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Joined: 30 Apr 2008
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Voicing Melodies Using Chords

by foogered

26 Jun 2008
Views: 9093

First, some terms you need to know. This is somewhat advanced stuff that you probably know by now, but I best make sure I've got all my bases covered:
Voice: The different "vocal" parts of the song or chord. Voicing is how they move and interact with each other.
Soprano: The highest voice.
Alto: The 2nd highest voice.
Tenor: The 2nd lowest voice.
Bass: The lowest voice.
Chord Progression: The chords of the piece and how they change.
Chromatic: Referring to the use of all 12 pitch-classes (A - G) OR movement in half-steps outside of the key.

This is a technique that is a lot of times applied to improvisation, which is easily translatable into songwriting if you've got the patience and chord vocabulary (which this site has provided). In my experience, this technique works best for playing anything with a clean tone or an acoustic guitar. With distortion or overdrive, the chord becomes to muddied to make out clearly.

The technique is just as simple as it sounds. Instead of using chords as a rhythmic foundation for the melody, you mix the two together. This is done by focusing on the most extreme voices of a chord (the Bass and the Soprano), and less on the inside voices of the chord (the Tenor and Alto). For this reason, a lot of the chords I'll use will only be played on 4 strings.

The first step is to outline a melody. Here's a jazz-blues resolution that I stumbled upon the other evening.



E|--7-7-5------------|
b|--------7-6-5------|
g|--------------7-6--|
d|-------------------|
a|-------------------|
e|-------------------|


Typically a guitar might play one or two chords beneath that while some other instrument or another guitar plays the melody over it. Instead, we're going to choose chords that follow that melody line, that is to say, either the soprano or bass voice should include one of the notes. This time we'll go all soprano, since it's easier to hear.



E|--7-7-5------------|
b|--7-7-5-7-6-5-3-2--|
g|--7-7-6-6-5-4-4-2--|
d|--6-6-7-5-4-3-3-0--|
a|--------6-5-----2--|
e|------------5-5----|


The chord progression is Bm6 - A - Eb7#9 - D7#9 - AM7b9 - Dm6 - Bm9

It's obvious that the emphasis is on the soprano, but you can't completely disregard the inner voices. Notice from Eb7#9 through AM7b9 the stair-step pattern on strings d, g, and b. This is what really solidifies these chords in a chromatic progression. I also opted for the AM7b9 and Dm6 because I didn't want the bass voice to be stuck on D. This is why a good chord knowledge is important, because you have to be able to recognize similar chords and understand what sounds good. This is something that you will develop with practice, but what I've outlined here is the structure that you can apply it too.

Here are a few more examples:



E|--8-8-8-8-8-7---5--|
b|--7-7-7-7-7-7-7-5--|
g|--6-6-6-6-6-6-7-6--|
d|--5-5-5-5-5-5-7-7--|
a|-------------------|
e|-------------------|




E|--9-6-3---3--99-66-3---6--9-6-3-------------5--|
b|--9-8-4/5----99-88-4/5----9-8-4/5-6-7-7-7-7-5--|
g|--8-7-5------88-77-5------8-7-5-------7-6-6-6--|
d|--7-6-6------77-66-6------7-6-6-------7-5-5-7--|
a|-----------------------------------------------|
e|--------------------------------------7-6-5----|


Good luck!



Comments:

01
06.26.2008
  foogered

Whoops, there are a few mistypes in there, but hopefully you get the idea.

02
08.28.2008
  JazzMaverick

Any chance you'd be willing to supply a MIDI file, or MP3 file? TABs are helpful for those who can't read notation, but they don't supply the rhythm, nor time signature. Or perhaps you were intending the reader to make their own rhythm? I've done so in my own way, but would like to hear your verson.

Overall though, this is nicely explained.

03
09.12.2008
  foogered

Well, this lesson is aimed mostly at melodies rather than rhythms. I suppose maybe some recordings would help get across what I'm talking about though.

04
11.28.2010
  2jpe2

What happened to baritone between tenor and bass



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