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#830355 - 07/12/10 03:36 PM Theory question on composing for guitar  
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Kitty84 Offline
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Kitty84  Offline
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OK I'm a vocalist who recently took up guitar, and I'm a little stuck on how guitar chords relate to keyboard, and how they work into songwriting. Example: If I'm trying to write a song and the melody/vocal is going to hit a "C" note, does that mean I need a C chord? When do I need to switch to a different chord?

And is there a way to tell what key the song is in without figuring out every individual note in advance on the piano?


Kate <3

– "The strongest drive is not love or hate. It is one person's need to correct/modify/alter/edit/change/rewrite another's copy."
#830359 - 07/12/10 03:48 PM Re: Theory question on composing for guitar [Re: Kitty84]  
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Well, if you start on C and end on C, you may very well be in the key of C (no sharps or flats.) Unless, you are doing some strange modal thing.


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#830363 - 07/12/10 04:09 PM Re: Theory question on composing for guitar [Re: Jean Bullock]  
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John Lawrence Schick Offline
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Hi Kate,

To simplify the answer; any note can go with any chord. Trust me, I live it. grin

Best, John smile

#830364 - 07/12/10 04:12 PM Re: Theory question on composing for guitar [Re: Jean Bullock]  
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Mike Dunbar Offline
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Kate,

The "key of c" means you're using, mostly, notes from the c scale. Yes, as Jean says, ending your melody on C is often the case with songs in the key of c, but not exclusively.

First, learn what a major scale is:

Do re mi fa sol la ti do. the "eee" sounds, mi and ti, are a half step from the next note. All the rest are a whole step apart. A half step is like one fret to the next, a whole step skips a fret. Or on the piano, a half step is one piano key to the next (not meaning the same as "key of c" though, just the white or black keys).

Sing a lot of do re mi scales. Play a C note on the guitar then sing the scale, then you're singing in the key of c.

That's a good starting place to understand key and scale, when you've done that a bit post back here and tell us what you think about it and we'll continue on.

All the Best,
Mike


You've got to know your limitations. I don't know what your limitations are. I found out what mine were when I was twelve. I found out that there weren't too many limitations, if I did it my way. -Johnny Cash

It's only music.
-niteshift

Mike Dunbar Music

#830386 - 07/12/10 06:20 PM Re: Theory question on composing for guitar [Re: Mike Dunbar]  
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John Lawrence Schick Offline
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Think of chords as the stock in vegetable soup. The melody notes are the vegetables. The vegetables alter the taste of the stock, much in the same way melody notes affect the flavor of the chords.

Some vegetables seem to work better than others in the soup. I enjoy asparagus in my vegetable soup. My wife, Sandra, says it spoils and dominates the soup. I guess the asparagus would symbolize dissonant notes clashing with the chords. Sandra doesn't care for those dissonant clashes in my music either.

But then, when making vegetable soup, any vegetables are fair game, much the same as any melody notes are fair game with chords.

What the H#@% am I talking about? Does anyone have any idea? grin

John smile

#830416 - 07/12/10 08:43 PM Re: Theory question on composing for guitar [Re: John Lawrence Schick]  
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Kitty84 Offline
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OK thanks! Mike, I think you gave the clearest explanation there. I've done some tinkering with scales on the keyboard; I'm just having issues translating that to another instrument.

Basically what I'm trying to figure out, assuming I know what key I'm in, is whether I need to change chords just because the melody is hitting a different note, or if I don't have to because the new note is contained in part of the first chord. Dunno if that makes any sense.


Kate <3

– "The strongest drive is not love or hate. It is one person's need to correct/modify/alter/edit/change/rewrite another's copy."
#830475 - 07/13/10 07:11 AM Re: Theory question on composing for guitar [Re: Kitty84]  
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BIG JIM MERRILEES Offline
BIG JIM MERRILEES  Offline

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The same chords played on guitar and piano will sound the same or very similar and contain mostly the same notes. If you can already play piano and know the chords the jump to understanding guitar chords should be relatively simple.

Your ears should tell you when chords have to change to suit the melody and if the chords are the right fit.
There are many diff ways to use chords to fit a given melody..... what chords we choose and how we get from one to another is what melody writing is all about. The rules are simple if it sounds good then use it if not try a diff chord or change the melody to fit.

#830502 - 07/13/10 01:30 PM Re: Theory question on composing for guitar [Re: BIG JIM MERRILEES]  
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Kitty84 Offline
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Thanks Jim.


Kate <3

– "The strongest drive is not love or hate. It is one person's need to correct/modify/alter/edit/change/rewrite another's copy."
#830515 - 07/13/10 03:35 PM Re: Theory question on composing for guitar [Re: Kitty84]  
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Mike Dunbar Offline
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Big Jim and John are right (and, strangely enough, John, I understood you smile ).

So now that you've sung the scale in C a bit, it's time to learn a hamonized scale. Play these chords on the guitar in C (if you don't know them, learn them)

Cmajor Dminor Eminor Fmajor Gmajor Aminor G7 Cmajor

Now, strictly speaking, the G7 should really be a Bdiminished, but not a fully diminished seven, but save that for later and just use the G7.

Those are the do chord, the re chord, the mi chord and so on. When you get good playing them, try singing do re mi with them...do with the do chord (Cmajor), re with the re chord (Dminor) and etc. After you've done that, post back and we'll continue.

All the Best,
Mike


You've got to know your limitations. I don't know what your limitations are. I found out what mine were when I was twelve. I found out that there weren't too many limitations, if I did it my way. -Johnny Cash

It's only music.
-niteshift

Mike Dunbar Music

#830632 - 07/14/10 12:43 AM Re: Theory question on composing for guitar [Re: Mike Dunbar]  
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Kitty84 Offline
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Thanks Mike! LOL all my piano is self-taught (and I'm out of practice). So although I can play written chords, remembering what chords go with which keys has never stayed in my head well.
This should be fun!

Last edited by Kitty84; 07/14/10 12:45 AM.

Kate <3

– "The strongest drive is not love or hate. It is one person's need to correct/modify/alter/edit/change/rewrite another's copy."
#830634 - 07/14/10 12:48 AM Re: Theory question on composing for guitar [Re: Mike Dunbar]  
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EmmitSycamore Offline
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Kitty84 asked:

"how guitar chords relate to keyboard (?)"

That one's easy. The notes in "guitar chords" are exactly the same note in "piano chords". Chords is chords.


"Example: If I'm trying to write a song and the melody/vocal is going to hit a "C" note, does that mean I need a C chord? When do I need to switch to a different chord?"

Usually, when the melody dwells on a note, the chord has the same note in it. The main chords that include C are:

C (major = CEG, minor = CEbG)

F (major = FAC, minor = FAbC)

Am (minor = ACE)

Ab (major = AbCEb)

If you are used to reading "sheet music" for playing piano, you already know how to play chords, even though they aren't marked as such, in the notation. Most commercial sheet music comes with guitar chord charts above the treble clef. When the chord chart says "C", odds are high that the notes in the piano part are made up of (mostly) the notes of a C chord, in that same part of the tune.

To get a feel for how to decide when to change chords in your songs, learn a lot of songs, and pay attention to how the chords are arranged in repeating patterns. You will start to get ideas for "new" patterns, which are called "chord progressions". If you actually come up with something that has never been done before, it will be near miraculous. Never mind, just enjoy discovering stuff that's "new to you".

HTH
Emmit Sycamore

#830728 - 07/14/10 02:53 PM Re: Theory question on composing for guitar [Re: Mike Dunbar]  
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Mike Dunbar Offline
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Emmitt, good info, good insight.

Kate, If you've gotten this far:

Originally Posted by Mike Dunbar


Those are the do chord, the re chord, the mi chord and so on. When you get good playing them, try singing do re mi with them...do with the do chord (Cmajor), re with the re chord (Dminor) and etc.



Read on, if not, don't read this until you have smile

OK, now I want you to play those chords and sing a scale based on that chord's root. In other words play Cmajor and sing C D E F G A B C, Play Dminor and sing D E F G A B C D, Play Eminor and sing E F G A B C D E, Fmajor and sing F G A B C D E F, G major and sing G A B C D E F G, Aminor and sing A B C D E F G A, then G7 and sing B C D E F G A B.

That gives you a feeling for how the chords in a key relate to the modes of the key. A mode is what form or model of the scale is created when you start and finish on a different note in the scale. Do to do is the major scale. La to la is the minor scale. Well, there are names for each mode, but they are Greek to me smile
I'll go into the names later but for now, get used to:

Do to do, re to re, mi to mi, fa to fa, sol to sol, la to la, and ti to ti. Again, sing those along with the harmonized scale (do major chord, re minor chord, mi minor chord, fa major chord, sol major chord, la minor chord, ti diminished chord and do major chord) Now, pretty soon we'll figure out that diminished chord and just why I have you play the sol7 (G7) instead right now.

Do this and we'll continue. Eventually you'll have a pretty good feel for how notes and chords relate.


You've got to know your limitations. I don't know what your limitations are. I found out what mine were when I was twelve. I found out that there weren't too many limitations, if I did it my way. -Johnny Cash

It's only music.
-niteshift

Mike Dunbar Music

#831103 - 07/16/10 12:37 AM Re: Theory question on composing for guitar [Re: Kitty84]  
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EmmitSycamore Offline
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Kitty84 asked:

"what I'm trying to figure out, assuming I know what key I'm in, is whether I need to change chords just because the melody is hitting a different note, or if I don't have to because the new note is contained in part of the first chord."

Interesting Question. Some of the most moving passages I can think of involve the melody hanging on a single note, while the harmony / accompaniment (chord progression) moves "underneath", transforming the context of that single melodic pitch.

In simplest terms, no, you don't have to change chords just because the melody note changes. Some of the most beautiful music is made up of melodies that "outline" the chords.

Think of the "piano lesson" song from the Meredith Willson's "The Music Man". It starts out with the student playing what sounds like a simple piano exercise, then shifts into "Goodnight My Someone". Most of that gorgeous melody is simply singing the notes of the chords, one after another. Still, the chords do change, in a repeating pattern.

Youtube is your friend!


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