So you’ve got a chord progression
and melody together for the first verse of your newest song, but something
keeps nagging at you in the back of your head.
You’ve heard this combination used a
hundred times before and it just seems bland!
You’re accompanying chord progression and vocal melody doesn’t really
seem to “justify” all the depth and work you put into writing the lyrics. It’s almost as if the lyrics are a vibrant
and colorful extension of yourself, but the accompanying music/melody is a
separate being…floating in a colorless world.
Well, in this article I will discuss 1 of the many compositional
techniques to help unify your lyrics, accompanying music, and melody all in a
very unique and musically colorful way.
First let’s introduce “your” chord
progression and melody (just imagine some of your best lyrics there as well).
ALL OF THE EXAMPLES FOR THIS ARTICLE CAN BE DOWNLOADED/VIEWED HERE
There is nothing wrong with this
melody/progression, but like I mentioned earlier…it’s a bit bland and over
used. So, to begin adding a little color
in our music we must isolate each section and then decide how to best add
color. Let’s start with the Melody.
In the example above, you can see
that as we change from the “D Major” chord to the “E Minor” chord, we sit on
the root note (or 1) for quite a while.
Well, if we want to make this more unique and add color, we should
change this pitch to something other than the root. We have many different options, but for this
example let’s change the melody a bit by first adding in a “9” before we go to
the root note in each chord. The example
below will explain what I mean.
As you play/sing through this
example, you’ll hear that the “9” on the “D Major” chord adds a little bit of
color/dissonance, but the “9” on the “E Minor” chord sounds very cool and adds
quite a bit more color! This is because
the “9” in an “E Minor” chord is “F#” and it rubs against the 3rd of
the chord “G,” which are only a half-step (or 1 fret) away from each other.
Alright, so you like the sound of
this, but want to take it one step further.
Well, that means its now time to mess with the Chord Progression a
little bit. So, we first will make the
decision that our two chords should also contain a “9” in them. Not only that, but we should also choose a
style we want this song to be in. This
is because “9s” in chords can be found in many different genres ranging from
Rock to Classical. So for right now lets
just say the lyrics would best be accompanied by a Latin Jazz Chord
If you are familiar with Latin Jazz
then great! You will have a “chord
vocabulary” to pull from; however, what if you are not familiar with Latin
Jazz? Well then, I recommend consulting
a book of chords (can be bought in any guitar shop or found online) that deal
specifically with the genre of music you want to write your chord progression
in. Fortunately for both you and I, I’m
semi-experienced in Latin Jazz, so I’ve chosen the “D 6/9” chord (D F# B E) and
“E Minor 9” chord (E G D F#) as the 2 chords we are going to alternate between
in this verse. Here is our new Melody +
Chord Progression together (played with a standard Latin rhythm feel…won’t be
whole notes ringing out).
If it’s a bit
difficult for you to play/sing this and really know what I’m talking about when
I say so and so added “color,” then you can listen to me play and sing this
example HERE. All you have to do is enter a valid e-mail address
and you will instantly be sent a link where you can listen to this example.
I think it’s safe to say that our new
melody and chord progression are now much more colorful and unique than our
original one. However, it’s not so far
removed that it’s impossible to see how one evolved from the other.
This now ends the article, but I
would like to invite all of you to take this new found knowledge and
practically apply it in your music. In
fact, I’m holding a Songwriting Contest right now (Ends April 3rd,
2009!) and you should enter in it HERE! It specifically deals with harmonizing a
melody and you have absolutely nothing to loose (but many great prizes to win)!
So, I hope to see/hear all of your
submissions soon! Like always, keep
composing fellow artists.
Copyright © 2009 Kole (Kyle
Hicks). All rights reserved.