Little Wing - A Simple Chord Tone Melody Lesson (part 2)
Guitar Lesson by Kirk Lorange
Difficulty Rating: Beginner-Intermediate
In the first lesson, I showed you how chord tones can be used to create good, strong, valid melody. In this lesson I'll show you you can harmonize melody lines simply by adding another chord tone to the first. You don't need to learn the rules of harmony, or notation, or know how many sharps or flats there are in the key ... none of that stuff. All you need to know is how to look at your fretboard as 'the chord'.
I've used the very same homemade backing track as Lesson 1, so the progression is exactly the same:
We're in the key of G or Em, whatever way you prefer to see it. I like G myself. Even though this progression starts and ends on Em -- which certainly implies Em -- G works better for me. Below are the Roman numerals, as the key of G, if you're into that kind of thing
The red chords are the two that are not from the key of G (or Em). They're the ones that would bring you unstuck if you were trying to create melody thinking scales. You'd have to switch scales when playing through those two chords.
I won't go into all the theory detail about the chords here as I did all that in part 1. If you haven't seen that lesson, I recommend that you watch it first, then come back to this one.
What you will see in this lesson is a series of 'double stops', which is a fancy way of saying 'two notes played at the same time'. This is a harmonized melody line, whereas the first lesson showed a single note melody line. It came about in the same way as the first, namely stringing pairs of chord tones together to form phrases that, when heard together, make the melody line.
How do I know which will work together? Well, in this case I decided to grab chord tones on adjacent strings. I could have played any two chord tones, however, that I could get my fingers to reach, and it still would have sounded 'right', if not a little disjointed. When you can look down and see all chord tones, you're looking at all the 1s,3s and 5s -- at least -- of the chord in play. So if I were to simply pick random pairs on any strings, I might wind up playing some octaves in amongst it all -- two 3s, for example, an octave apart -- and that would take away from the harmony sound.
So, all I'm doing in this is playing two notes from the COTM (Chord Of The Moment) and doing so on adjacent strings. Like I say, when you can see the fretboard as chord tones, it's just as easy to grab two at a time as it is one at a time. And when you get to those 'outside of the key' chords ... nothing changes. You don't need to worry about new scales. Why? Because the note that makes it an 'outside chord' is in the chord, is a chord tone. If what you're seeing down there on the fretboard are the chord tones, the harmony will simply happen -- automatically. That is the beauty of this mindset.
You will see in the movie, as you did in version 1, the chord tone names displayed in white circles. This time, however, you'll see two green circles highlighting the notes in play. You can either take my word for it that they are the notes I'm playing or check yourself by start/stopping the movie. The order of the tones is, from left to right: Root (1), Third (3) and Fifth (5). You will see all the combinations come up: 1-3,1-5,3-5.
Am I consciously aware of the combinations and choosing between them? No, not really. I'm seeing the overall shape of the melody I'm creating, planning ahead a bit to keep it interesting, but I'm not aware of the note names as such. There's no need for that. If all of a sudden the tune changed key, I'd still be looking at the same thing, jogged out to its proper position. I'm looking at geometry, if anything.
This is a very simple, straight forward example, ploddingly so, and I did that on purpose to make it nice and clear. It only uses chord tones, which you probably won't really want to do in 'real life'. Harmonizing non chord tones gets slightly trickier, but there's a simple trick to that too. I explain it all in my book/DVD PlaneTalk and it's all discussed on a daily basis in the Private PlaneTalkers Forum, so if you're at the point where you'd like to learn about all this, you can order the full PlaneTalk package here.
Have fun with this. Learn it if you want, the tab is below, but mainly just watch and listen and understand what's going on: Chord Tones and only chord tones are creating this sound. It's right, it's solid, nothing is sour, it's on the money. Sure, it's a little boring, but this is a very basic example played to a dull midi backing track. The principle, though, is valid for all levels and styles. You don't have to study the rules of harmony to know how to do it, you just need to be able to see chord tones and join the dots.
This lesson is also a PlaneTalker bonus lesson, but instead of showing the note names -- no need for that -- the video shows another overlay on the virtual fretboard, the PlaneTalk mindset overlay. Find out more about Planetalk here.
>>> Click here to see Lesson 3
Download the backing track for this. I've made it loop through 10 times so you can have fun creating your own lines.
The video below is an example of some free improvisation over this same track. In this version, I'm not worrying about keeping strictly to chord tones, I'm just playing melody lines. However, the vast bulk of notes are chord tones. That's why it sounds so 'right' all the time. There are no sour notes, no uncomfortable resolves to weak notes, nothing that stands out as wrong. The melody lines are always firmly glued to the backing track because they're mostly chord tones. Non chord tones are always embellishment, detail, passing tones.
This video, with the PlaneTalk mindset overlaid on the virtual fretboard, is another bonus lesson you get when you order the Full PlaneTalk package.