Free piano lesson 7 - Add melody to chords Print
Written by philip   
Monday, 20 April 2009 12:11

Lesson 1 – Get to know the notes on a piano
Lesson 2 – Basic scale theory
Lesson 3 – Basic chord structures
Lesson 4 – Learn to play two songs
Lesson 5 – Practice your ear
Lesson 6 – Notes and fingering
>  Lesson 7 – Add melody to chords
Lesson 8 – Understanding and expanding chords
Lesson 9 – Harmonic principles and progressions





The next step is to apply the fingering principles to the melodies you play together with the tunes on the piano. Let’s revisit "Oh when the saints":



Open OwhenSimple.pdf in a new window (click).


[Get a .pdf viewer on if you do not have one]




You will see that the chords are on top of the melody. Each measure / bar is indicated by a dividing line. The 4/4 means there are four counts in a measure and each count is indicated by a quarter note (crotchet).




Notice that:





is the same as:






It is an Am7 on a G bass. The same applies for the other chords. This is just an easier way to write the chords on a computer.



1. Start by playing the chords on the right count – as in Lesson 4. Keep Lesson 3 handy if necessary (for the chords).



2. Now see if you can read and play the melody on its own. Note that some notes are extended within the next measure and connected with a curved line. That means that the note is not played again, but sustained for the total value (counts) of all the notes connected.



3. Try to combine the chords and the melody now. This will probably be the biggest step yet! It will take some time. Do yourself a favor and see how well you can execute this!




How to do it:



The way you do it is to make sure the melody line is played with the top of your right hand, and the rest of the chord is built underneath that. The biggest change will be the fact that you will start to play inverse chords now. In other words, the root note will not always be the bottom note in your right hand. Try using the fingering principles of the previous lesson in order to play the melody and chords in the most comfortable and sensible way.



Let’s go through a few chords and the melody line:


To play the first Cmaj7, you will have to play B E G with your right hand, and a C in the bass (left hand). G will be the melody note. It is not necessary to repeat the tonic (C) in the right hand if you play a C in the bass already. The same goes for most complex chords. Remember this!


Am7/G. Your melody note is the b7 (G). You will play G in the bass, and A C E G in the right hand. This chord is in root form.



Fmaj7. You play the F in the bass and A C E G in the right hand. The G is not officially part of the chord structure of an Fmaj7, it actually makes it an Fmaj9. But that’s OK. Your melody will make some of the chords to evolve into another, more complex chord, as long as you keep playing out the melody in the top note of your right hand.



If you accompany a vocalist or another instrument that plays the melody, you do not need to play the melody together with the chords. Nevertheless, many chords sound better in inverted form. The basic way to invert any chord is first to play the chord in root form, in other words, play the tonic as the lowest note of your right hand. Then start by taking away the bottom note in your right hand and add that note an octave higher on top of your right hand. Your fingering will change. Then take away the bottom note again, and add that note on top of your right hand again. This can be done in reverse order as well.






C7 in root form is C E G Bb

C7 in the first inversion is E G Bb C

C7 in the second inversion is G Bb C E

C7 in the third inversion is Bb C E G



If you play the melody along with your song, the melody line on top will dictate which inversion to build underneath the melody. If you don’t play the melody along with your song, then experiment which inversion sounds best. In many complex chords, the root position does not sound the best. Train your ear. Often it is best to keep the music in lines without jumping too much all over the piano. If you play the melody on top, this will happen automatically, but if you don’t play the melody, try to avoid jumping all over the piano when you change chords. Music normally progresses in lines. You will notice that good music will also have a prominent bass-line. More about this in Lesson 9.



Try to work out and play the whole of “Oh when the saints” as is on the OwhenSimple.pdf file. Also train your ear to work out and play any melody by ear. If you can master that, you can work out any song from merely seeing the chords.





Lets revisit Amazing Grace. Try to work out and play the melody together with these chords (the melody starts with D G):





In the key of G


| G - - D7 | G - - -     | G7/B - - -  | C - - -       | G - D/ F#

            A-  ma- zing grace! how sweet the sound,





-     | Em7 - - -   | A/C# - -  | D7sus4 - -

that saved a       wretch like me!



D9 | G - - -      | G7/B - - -  | C - Edim -  | G - D/ F#

I     once was  lost but      now am      found,




-       | Em7 - -   | Am7 - Am7/D -  | G - - - |

was blind but       now I                     see.






Also play the same song (chords and melody) in the key of F




| F - - C7 | F - -  | F7/A - - -    | Bb - - -      | F - C/E

          A- ma- zing grace! how  sweet the sound,




-      | Dm7 - - -  | G/B - - -    | C7sus4 - -

that saved a      wretch like me!



C9 | F - - -     | F7/A - - -     | Bb - Ddim  | F - C/ E


I     once was  lost but       now am        found,



-      | Dm7 - - -    | Gm7 - Gm7/C -   | F - - - |

was blind but      now I                     see.




Doing this lesson well will probably be the biggest challenge, but at the same time the most rewarding. Try to master both songs as best as you can. This might take time. But keep pressing on! And remember to ENJOY it!


If you have come this far and if you have mastered everything in all the lessons up to now, you have come quite a way! Congratulations!


The next step will be to work out your own harmonies. More about that in Lesson 9. But before we get there, we will work on expanding chords.




Advance to the Lesson 8.