Combining Chords with Scales
Melody and harmony are lovely on their own. However, they are only components and, therefore, are limited. To fully experience the richness of music, you must combine melody and harmony. More specifically, you must know what chords go with what scales. If you don't, you'll never be able to solo well or to write songs that are pleasing to the ear. Even the most uneducated listeners can tell when a musician plays blatantly “wrong” notes. The listeners may not be able to articulate what they don't like about the pianist, but they will subconsciously detect that the performer just doesn't know how to combine melody and harmony to create mellifluous, ear-catching musical phrases.
Certainly, melody and harmony are not the only elements in music. You must also play with expression, nuance, and rhythmical variety. This is to say nothing about charisma and individuality. Despite this, this chapter will focus primarily on the cohabitation of melody with harmony. In other words, this chapter deals only with chords and scales and the unique way in which they interact.
In the following pages, you will find building blocks for improvisation and song writing through various exercises intended to help you better understand what notes go together and what notes do not. Although this was first discussed in Chapter 5, now you will go deeper into this study by analyzing specific chord voicings, bass notes, and bass lines, as they relate to equally specific scalar movements.
Melodies should not be as freewheeling as solos. In contrast, they should be structured to include obvious rhythmical and intervallic repetition. Further, melodic phrases should flow gently into one another, and melodic variations should avoid sudden or abrupt shifts. Rule of thumb: You should be able to hum a melody. If you can't, it's too complex.
Each of the following section headings begins with the word
Good songwriters know the difference between tunes that are quality and tunes that are lackluster. You may be thinking, “But music is subjective, isn't it?” The answer is yes. However, it is only subjective to a point. Often, song quality is judged by the merits of the melody. Chord changes can always be adjusted or tailored to fit the melody better. However, melodies are the selling points of a tune. If a song has a poor melody, it will quickly fall into obscurity or it may not even be heard.
While this chapter focuses on modal soloing, it will perhaps open the floodgates for song writing. As you move through this book, think about how notes (scales and chords) relate to one another. Also, think about how chord voicings fit with melodies. Voicings are a critical component since they emphasize certain notes and intervals and avoid others. For detailed information on this topic, see Chapter 12.