A basic approach to the chord + melody style playing

Playing chords and melody lines together. It is the ultimate goal. That’s often the case if you’re into solo guitar playing. At least in the beginning, before you realize that music can be played in any way you want. Even if you play it by yourself. Anyway, in the following article I’ll show you a couple of tricks of how I play chords and melody at the same time. You have probably heard jazz players or fingerpicking/fingerstyle guitarists playing this way. I know that especially for a self taught who can’t or doesn’t want to afford a guitar teacher for whatever reasons, it can be quite a challenge to figure out how to play the guitar in this style. First of all, I don’t want to discourage you, but as most anything else, it requires some patience and persistence to practice. It means it takes time. But don’t worry, it will settle in after that amount of time. If you keep at it stubbornly enough, it can become your second nature. Just like anything else.

Your favorite grips

fingering A minor - always a good ideaSo what’s the secret, n00b? – you may ask. Well nothing mysterious as you probably already expected. You only need to know some chords, chord shapes (grips) – preferably barre ones, so you can play in just about any key anywhere on the fretboard. Of course other kind of chords can work fine as well, and some really good players don’t even think in chords. Who knows what this journey will lead you to. You’ll also need to be able to find the melody notes needed on the fretboard. Duh. As you will try to play the following examples, you will notice that sometimes it requires some stretching of the hand and fingers to reach certain notes and grips. Nothing serious or exceptionally difficult that you wouldn’t be able to achieve with some practice. It’s also worth pointing out that one of the most, (if not THE most) often used finger in this playing style is the pinky. So if you are not used to play with your little finger, it might be a bit awkward at first trying to use it a lot. Don’t let that discourage you. As usual, if you feel you’re getting fatigued, stop it for a while. Come back to it only when your hands and fingers feel unstrained and relaxed again.

Move the melody on top

Now let’s check out some of the more versatile chords I often use. I’ll start with an E major shape (remember the CAGED system) G chord, and build up a G major scale on top of it, playing the melody notes as the top notes of the chord:
chord melody - G major chord
The next one is A major shape D chord, playing a major scale with the top notes again:
D major chord with melody line
Now here’s a part of an Eb melodic minor scale on top of an Ebm7 chord:
Eb minor7 - melodic minor sequence
And finally part of an E dominant scale on top of an E7 chord:
E7 dominant stuff
These examples hopefully revealed that there are no secrets to this whole chord melody thing. Not until you start coming up with your own crazy stuff. That’s where the real creativity begins. Anyway, have fun!

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