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  1. #1

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    Just getting started with having enough drop 2 stuff to be able to attempt putting chord melody stuff together. Maybe, anyway.

    Currently working on It Could Happen to you.

    Perhaps is the key (Eb) or the fact that it starts on the fifth and not the third, but it just seems awkward. The Bb is sitting there in the middle of the neck on the D string or a little lower on the G string, not offering a ton to harmonize below it. And the melody seems pretty rangy so that seems additionally challenging.

    But again I haven't tried this much at all so just wondering, does this tune seem easy or difficult to harmonize?


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  3. #2

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    It’s a common challenge whenever a tune has a fairly low melody note. In this case you could just play a simple Eb triad on strings 5, 4 and 3. You don’t need a lush voicing on every chord. There are some really low notes in Lush Life for example, the only way I can play them is as a 2-note chord, i.e. just root and melody note.

    Sometimes it helps to move the tune to a key which accommodates the melody better on the guitar. I have been playing I Thought About You as a solo tune and in the end I moved it to Bb. I just couldn’t make it sit well on the fingerboard in F as a solo piece.

    For really high notes you can use 4 note voicings on the top 4 strings if there is no easy way to get a low bass note. Use some rootless chords if necessary.

    Also you don’t need to harmonise every note. I think it sounds better not to, and it gives you some freedom to work around any difficult melody notes.

    All tunes present various challenges for solo guitar - finding your own solutions is hard work, but a great learning exercise and very rewarding! It is like being an orchestrator or arranger, albeit in a fairly limited sense.

    Also it gets a lot easier once you’ve tackled a few, definitely.

  4. #3

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    I'd call it average difficulty for a tune in Eb.

    My first take was to play the Eb triad x653xx. Then leave a bar on at the 3rd fret and wiggle the other fingers to get the C (fret 5) and a chord for the Gm7b5, probably 3 4 5 6. That doubles the Db, but it sounded okay to me. And so on.

    I'd make a couple of suggestions to make things easier and more creative, arguably, at the same time.

    1. Don't hesitate to change the melody. That's sacrilige to some, but I recently heard Robert Glasper play a barely recognizable version of Stella at the Blue Note in NYC. If it's good enough for him and the Blue Note audience, and the composer will never know, I say, take a chance.

    2. Don't hesitate to change the harmony either. If everybody knows what's coming, it ain't jazz.

    3. Single notes are perfectly acceptable and they'll make a two or three note "chord" sound huge.

    4. Joe Pass said not to transpose everything to the keys or E or A to get the bass notes. I'd point out he didn't say never to do it.

    5. It helps not to restrict yourself to your usual grips for the chords. Here's an example. xx3453, common G13. Often played with 4 fingers. But, if you bar fret III, you can get the G in the bass, and play the notes on the D and high E strings with the bar. Then you can get the B and E notes with the second and third fingers, respectively. That leaves your pinkie free, so you have access to the A Bb and B with a little stretch. And, with a slight refingering you can get the Ab on top too. Of course, the G is available from the bar, high E, third fret. You can also move notes on the B string and G string. Add it up, and you've got access to almost any note.

    And, now for one that makes things harder ...

    1. I like it when the time is steady ... not this half rubato thing that a lot of players do. And not with hesitations because you can't execute the fingering in strict time. That can require some serious thought, trial and error. The underlying principle is "there's always a way".

    Obviously, others disagree with all of this. Good luck with it!

  5. #4

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    One thing that works, I've found, is the melody note doesn't necessarily have to be the top note in the chord if done sparingly. If you are finger picking you can play, for example, x6878x with emphasis on the Bb(8) and lighter pluck on the other notes.

  6. #5

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    The melody does have some tricky jumps, but Eb is do-able if you work through the finger mechanics.

    Jens Larsen has a nice chord melody lesson for this tune:

    But his arrangement isn’t trying to keep a bass line going on the lower strings.

    I started off with the first chord as an E triad with the 3rd in the bass:
    3 X 1 3 X X

    But the bass note is the root of the next chord, that seemed a little boring, so I decided to leave it off, leaving just the root and fifth.

    But transposing up to E sounds richer since you can play the full Emaj7. If you don’t like open strings transpose to F. There’s no shame in transposing for solo guitar.
    Last edited by KirkP; 02-03-2020 at 03:58 AM.

  7. #6

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    Yeah tunes with a big range.... just use like a bass note and a melody note for the low notes. It’s more important to keep the motion going than to play everything in complete harmony...

  8. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Tone Deaf Tony
    One thing Jim Hall did really well was set up a dialogue between melody and chords, which would sometimes be almost considered rhythmic accents when he played. That might mean the chord/bass note doesn't even appear until later in the measure, but your ear hears it just fine, and it adds a lighter feeling of movement. If you want to voice your chords in dyads, or even a counter bass line, it opens up a lot of fingerboard for chordal interaction. You hear this a lot in the way Bill Frisell plays these days, which is a strong stylistic lineage to Jim Hall.
    If you need a fuller block chord approach though, this might not work for you.
    Very similar to what I was going to say.

    Anyway, ong-term, learning to break up block chords rhythmically really helps create motion. I would probably play the triad RP notated above.. but maybe play the melody note 1st followed by the rest of the chord.

    Breaking things up rhythmically, arpeggio aiding , separating and trouble base etc. is very important skill to learn and solo guitar. This is what pianists primarily do. Sure, they can play very large full chords if they choose to, but very often it sparser , and the motion is created through simple movement, often with very simple chords.

    Motion very often gives more of a sense of fullness really than thicker texture. It's also much easier to play once you get used to it. The unintended consequence is that the music can seemingly convey more complexity, evoking counterpoint etc., ...while you are actually conceptualizing it in a SIMPLER way, as block chords arpeggiated.

  9. #8

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    Roger's right. Joe Pass said that if you transpose everything to E, A, and D--to take advantage of the big, open bass strings--you will put your audience to sleep.

    I think JP was absolutely correct. Play _some_ songs in these keys, but the guitar really sounds great in the "horn" keys, i.e., Eb, Ab, Bb.

    Roger's also right when he says that a few single notes will really set up a three-note chord.

  10. #9

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    Try playing just the melody and roots. You’ll need to fingerpick, but even if you’re planning to perform with plectrum it’s a good exercise.

    It helps me figure out where I want to be on the neck for each chord. Once that’s worked out, I find a couple of chord tones between the melody and root, or might put a chord tone below the root (e.g., putting G in the bass on an Eb chord. After working out a simple arrangement I’ll try embellishing the bass or melody lines (e.g. adding chromatic approach notes).

    It feels a little weird at first and takes a while to get the hang of it, but it gets easier with every tune.

  11. #10

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    When I play "It Could Happen To You" solo, I usually play it in G, lays really well. Like all instruments with a limited range (i.e. not piano), I think it makes sense to look at the melody and understand the range, and where it will sound best on the instrument.

  12. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by pcsanwald
    When I play "It Could Happen To You" solo, I usually play it in G, lays really well. Like all instruments with a limited range (i.e. not piano), I think it makes sense to look at the melody and understand the range, and where it will sound best on the instrument.
    Agreed, Paul although I also like the challenge presented by those kind of limitations. As it happens, G major was the original written key for It Could Happen To You (ditto for Autumn Leaves and Stella by Starlight).

  13. #12

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    Speaking of keys:

    C -- pretty good. has access to maj7, 9, 3 and 5 on open strings. A is useful in the key as a bass note, quite often. You get the natural harmonics and the range of the tunes often fit well on the guitar.

    Db -- generally without a lot of open string advantage.

    D -- Generally pretty good and you can tune the low E down a step.

    Eb -- Not bad. The open G can be helpful. The V7 alterations include the B and E strings open. The key is better than it might seem at first.

    E -- Sure.

    F -- maj7 and 9 available as open strings. lydian sound too. Bass note is nice and low

    F# -- Who knows? Who plays anything in this key? You get the b7 with the open E string, which can help. The iim, is G#m9, can be played 4x4302 which gives you the b3 on the open B string

    G -- obvious

    Ab -- no major advantages

    A -- obvious

    Bb -- The open G string can be important. A lot of stuff falls in the middle of the neck, which is nice.

    B -- See F# entry.
    Last edited by rpjazzguitar; 02-07-2020 at 12:08 AM.

  14. #13

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    No reason to play a solo piece in the original key. Find keys that let the melody sing and allow a good accompaniment style. It Could Happen To You was originally published in G, a great key for chord melody.

  15. #14

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    Changing keys is great - why not? Every vocalist has "their key" for a given standard - why not you?

    Here's one I did in F:

    It Could Happen to You.mp3

  16. #15

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    I’ve also been playing this tune in F, I found it really lays out well on the guitar in either F or G.

  17. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by bengruven
    Changing keys is great - why not? Every vocalist has "their key" for a given standard - why not you?

    Here's one I did in F:

    It Could Happen to You.mp3
    Hi, B,
    Beautiful playing and arrangement. I love the "smoky" sound of your guitar. It sounds like you are playing fingerstyle. Good playing . . . Marinero

  18. #17

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    Why Did I Choose You is another tune all over at least for myself. I find it best in the key of G.

  19. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by Marinero
    Hi, B,
    Beautiful playing and arrangement. I love the "smoky" sound of your guitar. It sounds like you are playing fingerstyle. Good playing . . . Marinero
    Thanks! Yes, I am playing fingerstyle there. The "smoky tone" comes from the "Mesa Boogie" amp emulation in Logic Pro, which oddly enough I find to be the best of the "amps" in Logic for a warm clean jazz tone.

    But, going back to the point of the post, while of course you want to know a tune in its standard key(s) for playing with others, for solo guitar playing I recommend trying several keys - at least one of them will lay right on the guitar and sound good to you, I'll bet.