Old 06-01-2017, 12:11 PM   #1
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Default melody forced into chords

so striking a chord and then humming a melody is the easy way i guess

but humming a melody and then trying to find in real time what chords would fit is where i mess up

any way to work around this?

Thank you
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Old 06-01-2017, 03:01 PM   #2
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When you feel it's time to change chords, try treating the note you're singing as either the 1st, 3rd or 5th of the new chord. One of those newly built chords will often correspond to the idea/sound you had in mind.

Familiarize with where those chord tones are in the basic barre chord shapes so you can build chords around the note you are singing at that point.
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Old 06-01-2017, 03:27 PM   #3
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There is no way to not achieve fundamental knowledge in music theory. Music theory is exactly what gives you the tools and the understanding what is going on between melodies and harmonies.
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Old 06-02-2017, 06:59 AM   #4
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Haervo may have a point (although I am not sure that say, the likes of Mssrs Lennon and McCartney had much theory) and I am sure some basic reading/viewing would help.

But as a general idea I think getting the melody first is a great idea - it might help avoid a slavish following of the chords possibly leading to melodic cliches.
To be honest devising a chordal accompaniment is not a horrible thing to do - treat it as part of the creative process cos...it is!
Much jazz for instance consists of devising new (substitute) chords for those originally written. In a sense you won't be wrong no matter what you devise (it may fall into the class of "interesting" however rather than conventionally pleasing!)
For a "conventional" and entertaining approach to getting the "correct" chords see this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=imj7FniRzyY

A final Beatle thought - I remember being amazed when I realised that The Beatles sometimes changed chord BUT left the melody note unchanged. Simple thing I know but I just had never thought of it.

Last edited by martifingers; 06-02-2017 at 07:01 AM. Reason: Sense!
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Old 06-02-2017, 02:29 PM   #5
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cool thanks guys!
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Old 06-02-2017, 02:43 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by martifingers View Post
Haervo may have a point (although I am not sure that say, the likes of Mssrs Lennon and McCartney had much theory) and I am sure some basic reading/viewing would help.

...

A final Beatle thought - I remember being amazed when I realised that The Beatles sometimes changed chord BUT left the melody note unchanged. Simple thing I know but I just had never thought of it.
Hm. I have at times analyzed a lot of Beatles-songs. A song like "Help" tells me, they had more than a clue. Much more. And that is only one example. Because we have now the age of the new Sgt. Pepper I am falling from one unconsciousness into the next about their composition skills.

So my take would be: getting the ground rules of music theory halfway straight, then analyse all the songs from Sgt. Pepper (and maybe "Abbey Road") and then compose, because after that you have the complete musical unvierse at your fingertipps.

For "chords vs. melody" see "I am the walrus". Genius.
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Old 06-05-2017, 01:24 PM   #7
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(although I am not sure that say, the likes of Mssrs Lennon and McCartney had much theory)
I'm not familiar with which of them had much formal music training as youngsters. What they may have lacked in formal music theory training, they made up for with experience. They certainly knew how different chord types sounded, and which chords went together to form certain progressions.

To the OP, a good place to start is learning how the different chord types sound. Then say you're playing/singing a D note in the melody and feel like you want the sound of a Maj6 chord, you have some starting points:

D F# A B = D6
Bb D F G = Bb6
G B D E = G6
F A C D = F6

You can further filter the choices if you know what key you are using. Let's say you know you are in the key of A. They major chords in the Key of A are A, D, and E. So of the above choices, you probably want to choose D6.

If you're singing a melody without any idea of what key you are in, or what the different chord types sound like, you're in for a lot of frustration trying to choose a chord that makes the sound that you hear in your mind.
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Old 06-05-2017, 02:20 PM   #8
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I'm not familiar with which of them had much formal music training as youngsters. What they may have lacked in formal music theory training, they made up for with experience. They certainly knew how different chord types sounded, and which chords went together to form certain progressions.

To the OP, a good place to start is learning how the different chord types sound. Then say you're playing/singing a D note in the melody and feel like you want the sound of a Maj6 chord, you have some starting points:

D F# A B = D6
Bb D F G = Bb6
G B D E = G6
F A C D = F6

You can further filter the choices if you know what key you are using. Let's say you know you are in the key of A. They major chords in the Key of A are A, D, and E. So of the above choices, you probably want to choose D6.

If you're singing a melody without any idea of what key you are in, or what the different chord types sound like, you're in for a lot of frustration trying to choose a chord that makes the sound that you hear in your mind.

yes it also takes me a couple of seconds to find the note i'm humming at...

but yea, i need to work on that too

cheers
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Old 06-05-2017, 02:35 PM   #9
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I once saw a documentary on the Doors. I forget which of the band members said it, but Jim Morrison would come to them with nothing but lyrics and a melody line. He had no concept of chords or anything related to musical theory. So, given just the melody, the rest of the guys had to work out the key and the chord progressions.
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Old 06-05-2017, 02:38 PM   #10
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You can always write down all the notes you have, order them, then harmonize it like a scale to find all the chords that go with it. By the time you do that you know if it fits a diatonic key or not and if it does, voila, there are all your diatonic chord choices. That should at minimum get you down to a handful of keys.
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Old 06-06-2017, 03:41 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by lunker View Post
I'm not familiar with which of them had much formal music training as youngsters. What they may have lacked in formal music theory training, they made up for with experience. They certainly knew how different chord types sounded, and which chords went together to form certain progressions.

T.
I think the answer is ... none of them. Listening to the studio chat where they attempt to communicate musical ideas sometimes sounds close to shambolic and conventional musical nomenclature is noticeable by its absence. Yet as you say they somehow had phenomenal musical creativity (andat so young an age!)
The recent Howard Goodall documentary on Sgt Pepper (well worth watching by the way) claims that the majority of the songs in that cycle actually modulate in one form or another. Why would you think of doing that? They couldn't have been digesting something ... could they?
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Old 06-06-2017, 05:32 AM   #12
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The recent Howard Goodall documentary on Sgt Pepper (well worth watching by the way) claims that the majority of the songs in that cycle actually modulate in one form or another. Why would you think of doing that? They couldn't have been digesting something ... could they?
Well if they weren't doing anything as posh as "modulating" but just trying going up a bit to hear what it sounds like...anyone might try that . And of course, although Goodall's documentary basically ignored his influence, they did have a classically trained George Martin smoothing out quite a lot of things for them.

Steve
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Old 06-06-2017, 11:50 AM   #13
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Well if they weren't doing anything as posh as "modulating" but just trying going up a bit to hear what it sounds like...anyone might try that . And of course, although Goodall's documentary basically ignored his influence, they did have a classically trained George Martin smoothing out quite a lot of things for them.

Steve
I totally agree, Steve, that George Martin was not given enough credit. But they did so much more than "going up a bit" - any Country band can do that. No, it's all about how the modulations are achieved... and to do that convincingly and memorably is, I suggest, no easy matter.
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Old 06-06-2017, 01:31 PM   #14
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Years ago I went through the Beatles catalog looking for commonality between songs or for something that was definitively Beatlesesque. Although I didn't find a holy grail, one thing I did discover was that they had a large number of songs that go to the IV minor at some point (Across the Universe, Nowhere Man, She Loves You, Any Time at All, and many more). I would have have to go through them again to tell you how many but it was a lot.

Going to IV minor is very common in jazz and is a staple in the Great American Songbook but it is does not seem as common in rock music. It's really not a key change though, but instead more of a borrowed chord from the parallel minor key. Jazz musicians call it the backdoor and it often is used instead of the V chord. Try Nowhere Man with a B chord instead of Am and it sounds so ordinary.

George Harrison used IV minor quite frequently in his music as well.

Food for thought!
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Old 06-07-2017, 02:12 AM   #15
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Yes indeed that is something they did like . You may find this interesting (or in my case a revelation):
http://www.icce.rug.nl/~soundscapes/...notes_on.shtml
Not so much food for thought as a feast...
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Old 06-07-2017, 03:08 AM   #16
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Which still leads cynical old me to wonder how often they were thinking "Let's borrow a IVm and stick it in here to make it sound special" and how often they really just tried out chords that sounded good to them and were lucky enough not to have had the conventional music training that would have told them that they were doing something "wrong" and so stopped them from making songs as they did.

It's not just the Beatles of course. I think we often assume that musicians are thinking more about the detail of what they are playing when they're really just playing what sounds right to them.

It's always worth remembering that music theory is basically descriptive. It explains what musicians are doing and maybe why it works, it doesn't tell them what they must do.

Steve
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Old 06-07-2017, 10:57 AM   #17
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I think we often assume that musicians are thinking more about the detail of what they are playing when they're really just playing what sounds right to them
Very often it's a simple combination of one or more people having a great musical memory and starting out by learning lots of covers. It all stays in their head giving them a near endless supply of chordal transitions that sound great and sound genius (whether they actually remember exactly where they got it from or not) and, combined with mixing and matching various themes in this pool.

Every person absolutely does not have that type of musical memory but those who do tend to be able to draw from it at will and for a lifetime, regardless of having or not having theory - The theory in this scenario simply comes in handy for those trying to analyze it after the fact but had little to do (consciously) during the composition process.


Quote:
It's always worth remembering that music theory is basically descriptive. It explains what musicians are doing and maybe why it works, it doesn't tell them what they must do.
^This.
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Old 06-07-2017, 12:58 PM   #18
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... how often they really just tried out chords that sounded good to them and were lucky enough not to have had the conventional music training that would have told them that they were doing something "wrong" ...
I hate to admit, but some of the more memorable, adventurous, and "cool" sounding parts of my songs have come from actual "wrong" notes (incorrectly-fingered chords, thinking I wanted one chord, but playing it in a different key by mistake, etc.).

Often they do sound wrong. But every once in a while, it's like "Whoa! What did I just play? It was PERFECT for this song." Then I sit down, figure out what the chord actual was, and why it sounded good.

So yeah ... not having someone to tell you you're wrong can be a good thing.
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Old 06-07-2017, 01:33 PM   #19
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Good point about theory being descriptive rather than prescriptive.
I seem to remember John Lennon said somewhere about song writing (quoted I believe in the Let It Be "booklet") something along the lines of "The problem is always the same ... and the answer is always the same! How to stop it going dum-de-dum-de-dum". By which I took the meaning that you have to avoid cliche and keep re-inventing the form.

And karbomusic's point about having internalised lots of covers is very interesting. Think of all those extended nights in Hamburg and the Cavern sessions churning out RandB and Buddy Holly and the like. The brilliant thing was that they chose not simply to draw on that but also to incorporate everything else that the more open 1960's was throwing up from avant garde classical, Indian music, folk, and Western classical (via George Martin?) etc.
I wonder too if the effort and energy needed to do that (and John's notorious laziness etc.) just couldn't be sustained. Or (and here is a Beatles Studies PhD Thesis maybe) was there an inevitable tension between musical innovation and the artistic drive to express more personal lyrics that meant the post-60s output was less revolutionary?
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Old 06-07-2017, 02:32 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by lowerbout View Post
Years ago I went through the Beatles catalog looking for commonality between songs or for something that was definitively Beatlesesque. Although I didn't find a holy grail, one thing I did discover was that they had a large number of songs that go to the IV minor at some point (Across the Universe, Nowhere Man, She Loves You, Any Time at All, and many more). I would have have to go through them again to tell you how many but it was a lot.

Going to IV minor is very common in jazz and is a staple in the Great American Songbook but it is does not seem as common in rock music. It's really not a key change though, but instead more of a borrowed chord from the parallel minor key. Jazz musicians call it the backdoor and it often is used instead of the V chord. Try Nowhere Man with a B chord instead of Am and it sounds so ordinary.

George Harrison used IV minor quite frequently in his music as well.

Food for thought!
In My Life is another example, our band played it in key of E-

E, Cdim, C#m, E7, A, Am E

The diminished chord is harmonized harmonic minor, in this case it could be viewed that Cdim is built from the b7 of the G#7 chord [III7] which is the V chord of the following C#m [vi]

iow the Cdim could be seen as substitute for the G#7 [III7] which also works.

Curiously there's a very simple idea underpinning the progression, a chromatic movement of B,C,C#,D,C#,C,B iow chromatically from B to D and back, which is reflected in all of that chord prog.
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Old 06-09-2017, 08:51 PM   #21
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Most experienced musicians know how to put chords to a melody. Great musicians can put many different chords to a given melody and all work, they are just different "flavors".

If you are unable to do this, you may want to do some ear training to learn how to hear how chords fit melodies. Or get some lessons from a good teacher on this.
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