Friday we talked about melodies and how the instrument that they are created on can restrict the melody. Today we’re going to go the other way and hear how the instrument can expand the melody and it’s emotional impact.
(clipped from the newspaper and used by permission of Universal Syndicate)
If you have a melody, written or borrowed., let’s start with that. Let’s put it in the key of D and let’s say the song is in 4/4.
Now the simplest chord progression that we all learn is the D, G, A or I, IV, V progression. Try applying this over the melody in several ways.
Take the first phrase of the melody and only play the D chord; for the second phrase the G chord and for the third phrase the A chord. Listen to the way the melody is affected by these changes.
Now take the same melody and play the D chord for two beats, then the G chord, then the A chord for two beats and then the G chord again for two beats. Do you hear the different way these same chords affect the melody?
Now try playing it one chord to each beat, so that the chord progression is a rolling thing under the melody. Brian Wilson used this kind of thing a lot in his later Beach Boys hits.
You can try these chords in any order and for any length. Every choice you make will affect the unchanged melody differently, with at least interesting results.
Okay, so far, we have stayed in the key center and been very diatonic. Let’s try a little experiment by adding the C chord to the progression. We’re still using the same melody, but the progression we’re doing to try this time is:
D for two beats, C for two beats, G for two beats, and A for two beats and repeat for the length of the melody.
Listen to the affect. What happens emotionally? It’s just amazing.
Play with this. Try it with four beats each or one beat each, and listen each time you do it. Can you hear what happens to the melody when you change the chord underneath it.
For me, this demonstrates how much freedom there is when arranging and composing. Changing the chords to a song you’ve already written is also always a fun way to experiment.
And we haven’t even explored the changes from major to minor chords (tho some accommodation must be done to the melody in some instances).