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  1. #1

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    It takes me a LONG time to get a chord melody performance-ready, so I don't really want to work it up in multiple keys to find one that works better than the others. How do you choose a key for a new chord melody? So many standards were written in flat keys for horn players, but I don't feel any allegiance to the original key, and guitar lends itself to sharp keys. Thanks!

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  3. #2

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    Quote Originally Posted by JazzDaddyD
    It takes me a LONG time to get a chord melody performance-ready, so I don't really want to work it up in multiple keys to find one that works better than the others. How do you choose a key for a new chord melody? So many standards were written in flat keys for horn players, but I don't feel any allegiance to the original key, and guitar lends itself to sharp keys. Thanks!
    I like trying the original keys... it is fun.

    Also I do not actually elaborate that stuff but rather find paths through the song on spot... my preparation is more about learning the melody and playing around harmony

    (lately I more and more play from melody downwards by ear not ftom changes or bass)

    in that approach changing a key is easier than when you have ready arrangement.

  4. #3
    I don't know your process so this may not be for you at all, but when I learn any piece, it's with a fretboard "map" that I see in roman numerals. I do this because it gives me facility that translates to any key because no matter what key you're in your chords are always going to be in a location that's the same relative to where you are.
    This gives the advantage of moving you towards a way of seeing all the options of where you can move to, choosing something for the sound as well as fingering convenience and building up a re-usable template for any piece you play and you'll learn a lot about the guitar while you're learning one piece.
    The disadvantage is it's going to force you to learn something about the guitar rather than just the fixed single arrangement through one piece, and roman numeral hearing/thinking is very much a matter of being able to hear all harmony in a retrievable way to bring you closer to playing by ear rather than by hand. That means you have to train your ear. But that being said, it makes you a much more facile and engaged player. Despite what "playing by the numerals" might suggest, it's actually acquiring a better ear, and that's what chord melodies are made from and played with.

    As far as what key? Any key that utilizes the open strings and has a natural open chord(s) within that key is going to have a familiarity and consonance available to the chords you'll encounter. G, C, D, E will have a nice easy use of open string and chord and melody forms that bring you home to sounds and notes that are natural for the guitar. This gives you nice pedal tones for the tonic chord but also if they happen to be keys that have open notes as the IV or V of that key, they're cool to use and allow wide range in your voicings. But keys and chords that have those open strings as tensions will give you those "Holy **** what IS that chord?" sound. People were amazed that Ralph Towner could play jazz with what sounded like open tunings, but he used the open strings to get contrasts with the voiced notes. The open notes allow very tight voicings.

    Once you know your movable chords, basically you can move anywhere and aside from the open strings, any piece becomes movable. That's the beauty of the guitar. Open strings will be your limiting and liberating part of the equation.

    Have you built a "map" of the fingerboard based on where the chords are (I chord on the 4th string has a IV chord one string over, V chord on the other side same fret)? If you're making an arrangement for a chord solo, this will be helpful, if not essential because it gives you the layout for the guitarist that's so easy and natural for the pianist.

    But this is just how I see it. You might not like the learning curve that gets you to that plateau. Much depends on the level of the skillset you have right now.
    Good luck.

  5. #4

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    I usually use the original key if possible, just seems easier to me. But sometimes a tune doesn’t work very well as a solo piece in the original key, i.e. the melody goes too low or too high at some point. In which case I usually try shifting the key up or down by a few steps, until it works better.

    As an example I have been playing ‘Skylark’ and it lays on the guitar as a solo piece much better in C than the given key of Eb.

    Similarly I do ‘I Thought About You’ in Bb instead of F.

  6. #5

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    I think it’s good to be able to it in the original key.

    But no reason why you have to; changing keys is good practice. Listen to Ted Greene he modulates all the time(!)

    I think sometimes you get interesting stuff with open strings in flat keys.

    In general my process is that I try to learn to play the melody well. Often you’ll find a melody sits better in one key than another. But I like to melodies quite low on the guitar... which can be a challenge to arrange if you are thinking in block chords haha. But I often like very sparse chords but lots of movement.

    I don’t make written out arrangements, but some might find that helpful.
    Last edited by christianm77; 03-25-2021 at 06:15 AM.

  7. #6

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    I use the original key unless the melody range gets weird (too high or too low)

  8. #7

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    I try to do it in the original key, then give up and do it in G.

    Not really, but kinda really. I like to be able to keep it in the middle of the fretboard, and will often move tunes that are in F to G (e.g., Here's that Rainy Day, Polka Dots and Moonbeams). I'm often not aware of the what the "original" key even is, depending on which version or person I picked a tune up from. If I can't make that work, I move it around until I find a key where I can. I don't really think of songs as inherently being in one key or another. I think of them as being inherently adaptable to a voice's or instrument's range and/or limitations.

    John

  9. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jimmy blue note
    I don't know your process so this may not be for you at all, but when I learn any piece, it's with a fretboard "map" that I see in roman numerals. I do this because it gives me facility that translates to any key because no matter what key you're in your chords are always going to be in a location that's the same relative to where you are.
    This gives the advantage of moving you towards a way of seeing all the options of where you can move to, choosing something for the sound as well as fingering convenience and building up a re-usable template for any piece you play and you'll learn a lot about the guitar while you're learning one piece.
    The disadvantage is it's going to force you to learn something about the guitar rather than just the fixed single arrangement through one piece, and roman numeral hearing/thinking is very much a matter of being able to hear all harmony in a retrievable way to bring you closer to playing by ear rather than by hand. That means you have to train your ear. But that being said, it makes you a much more facile and engaged player. Despite what "playing by the numerals" might suggest, it's actually acquiring a better ear, and that's what chord melodies are made from and played with.

    As far as what key? Any key that utilizes the open strings and has a natural open chord(s) within that key is going to have a familiarity and consonance available to the chords you'll encounter. G, C, D, E will have a nice easy use of open string and chord and melody forms that bring you home to sounds and notes that are natural for the guitar. This gives you nice pedal tones for the tonic chord but also if they happen to be keys that have open notes as the IV or V of that key, they're cool to use and allow wide range in your voicings. But keys and chords that have those open strings as tensions will give you those "Holy **** what IS that chord?" sound. People were amazed that Ralph Towner could play jazz with what sounded like open tunings, but he used the open strings to get contrasts with the voiced notes. The open notes allow very tight voicings.

    Once you know your movable chords, basically you can move anywhere and aside from the open strings, any piece becomes movable. That's the beauty of the guitar. Open strings will be your limiting and liberating part of the equation.

    Have you built a "map" of the fingerboard based on where the chords are (I chord on the 4th string has a IV chord one string over, V chord on the other side same fret)? If you're making an arrangement for a chord solo, this will be helpful, if not essential because it gives you the layout for the guitarist that's so easy and natural for the pianist.

    But this is just how I see it. You might not like the learning curve that gets you to that plateau. Much depends on the level of the skillset you have right now.
    Good luck.
    I've been using the Roman Numeral system since forever. Once I have my root note established, all the chords are mapped out all over the FB. When the tune modulates, the chord forms modulate. I first learn the tune as written. Then I transpose it into a key that is comfortable to sing, b/c you never know. Once I can sing it I can play it in any key whether I'm singing aloud or not.

  10. #9

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    This may seem trite but I like to have arrangements that focus on the center of the fingerboard so I have lots of room to go up without having to play chords above the octave and down without having to use a lot of open chords.

  11. #10

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    I start with original key. I do use open strings. Rarely, I tranpose, usually to get the low E or A as bass notes.

    Each commonly used key has it's own relationship to open strings. C G D A E are obvious. There isn't much in B or F#.

    F gives you the maj7, #11 and 9 of the tonic on the top three strings, all of which are useful quite often. The open G can work in many chords common in tunes in F, which creates opportunities for a pedal tone that can sound great.

    Bb give you #11, b9 and 13, all useful

    Eb is a favorite because of the open G. It will do a lot in the key of Eb.

    Ab gives you a maj7 on the G string. I don't end up using the high E or B much.

  12. #11

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    As a hobbyist I normally use the original keys for most of the reasons noted above, including use of open strings as extensions (or substitutions). With limited time to learn new tunes, another reason for me is that working up a chord melody in the original key serves the dual purpose of getting me familiar with a tune from a songbook that is often used at local weekly jam sessions where I live.