Chord Melody Guitar Hub on FretDojo:
Welcome to the Chord Melody Guitar lessons area on FretDojo!
If you’re like most guitarists, you’re in wonder of players like Lenny Breau, Joe Pass, and Ted Greene in the way they can combine melody and chords on a single guitar.
This skill doesn’t need to be a mystery…
Developing the ability of a chord melody guitarist can be done step-by-step if you have the right resources.
On this page, you’ll find a variety of lessons, chord melody courses, and useful information to help you on your journey into the incredible world of chord melody.
Read on for all the info…
Quick Start Guide: How To Learn Chord Melody Guitar In A Nutshell:
There’s an old saying that goes “If you can read, you can cook”.
If you can play chords and single lines, you can play chord melody.
Chord melody is a bit like baking a cake. You need to have all your ingredients in order, namely:
- Chord Voicings
- Single lines – i.e. scales, melodies, and licks
- Adequate technique to play chords and melody at the same time.
If any of the above ingredients are missing, then you are going to find chord melody a struggle.
Let’s look at each of these areas in turn:
Chord Melody Guitar Ingredient #1 – Chord Voicings
Goes without saying:
You need a good stock of chord voicings available to you if you are going to harmonize a melody with chords.
This is where a student can become quickly overwhelmed though…
If you read something like Ted Greene’s Chord Chemistry, you would be forgiven for thinking you need to know at least 200 million chord shapes before you qualify to play a jazz guitar chord melody.
Nothing could be further than the truth. In fact, less is more.
Here’s the thing:
Many jazz guitar chord voicings sound very similar to each other.
You can save a lot of time when starting out to be selective in the chord voicings in your ‘playbook’ – it makes the topic of chord melody far more manageable.
I tend to pick a voicing that is the most playable out of the available options – even if it’s missing some of the chord tones to represent the chord. Playability is the key.
For example, here are some chord shapes I enjoy using for chord melody that could be used for a C Major chord:
Takeaway: Develop a chord dictionary of voicings that will work over all the main chord types (major, minor, and dominant). Once you have that, apply voicings that have the melody as the highest note.
As you can hear:
All these voicings tend to have a similar ‘major-ish’ sound about them.
Also, notice how I’ve harmonized every note of the C Major scale – that gives me the ability to harmonize any note in the key.
Ok, so that’s chords – which is a major part of chord melody. But it isn’t everything.
Let’s have a look at ingredient #2…
Hint: My Chord Melody Foundations course comes with a complete dictionary of the most useful chord voicings I’ve found for this style of chord melody.
Goes without sayin’…
If you don’t have a melody, you can’t have a chord melody.
Pretty simple right?
For chord melody on guitar, it’s important to be able to play melodies horizontally on the fretboard.
Let’s take a look at a short melody that I came up with below.
It’s going to be hard to fit chords underneath some of those notes.
So, let’s now play the melody horizontally on the fretboard like this:
This will enable me to fit the chord voicings we covered earlier underneath the melody line on the guitar.
Let’s now mix Ingredient #1 (chord voicings) with Ingredient #2 (single lines).
Applying the above voicings from my ‘chord dictionary’ to my melody, we get the following:
Hey presto! We have a little chord melody right there.
Notice though how I don’t necessarily need to harmonize every melody note. That can actually be detrimental to the music as the line becomes too ‘clogged up’ with chords.
I prefer to follow Joe Pass’s style: harmonizing the occasional melody note with chords.
If the music is easier on your hands, it will likely sound better too!
But there’s one more thing we need to really make our chord melody fly…
Takeaway: Develop your guitar technique so you can change chords and play melodies effortlessly – this will be one of the critical factors in your success as a chord melody player.
Only half of a chord melody performance is in its arrangement.
Getting it to a stage where you can execute it requires a solid level of technique.
Are you playing the chords fluently?
Are you holding the melody notes for a suitable duration?
You could also use fingerstyle techniques to create interesting textures in the chords, like this:
Having solid left hand and right hand technique is indispensable for a chord melody guitarist, so it’s important that you spend time in your practice session working on exercises to shore up your techniques where you notice weaknesses.
If you are struggling to change chords in your arrangement, I would spend some time strumming the chord changes back and forth until it becomes natural.
Hint: Check out the FretDojo Guitar Exercises lessons hub for great free lessons and fully-fledged courses on developing your guitar technique and fingerstyle approaches.
Online Course – Chord Melody Foundations:
The above guide was a little snapshot of what’s in store if you enroll in my Chord Melody Foundations course.
It’s a 4 module deep dive program, comprising a complete A-Z guide of developing your skill as a chord melody guitarist.
The course includes a complete chord dictionary of the most useful voicings, and step-by-step video lessons on how to make great-sounding chord melody arrangements that can be played along with bass and drums, or on your own as a solo guitarist.
This course not only teaches you to play an arrangement of a song, but the course covers a number of techniques where you can add your own individuality and your own personality to each song.
The whole course is a winner and I recommend it highly.
Before I took this course I thought it was going to be way over my head. But Greg’s course is so so helpful. He’s been able to get you up and running with all the chords that you need.
He enables you to arrange a song of your choice, which is really exciting!
Or Get It All With FretDojo Academy Membership:
With FretDojo Academy Membership, you get access on a monthly subscription basis to the above chord melody course mentioned as well as 40+ other courses where you’ll learn some of the most well-loved jazz standards – and develop all your guitar skills along the way.
Most of the jazz standard courses in the membership include example chord melody arrangements you can learn as well as detailed lessons on how to further develop this side of your playing.
Every month includes brand new lessons on well-loved tunes to broaden your repertoire and so you can continue to build your skills.
I’ve participated in TWO 12 week courses with an internationally famous music university…
I can safely say the investment in lessons with Greg has been worth more than 95% of all the other formal and informal education I’ve managed to derive for myself.
Greg O’Rourke has a wonderful teaching style – it’s straightforward, it makes sense.
I’ve been playing for so long by sound and feel, and I really needed a good, strong solid foundation for how to understand the fretboard and know where to navigate on the fretboard. FretDojo has been super-helpful to me in getting that done.
The Academy Membership is my most popular program with hundreds of students worldwide. It’s a great way to get access to the large FretDojo lesson curriculum for an affordable monthly subscription.
Find out more about the FretDojo Academy Membership here >>
Bonus: Free Sample Lessons On Chord Melody Guitar
Over the years, I’ve released some handy sample lessons on to help get you started on this amazing style of guitar playing. See below for some of my most popular posts on the topic of chord melody:
- Chord Melody Guitar Basics – demonstrates yours truly transforming an original composition into a cool chord melody arrangement.
- Why I Love Playing Chord Melody – What I really enjoy about chord melody guitar and it’s immense creative possibilities.
- Great Chord Melody Guitarists Part 1: Ed Bickert – Style breakdown and analysis of this incredible chord melody guitarist.
- Video: Jamming On Green Dolphin Street – Example video of yours truly having some late night fun with Lenny Breau inspired chord melody approaches.
Any questions about our offerings? Click here to get in touch and we’ll be happy to help you out.
How about YOU – what did you think of this article on chord melody guitar? Any other ideas you would like to share? Leave a comment below to get the conversation started…
~ Greg O’Rourke
BMus, Hons (ANU)
Founder, Fret Dojo