrounding the melody..doing so on guitar is a challenge to all who attempt this style in the beginning .. is does require alot of persistence and experimentation..those that rise to the top playing this style have put in some time developing it..Joe Pass Ted Greene Tim Lerch..I have seen Larry Carlton do some fantastic chordal arrangements..Ten Monder Julian Lage and Larry Coryell have influenced me in this regard as well..

    I also dont particularly like the term "chord melody" as it does not describe all the variations of the style..

    If I could emulate the playing style of one musician it would be Bill Evens..his approach on the Kind of Blue album

  12. #11

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    I think it is good to listen to the piano, and figure out what's going on, the melody could be on top of the chords, within them, or beneath them.

    On guitar it is difficult, if well near impossible to replicate the dynamics of a piano - but then, let's take the idea of simplification, reduction and then concentrate on two things, the melody and where to place chords, triads, arpeggios, or, put it another way, which elements of the chord tones, scale tones, passing notes or blue notes, to include.

    Thinking in terms of intervals, thirds, fourths, fifths, sixths, sevenths and so on - as well as considering linear as well as vertical ideas across the fretboard.

    If playing on one's own, building in a bass line, so there's always movement in three dimensions - the support of a bass line, underpinning a melody, with ideas of chords carved out by the placement of notes drawn from scale or chord tones .....

    Endless mathematical fun!!

  13. #12

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    To my way of thinking and study it's primarily a term that has a special meaning for plectrum guitarists. In other words, it requires an approach to playing that neither "lead guitarists" nor "rhythm guitarists" would typically be expected to use.

    I think of it as mostly homophonic as opposed to polyphonic, and involves the strumming of a chord underneath a melody note when one is playing through a complete melody. One needn't play a chord for every melody note or even every beat. (That really sounds like crap when overdone.) OTOH - if the melody is sparse enough then a chord for each melody note sounds good. (Think last 3rd of a Wes Montgomery solo, after single notes and octaves).

    Now THIS is a classic. Check it out:


  14. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Jazzstdnt

    I think of it as mostly homophonic as opposed to polyphonic, and involves the strumming of a chord underneath a melody note when one is playing through a complete melody. One needn't play a chord for every melody note or even every beat. (That really sounds like crap when overdone.) OTOH - if the melody is sparse enough then a chord for each melody note sounds good. (Think last 3rd of a Wes Montgomery solo, after single notes and octaves).
    I guess this is where the definition chord-melody is a little vague - I always thought of Wes’ chord solos as a thing of their own. Chord solos. They’re definitely not like some of his solo ballad playing, where you get hints of single lines thrown in.

  15. #14

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    Well it's not just one thing, done one way, all the time.

    It's not always a composed line/head,
    It's certainly not always improvised,
    It's not always solo guitar,
    It's not always with a band


    When listening to Wes play like he did in the above example, do you get a clear sense of a melody note on top of each chord?

  16. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Jazzstdnt


    When listening to Wes play like he did in the above example, do you get a clear sense of a melody note on top of each chord?
    Well, obviously. But this is not solo guitar. Some posts here equating “chord-melody” to solo guitar. This is basically my question, regarding the definition.

    He is playing melody WITH the chords, sure, but the bass player has that covered. I guess the term can encompass any sort of melody played USING chords?

  17. #16

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    I don't think solo guitar is a requirement for the definition at all.

    Of course, Joe Pass' influence is massive. But remember (as the story goes) he was in rehab and had no one to play with so started his one man band solo style. Someone at the facility said "that sounds great Joe, you oughta play that for people". Joe said "nobody wants to hears this stuff".

    He was mistaken. Best thing that ever happened to his career. Post 1975 lots of players do the Joe thing.

  18. #17
    I'm honestly perplexed by the notion that there somehow "should be" specific terminology for things. Who determines such things? Aren't there many things in life which don't have specific agreed-upon terminology? Aren't there a great many things for which you simply have to say "You know, that thing where you...."?

    I like "chord Solo" to describe what Wes did and "solo guitar" to describe what Joe did, but but that's just one guy's opinion on the Internet. There's no advisory board or committee to codify this, and there are other variations in between those two sounds as well.

  19. #18
    By the way , what do piano players call the block chord style playing that Oscar Peterson did, especially on ballads etc.? Is there a term for it , or do they say " that thing Peterson did" or "you know that thing where you... "?

    I don't think they call that necessarily "playing piano" , while also calling everything ELSE you can play on the piano "playing piano". People talk about things using terminology, or they stop to describe something specific or him it etc.

  20. #19

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    It's when the guitarist delivers a complete song package....melody and accompaniment...either solo or in a group setting.

  21. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by PaulW10
    It's when the guitarist delivers a complete song package....melody and accompaniment...either solo or in a group setting.
    Well said . No need to complicate an otherwise widely used term to describe a guitarists effort to combine melody with supporting chord movement.

  22. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by matt.guitarteacher
    By the way , what do piano players call the block chord style playing that Oscar Peterson did, especially on ballads etc.? Is there a term for it , or do they say " that thing Peterson did" or "you know that thing where you... "?

    I don't think they call that necessarily "playing piano" , while also calling everything ELSE you can play on the piano "playing piano". People talk about things using terminology, or they stop to describe something specific or him it etc.
    My only formal "jazz education" was from a piano player, and he'd often use the terms "block chords" and "locked hands" (I suppose that's even more specific) a lot.

    But never once "chord melody"

  23. #22

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    I like the term 'solo guitar' better just because it seems more descriptive of what's actually going on. You're playing the way you would play the song when playing alone. You want to hear the chords and the melody reflected in the solo playing. I'm pretty sure that's where referring to it as "chord melody" came from.

    There doesn't have to be just one name for something though as long as people still understand what your talking about when communicating. chord melody and solo guitar seem to be the two widely used names for the same thing. Where I really dislike some of the names for stuff is especially on melodic minor modes. As if modes aren't confusing enough for some beginning students? For example if I say mixolydian b6 I bet a lot of guys don't know what that is. If I instead say melodic minor up a 4th from the root of the dominant chord then pretty much everyone can relate to what that is musically. Because to me that's a lot the way music works. You learn all this stuff then you learn how to slide it around to get substitutions that open up a whole other sonic vocabulary. For example play a minor 7th down a b3rd from a major chord and that minor 7th can sub for the major chord. But just becasue I'm using it that way as a sub for a I maj7 doesn't mean I have to come up with some new name for it the way they do with scales . I can still think of it as Amin7 but I just know that it can sub for Cmaj7.

    Excuse me veering off of the original topic a bit. Actually that kind of stuff does relate to solo guitar though if your searching for the right melody note to go with a chord for example.
    Last edited by Bobalou; 04-28-2018 at 01:46 AM.

  24. #23

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    Oscar Peterson demonstrates a few piano styles for Dick Cavett, beginning with "stride".


  25. #24

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    growing up I was fortunate to see on TV some of Segovia's master classes..now classical style uses chordal elements and melodic variations throughout the piece..and while not a "song" as we know it by it melody alone this style is using some of the harmonic and melodic devices used in "jazz" and other styles of "solo instrument" exploration ..yet the only term used to describe it is "classical guitar" .. which refers to the material played more than the technique used in playing it..now should several different classical players use the same work of say Bach..it would be described as their "interpretation" of that work..surely not a "chord melody" of a Bach Chorale..

    now if you emulate the classical style..for a popular tune .. harmonize the melody with one additional note for several bars then use a chordal fragment the next part of the melody and then a scale fragment resolving into melody once again..and you have the talent to keep a moving bass line defining the chordal movement and the total sum of this has a "classical" feel to it..how would it be described..

    seems we have a way to go before we have standardized our language in describing certain styles, techniques and chordal nomenclature .. but it is fun and I dont think I want to change it

  26. #25

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    In my experience, chord melody refers to jazz or pop solo guitar where you play the melody and combine it with chord and maybe also some bass line accompaniment.

    In the 25 years I played guitar before the internet became mainstream, you would go to the library or bookstore...or talk to a real musician/guitarist, that would be the reference for chord melody guitar.

    What do you think a guitar chord melody instruction book from a music store or bookstore 30 years ago was attempting to teach? Solo guitar.

    If you search on the web or for youtube videos, that's predominantly what you'll find.

    As per the OP, there is no predetermined ratio of single notes, chords, bass lines...you do whatever communicates.

  27. #26

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    Quote Originally Posted by p1p
    I like this analogy.

    We can’t quite play like pianists though.. just the restrictions of the instrument. Maybe this is how we could define it? “As much like piano as I can.”


    This guy plays like it's a piano if you ask me! But then again he is like one in a billion.

  28. #27

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    If you play classical guitar in early years there's alwasy a guy in school who says: wow you can play both chords and melody...

    Do you know chords for You Send Me?
    Yeh look here they are... (strummin frour open chords)
    And do you know melody?
    Yeh I can play melody... (picking melody with one finger on both hands)

    But have you seen that guy on you tube... he plays kinda both chord and melody on guitar ...

    Really wow... kinda of chord-melody!

    No irrespect but a huge part of Tmmy Emanuel and other fingerpickers pop players come from the audience that really thinks that guitar is only either strumming or soloing and they find that playing both is already miraculous

  29. #28

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    ...or you could simply call it Kenny Poole

  30. #29

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    to compare solo jazz guitar played with fingers or played with a pick is to compare apples and bananas

    HB

  31. #30

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    Quote Originally Posted by matt.guitarteacher
    By the way , what do piano players call the block chord style playing that Oscar Peterson did, especially on ballads etc.? Is there a term for it , or do they say " that thing Peterson did" or "you know that thing where you... "?

    I don't think they call that necessarily "playing piano" , while also calling everything ELSE you can play on the piano "playing piano". People talk about things using terminology, or they stop to describe something specific or him it etc.
    You mean the thing Red Garland did?????

    Locked hands or block chords.

    John

  32. #31
    Quote Originally Posted by don_oz


    This guy plays like it's a piano if you ask me! But then again he is like one in a billion.
    Pianists fingers too... Daddy-long-leg hands wow. Mine are probably a bit closer to Segovia's.

  33. #32

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    I've never known anyone who didn't know what I meant with I referred to 'chord melody'.

    Why make it harder than it has to be just because you feel a definition isn't what you like?
    Last edited by Gramps; 05-02-2018 at 11:44 AM.

  34. #33

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    Solo guitar
    Polyphonic
    Melody line with harmony and a bass line.
    Pianistic.

    If you play this music on a piano, nobody bats an eye because the piano has been played this way for 300+ years.
    But on a guitar, it's a big deal, apparently. Unless it's classical guitar.
    Chord Melody is a stupid term.
    I prefer the term solo guitar.

  35. #34

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    "Solo Guitar" could be strumming the chords to Puff the Magic Dragon.

    You can play a chordal version of the melody with a band. Not solo guitar.

    Any chord is polyphonic. By definition!

    "Melody line with harmony and a bass line" You don't have to play a bass line when playing the melody with chords. That's what you have a bass player for.

    But keep up the good work. I feel a nation wide change in people's opinion of the definition since it really is the most important thing in most people's lives.

  36. #35

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gramps
    "Solo Guitar" could be strumming the chords to Puff the Magic Dragon.
    Does anyone have the tabs for this?

  37. #36

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    Quote Originally Posted by joe2758
    Does anyone have the tabs for this?
    I'm working on it. Give me time.

  38. #37
    "Solo guitar" doesn't encompass everything implied by the term "chord melody", not the way it is widely used or HAS been through the years.

    A block chord solo in the context of a trio isn't "solo guitar". It certainly isn't classical guitar . Again, I don't think it's anyone's FAULT , nor is there anyone in particular who SHOULD be responsible for having codified a term which sums up jazz guitar playing in these various ways.

    And piano players don't simply call various ways of playing the piano all "playing the piano". This simply is not true. Guitarists aren't idiots for not somehow having a magical term for these things. It's simply the unintended consequence of not having a "National Jazz Guitar Terminology Board" or something. Wow. What potential bureaucratic bliss...

    Sure, say "chord melody" sucks. Fine. What are we going to do about it? How are we going to enact change in guitar culture for everyone to suddenly start using one (or multiple) "correct" terms for these things?

    What I get out of all these threads continually is basically this:

    **Guitarists call all of these different things "chord melody" because we are generally dimwitted and think it's a huge accomplishment to play melody in the context of chords, unlike pianists or classical guitarists, who do this all of the time and think nothing of our. Pianists would never think to have to call something "chord melody" because they always play melody with harmony.

    The truth is that pianists play in various different ways, comping single melody with left-hand , playing block chord solos with both hands, arpeggiating with the left hand or both hands etc. etc. I'm not even a real piano player . So, I don't even know all the terms people use for things, but musicians talk about things in general or more specific ways. They just do.

    The other one of classical guitar , is very different as well. Classical guitarists have very elaborate music notation, much more so than pianists. Generally, they're in guitar- friendly keys, with very extensive markings for position, fingerings etc., depending on the difficulty of the "piece". And that's the other thing: it isn't improvised. There's a real distinction there. Among other things, many jazz guitar players can improvise the stuff, and no, classical guitarists DON'T simply call everything a guitarist might play "playing guitar" or "classical guitar".

    Honestly, I don't care if you call it "chord melody" or "unicorn starfish" or something, it simply ISN'T these other things, and new terminologies don't simply pop out of the ground by magic either.

    It isn't "playing the piano", and it certainly isn't "playing classical guitar". But the assumption that we just call it "chord melody" , basically because we're idiots who can't think of anything better or have some kind of idiot view of the profundity of playing simultaneous harmony and melody is simply false.

    Sent from my SM-J727P using Tapatalk

  39. #38

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gramps
    I've never known anyone who didn't know what I meant with I referred to 'chord melody'.

    Why make it harder than it has to be just because you feel a definition isn't what you like?
    I agree.. some terms - even hough maybe wrong in definition - already have some tradition in culture, some backgroud and associations..

    But the assumption that we just call it "chord melody" , basically because we're idiots who can't think of anything better or have some kind of idiot view of the profundity of playing simultaneous harmony and melody is simply false.
    Not idiots..
    but the name definitely came from amateurish enviroment where playing simultaneously 'chords' and 'melody' of a popular song looked like specific skill different from comping chords or soloing lines...

    This gives 'chord melody' one essential quality - to me it always keeps a contrast in texture: you can hear both traditional chords and melodic line clearly (mostly)... that's the the way of thinhking - pretty simple basically - keep chords and add melody...

    For example some arrangements of standards I played for guitar did not look like chord-melody for me but more like classical guitar arrangement - more nuanced texture where the chords are also split in different voices - hidden in texture....

    Also many modern jazz solo playing also do not sound like chord-melody for me..

    Later 'chord-melody' developed into particular approach with its own tools, language etc.

  40. #39

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    The term is good enough for Barney Kessel.

  41. #40

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    Quote Originally Posted by DRS
    Solo guitar
    Polyphonic
    Melody line with harmony and a bass line.
    Pianistic.

    If you play this music on a piano, nobody bats an eye because the piano has been played this way for 300+ years.
    But on a guitar, it's a big deal, apparently. Unless it's classical guitar.
    Chord Melody is a stupid term.
    I prefer the term solo guitar.
    Also conventional wisdom is that it's somewhat more difficult to do and do well on guitar. On the piano you have all the notes laid out logically in front of you in the form of 88 keys in a straight line and the notes exactly repeat themselves every 12 keys. Once you learn something in one position on the piano then all the other positions are exactly the same. Very logical and indeed the reason that piano is considered the easiest instrument to learn music theory on. On guitar you actually have 8 or more positions where you should learn everything to cover the whole neck that all have different fingerings. From the word go on the guitar that's a lot more stuff you have to memorize and be able to play. Now I'm talking about really being able to play legit jazz and jazz chord melody here not just strum basic chords to pop tunes which is easier.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bobalou

    There doesn't have to be just one name for something though as long as people still understand what your talking about when communicating. chord melody and solo guitar seem to be the two widely used names for the same thing.
    Some people get too hung up on silly minutia like the words and miss the big picture. Like I was saying before as long as people know what you're talking about when you're communicating then either name for it is okay. Ultimately its being able to get to the point where you can actually play it well on your instrument that really matters. What you call it is really not important in the big scheme of things as long as folks know what you're referring to when you're communicating. For me I don't see how you consider it really making music without the chords and the melody? So the term chord melody seems maybe a bit redundant lol. However solo guitar conveys that your doing it solo on the guitar, exactly what's going on. Some may have a different opinion on that but in the big picture whichever phrase you decide to use for it I really don't care.
    Last edited by Bobalou; 05-10-2018 at 11:31 PM.

  42. #41

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    Whatever you do, do not let the chords get in the way of a good tune. In other words, sometimes it takes time to form a chord shape, where a single note can be plucked immediately. You will screw up the groove and soul of the song when you do that. Example, some people play There Will Never Be Another You's melody with all chords. That is hard to do and it doesn't always sound right. Chris Whiteman has a pretty nice version of that tune using chords and notes. When he plays that way, he can add more soul into the playing.

    PS, I stopped saying SWING and replaced it with SOUL, because I have seen way too many people think it just means a good shuffle.

  43. #42

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    it becomes to definitely be a little boring,dont you pip ?