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Adding Chords to a Melody on the Piano – Music Composition

October 21, 2019


Hi. Many musicians out there get a bit
frustrated because maybe they’ve come up with a great melody that they’d like to
work with, but they’re not entirely sure how to get chords to fit the melody. So
here’s a melody, it doesn’t matter if it’s a melody in a style that you would
normally work in or not, because the principles are just the same. So here’s
my little four bar melody. It’s not a melody that’s going to set the
Thames on fire but it will serve a purpose that you might find helpful. Now
down here I’ve got some chords, we’re in the key of C major, so what you do is you
take every note of the scale – C, D, E, F, G, A, B, and then you make up chords. So you do
that by using the first, the third, and the fifth note. In other words C is the
first note, so D would be number two, so E’s number three, F will be number four,
G is number five. So you use one three five, so above C that gives you C, E and G.
Above D it gives you D, F, A. Above E it gives you E, G, B. Above F it gives you
F, A, C. Above G it gives you G, B, D. Above A it gives you A, C, E. And above B
it gives you B, D, F. And we sometimes refer to these as these chords – C, Dm,
Em, F, G, Am, Bdim. Don’t worry too much about the major and the
minor and diminish for the time being, but those are the chords it gives us. Or
some people prefer to do it this way. They use these Roman numerals to call
this chord I, chord II, chord III, chord IV, chord V, chord VI and chord VII.
And basically if you want a chord to fit your melody, you look at the first note
and you think – well the first note’s E, which of these chords has got E in it.
Well chord one has got E in it hasn’t it. So that was fit. Chord six has got an E
in it and chord three has got an E in it. So basically if I take this E I could
put chord one with it. That sounds okay because it’s got an E
in it. I could put chord three with it. That sounds okay because you’ve got an E in it. I could take chord six, sounds okay, that’s
got an E in it. Or to put that another way, a chord of C, a chord of Em or
a chord of Am. But if I try to take chord seven (Bdim) and put that
with it, doesn’t sound very good because there’s a bit of a clash. So you’ll find for
any note in the melody there will always be three chords that fit with it. So then
you can kind of experiment with those three chords and think well which one
do I prefer to use. So for example because it’s the first note of the tune,
you might decide you’re going to start with chord one, or a chord of C, because
that would fit quite nicely wouldn’t it. Now if I put that down, I’m then going to
move on to C. Now C is also in a chord of C or chord one, so I could stick
with that chord of C, or I could move to a different chord that’s got C in it. So
that one is one possibility but chord four, a chord of F, has got C in it and
chord seven, no it’s chord six rather has got to C in it, or a chord of
Am. So I could go from C to Am, or I could go from C to F major, or I
could go from C and stay on C. If you want it to be a little bit gentle, you
don’t want the chords to change very much, you could just stick where you are.
So I’ll do that for now. Let’s go on to the next one. Here we’ve got a D,
sometimes you can just take each single note, sometimes you can put some notes
together. So when I look at this second bar I think well D, B, G, spells out a G
chord doesn’t it. So there’s a G chord or a chord five, ss maybe I could put a G
chord over the whole of that bar because it just happens to fit all of those
notes. Well that’s great isn’t it, so let’s have it G there or a chord five. You
don’t have to do that, you could have one chord for the D, and one for the B, and one
for the G, but it might just make it sound a little bit kind of jolting to be
changing the chords when you’ve got three notes that spell out a chord,
well you might as well just go for it might you. Going on to the next note,
well this isn’t going to fit a chord of G so we probably need
to change. We’re also discovering that we’ve got one chord in the first bar, one
chord in the second bar, so maybe that’s kind of roughly how it’s going to work,
we’ll have to see. A could fit with chord four, the F chord, it could be
something to do with chord two, the Dm chord, or it could be something to
do with chord six, the Am chord. So if it’s the F chord or chord four it’s that, if it’s chord six or Am it’s that, if it’s called two or Dm it’s that. So
it could be any of those things. Well let’s for the sake of arguments go
with a Dm chord which is chord two. Then I may decide I want to carry on
with that because it fits for D, but the trouble is it doesn’t fit the B so I’m
going to have to change aren’t I. I may even think well is there a chord that’s got D
and B in it, and actually you can see D and B fitting in a chord five there
can’t you. It also fits in a chord seven, though I
have to say that usually chord seven doesn’t sound quite so good because it is a
diminished chord it sounds a little bit odd, so you might want to avoid chord
seven most of the time. So how about we go for a chord five or for a G chord,
and then because this is the last note of the shortest melody in history,
well it’s a C and it fits with a C chord or a chord one so that would kind of
bring us home. So if we run with those chords it’s going to sound like this. So
we’re going to have a C chord and a G chord and a Dm chord and a
G chord and a C chord. Or 1, 5, 2, 5, 1. And by the time I’ve got something interesting
going in the accompaniment using those things, it could be quite good. So there we are. How to have a melody that you might have composed or improvised.
How to find chords that fit with it so you could have hours of fun with that. Good luck.

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