Chord Melody

I created these basic arrangements after seeing a lot of difficult chord melody arrangments out there that end up sitting on the shelf without you being able to play a whole song by yourself. Then you can start to make them your own and increasing the complexity, based on my other lessons or taking webcam guitar lessons with me.

My basic approach is to not play single notes by themselves, but usually as part of a chord, or at least let them all ring together on different strings. Lots of chord melody arrangements out there have a lot of single notes. Another thing is that I don’t like a lot of fingerpicking which sounds more classical or pop styles to me. I also don’t like to put any scalar runs in the arrangements. So I focus on the melody and harmony and try to make them as playable as possible.

Some tunes have video performances of me playing the arrangements. I will add more videos over time.

I’m very excited to announce the creation of easy chord melody arrangements for guitar. This site will be home to the easiest jazz chord melody guitar arrangements available on the Internet today, but which are fun and musical to play.

One of the most commonly misunderstood and rarely used concepts in learning jazz is the practice of imitation. Jazz cats used to sit in smoky bars and learn from each other and with the advent of record players, copy licks off records note for note. Nowadays jazz has been institutionalized and overanalyzed to death.

With all the jazz chord melody material that’s out there on the Internet, in books and DVDs you think we’d have solved the problem by now. Unfortunately most chord melodies are way too complicated for the beginner, leading to frustration and giving up of many students.

Playing solo jazz guitar is incredibly enjoyable. Instead of relying on a band to back you up, you can make beautiful music all by yourself playing both the chords and melody at the same time. Plus with all the chord substitutions and reharmonizations, you will have a lifetime of fun making up your own arrangements.

As I started to play some arrangements I found on the Internet I realized that they were way too difficult to play for my skill level so I would get frustrated and give up. Some arrangements had really difficult chords that I couldn’t manage to play even with lots of practice.

Some arrangements had really big stretches or cramped chords that hurt my hands after a while. Even with a lot of effort it was near impossible to play some of the chords. So I would get frustrated and move another to another song only to find the same problems. So months and years went by and I still couldn’t play one full solo jazz guitar song by myself from beginning to end!

Then I found some much simpler arrangements and thought I had hit the jackpot. But these arrangements, while using much simpler chords in many cases, were too bulky. Every melody note had a chord (even faster eighth note passages). While we were told by the teacher that we could remove some of the shown chords, it wasn’t clear in some cases how to do this, as the notes couldn’t be reached by the fingers while holding the previous chord.

Another problem with these arrangements is that the song arrangements are highly reharmonized, without any reference to the original chords. While this is great for more advanced students who can reuse the ideas, it can be overly complicated for more beginner to intermediate students.

The large amount of chords (one per melody note) is also much harder to memorize and relate to the original chords.

Many chord melodies on the Internet today are written out in full in standard notation which is very hard to read for most of us. Sometimes fingerings are given which helps. Other arrangements are written out in tab which can help us figure out where to play the chords, but it’s actually harder to decipher a chord in tab than to just look at a chord diagram.

There are also some books out there that are essentially a huge library of chords. This can be quite useful to find interesting sounding voicings but they often are overwhelming and end up sitting on the shelf collecting dust.

Okay so how did I solve these problems? For one I used the original chords of the song along with the melody (using the jazz real/fake books) to create a simple arrangement. Secondly, I found voicings for those chords on the guitar that would allow the next melody notes to also be played while the chord rings, so the arrangement sounds smooth and pleasing, without too many chords. Thirdly, I used easy, common chord jazz voicings so there are no huge stretches or cramped chords that hurt your hands. Fourth, by playing the chord grid you automatically are playing the melody as well which is the top note of the chord!

It is my firm belief that the first phase of your jazz chord melody studies should be in being able to play many jazz songs by yourself from beginning to end. Learn the melody of the song, learn the original chords, play a simple chord melody (both melody and chords together), then add embellishments once you can do that (chord additions, reharmonization, inner lines, etc).

These arrangements are also laid out in a highly effective manner. Every chord is displayed as a chord grid above the melody line. To reduce complexity the melody line with TAB is written out on the staff, with no confusion since you won’t have to read a group of notes all at once.

Here’s a sample of an arrangement of I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face (you’ll get the full size PDF file for download):

If you haven’t played these types of chords it will take you a little longer to get familiar with them but I can guarantee you these are the easiest chords you can play in jazz! Plus you’ll be able to use these chords to play the melody at the same time – being a one man (or woman) band!

The good news is that over time you will see the same chords used again and again, making it easier to learn new songs and make up your own arrangements! You can always add new chords to your library as you improve.