#1
I need to convey to a group of students how to create melody. Unfortunately, my theory is not the best. I know that technically, you can do anything you want in music, but I want to keep it basic here.

We are working in C major with a I IV V I progression (C major, F major, G major, C major). I started with chord tones, explaining that you could use the I III V of each chord as a starting point for melody. So for the F major chord, for example, you could use F A and C. Now I want to get into passing tones but one thing is confusing me. I know that passing tones are meant to resolve and that for the C major chord, any natural note that isn't a I III V will be considered a passing tone, but what about for the other chords? Are the notes relative to those keys? For example, if an F major chord is being played, are the passing tones still the notes in the key of C that aren't I III V? By this I mean G, B, D, and E. Or do they change to the notes in the key of F that aren't I III V?

Thanks!
#3
I don't understand what you are saying, which leads me to believe that this is really off, from the start.

A passing tone in a very simplified explanation, for your purposes, means that a note is resolving to a more stable one in the key by half step. Say I was going form G to C and I went and did a B to C, That's a passing tone. A Db to C would also be using the Db as my passing tone, and using a note from outside the C major scale.

Am I making sense?

Sean
#4
Passing tones connect any two chord tones together, these can be notes of the same chord or two different chords.

In your example, a G passing tone could be inserted between the F and A of the F major chord, or two passing notes D and E between C and F.
#5
Listening to the video while I reply to this

Quote by Sean0913
I don't understand what you are saying, which leads me to believe that this is really off, from the start.


I know very little, so it probably is off.

A passing tone in a very simplified explanation, for your purposes, means that a note is resolving to a more stable one in the key by half step. Say I was going form G to C and I went and did a B to C, That's a passing tone. A Db to C would also be using the Db as my passing tone, and using a note from outside the C major scale.

Am I making sense?

Sean

I understand that a passing tone doesn't necessarily have to fit into the scale, such as in your Db to C example, but the part that confuses me is what happens with the chords played over top. When the chord changes from C to F (or G), do the same chord tones and passing tones still work? Again, for simplification, assume that the notes in the scale are the most effective notes for passing tones.
#6
Well take Am to C for example.

You can play Am to C/B in the bass and that is a passing tone and a chord that is functioning as a passing chord, and quite ugly if played by itself. and then to a C major.

Like this


Am x 0 2 2 1 0

C/B x 2 x 0 1 0

C x 3 2 0 1 0

Or a lot of times, first inversions use their bass note as the passing tone.

Like G/B to C

Or D/F# to G etc

Does that help somewhat, that's more or less voice leading, in a simple form.

If you were going C to F you don't have many problems or need for a passing tone, do you know why? They already share common notes.

If you were going to, you could use F to G/B (where G/B is the first inversion of G, and where B is leading by step to the C.

Theory definitely helps you smooth out and see your options. Have you ever considered trying to learn this stuff?

Best,

Sean
Last edited by Sean0913 at Apr 6, 2011,
#8
Quote by Sean0913
Well take Am to C for example.

You can play Am to C/B in the bass and that is a passing tone and a chord that is functioning as a passing chord, and quite ugly if played by itself. and then to a C major.

Like this


Am x 0 2 2 1 0

C/B x 2 x 0 1 0

C x 3 2 0 1 0

Or a lot of times, first inversions use their bass note as the passing tone.

Like G/B to C

Or D/F# to G etc

Does that help somewhat, that's more or less voice leading, in a simple form.

If you were going C to F you don't have many problems or need for a passing tone, do you know why? They already share common notes.

If you were going to, you could use F to G/B (where G/B is the first inversion of G, and where B is leading by step to the C.

Theory definitely helps you smooth out and see your options. Have you ever considered trying to learn this stuff?

Best,

Sean

I actually found this kind of confusing

I think I found a better way to reword my question. The song is in the key of C major. If I switch to an F chord, do the notes that make up the melody stay in the key of C major, or do they change to the key of F major? I know the only difference is that b is flat in F major, but if there were to be a b in the melody, would it be flat or natural when the F chord is being played?

Is F a chord? does it have chord tones? there's your answer.


I'm not quite sure what you mean. F has chord tones, but I want to talk about notes besides the chord tones that are usable when F is being played.
#9
Quote by griffRG7321
Passing tones connect any two chord tones together, these can be notes of the same chord or two different chords.


This. With an F chord, your passing notes can be between the notes F A and C.
Last edited by griffRG7321 at Apr 6, 2011,
#10
Quote by griffRG7321
This.

Yes I understand that a passing tone can be basically anything. I'm trying to find the notes that work best. I know a tri-tone could work, but realistically, is that the message I want to convey to people who (somehow) have less knowledge than I do? I'm just trying to find the most basic notes they can use.
#11
In the key of C, the most common passing tones in an F chord will be

G, between the F and A

B, between the A and C

D+E between the C and F.

Feel free to use a Bb if you wish, experiment with what sounds good.
#12
Ok thanks for your help. If I'm to understand correctly, all of the notes in the key of C will work as melodic phrases for the chords I IV V. Additionally, you want to emphasize chord tones on beats that are emphasized.
#13
F is in the key of C so, if you are confused, then just know that chords in the Key of C, and not just the C chord, means that the melody in C will work as well, i.e. notes. You have to use your ear, but they work. Switching to an F only went from the I to the IV, nothing changed, you don't have to hop to a melody out of F Major for it to keep working over the F.

If that confuses you, then you need to start back further because you don't have the requisite knowledge to answer your question.

Sean
#14
Quote by Sean0913
F is in the key of C so, if you are confused, then just know that chords in the Key of C, and not just the C chord, means that the melody in C will work as well, i.e. notes. You have to use your ear, but they work. Switching to an F only went from the I to the IV, nothing changed, you don't have to hop to a melody out of F Major for it to keep working over the F.

If that confuses you, then you need to start back further because you don't have the requisite knowledge to answer your question.

Sean

That makes perfect sense, thanks!
#15
Everything in music, apart from the rhythm, is built from scales. When we play chords, we are just playing notes from scales simultaneously. That is, chords are constructed from scales. When playing in a key we generally restrict ourselves to building chords from the notes within that key. For instance, if we are in the key of C major - and want to stay 100% within the key - we can play any chord we like, as long as those chords have no sharps or flats in them. If we are using basic triads (3 note chords) this gives us:

C major
D minor
E minor
F major
G major
A minor
B diminished

However there are an almost infinite number of other chords that can be constructed from a given set of notes.

To create a melody over the top of a chord sequence then you just need to know what key(s) the chords were constructed from. In your case, all the chords are built from C major. Hence the melody will also be created using the notes from this key. That is, over every chord you will simply use the notes from C major, as all the chords were constructed from this set of notes. If you had a chord sequence that also included, say, E major then this wouldn't be the case. John Lennon's Imagine does this. Towards the end of the song the chord sequence is C - E - F - G. The E major chord brings G# into the picture. When creating a melody over this chord sequence the notes in C major will be used for every chord. However when playing over the E major chord the G note will be replaced with G#, as this is the alteration to the scale this chord introduced.

When actually constructing a melody the notes in the chords will always have the least tension to them when played over the chord. That is, when playing over the C chord the notes C, E and G will sound a little sweeter, softer and more consonant than the other notes in the key. When playing over the F chord, the notes F, A and C will have the least tension (and so on). However if you used just these notes over each chord the melody would tend to sound a little insipid or sugary. Using notes other than those in the actual chord will add some tension that will need to resolved, creating a melody that has more emotional weight to it.

I would recommend you use a motivic approach to melody construction. Motives (or motif, depending on what part of the world you live in) are 4 to 9 note melodic fragments used as the building blocks of melody, particularly in some forms of classical music. For instance, the first 4 notes of Beethoven's 5th symphony are a motive. To expand a motive into a melody a number of simple techniques are used:

1. Repetition. That is, the motive is simply repeated. The repeat can be identical, or modified, meaning it is still essentially the same but a couple of notes may be different.

2. Transposition. The motive is played higher or lower in the key. This is exactly what the start of Beethoven's 5th symphony does.

3. Sequencing. This is essentially a series of transpositions. After the initial opening phrases of Beethovens 5th there are a series of sequences, again using the same motive. A lot of scale patterns that musicians practice are sequences, so this is probably fairly familiar to you already.

Starting from the key chord (C major in this case) I would attempt to come up with a simple 4 or 5 note idea. This idea could resolve (or end) on one of the chord tones. As the song moved through the other chords you would use the techniques above to manipulate the motive to create the final melody.

Hope this gives you a little food for thought. All the best with your teaching.
#16
A passing tone is any note that moves stepwise from one chord tone, then stepwise to another chord tone in the same direction.
Only play what you hear. If you don’t hear anything, don’t play anything.
-Chick Corea
#17
Quote by andrew_k
Everything in music, apart from the rhythm, is built from scales. When we play chords, we are just playing notes from scales simultaneously. That is, chords are constructed from scales. When playing in a key we generally restrict ourselves to building chords from the notes within that key. For instance, if we are in the key of C major - and want to stay 100% within the key - we can play any chord we like, as long as those chords have no sharps or flats in them. If we are using basic triads (3 note chords) this gives us:

C major
D minor
E minor
F major
G major
A minor
B diminished

However there are an almost infinite number of other chords that can be constructed from a given set of notes.

To create a melody over the top of a chord sequence then you just need to know what key(s) the chords were constructed from. In your case, all the chords are built from C major. Hence the melody will also be created using the notes from this key. That is, over every chord you will simply use the notes from C major, as all the chords were constructed from this set of notes. If you had a chord sequence that also included, say, E major then this wouldn't be the case. John Lennon's Imagine does this. Towards the end of the song the chord sequence is C - E - F - G. The E major chord brings G# into the picture. When creating a melody over this chord sequence the notes in C major will be used for every chord. However when playing over the E major chord the G note will be replaced with G#, as this is the alteration to the scale this chord introduced.

When actually constructing a melody the notes in the chords will always have the least tension to them when played over the chord. That is, when playing over the C chord the notes C, E and G will sound a little sweeter, softer and more consonant than the other notes in the key. When playing over the F chord, the notes F, A and C will have the least tension (and so on). However if you used just these notes over each chord the melody would tend to sound a little insipid or sugary. Using notes other than those in the actual chord will add some tension that will need to resolved, creating a melody that has more emotional weight to it.

I would recommend you use a motivic approach to melody construction. Motives (or motif, depending on what part of the world you live in) are 4 to 9 note melodic fragments used as the building blocks of melody, particularly in some forms of classical music. For instance, the first 4 notes of Beethoven's 5th symphony are a motive. To expand a motive into a melody a number of simple techniques are used:

1. Repetition. That is, the motive is simply repeated. The repeat can be identical, or modified, meaning it is still essentially the same but a couple of notes may be different.

2. Transposition. The motive is played higher or lower in the key. This is exactly what the start of Beethoven's 5th symphony does.

3. Sequencing. This is essentially a series of transpositions. After the initial opening phrases of Beethovens 5th there are a series of sequences, again using the same motive. A lot of scale patterns that musicians practice are sequences, so this is probably fairly familiar to you already.

Starting from the key chord (C major in this case) I would attempt to come up with a simple 4 or 5 note idea. This idea could resolve (or end) on one of the chord tones. As the song moved through the other chords you would use the techniques above to manipulate the motive to create the final melody.

Hope this gives you a little food for thought. All the best with your teaching.


+10

Top Notch advice there, friend! There are all things I cover with beginning players. Although I take it to 3 notes when I first start players exploring pitch collections. I have them play with tension and non tension combinations/permutations in a key, and decide where the melodic ideas sound best. I find for most its N-T-N that sound melodic So over an F Major chord in the key of C, that can be an F B and A for example or C D and A.

Best,

Sean
Last edited by Sean0913 at Apr 6, 2011,
#18
Quote by Sean0913
+10

Top Notch advice there, friend! There are all things I cover with beginning players. Although I take it to 3 notes when I first start players exploring pitch collections. I have them play with tension and non tension combinations/permutations in a key, and decide where the melodic ideas sound best. I find for most its N-T-N that sound melodic So over an F Major chord in the key of C, that can be an F B and A for example or C D and A.

Best,

Sean

Hey thanks. I always read your posts and think exactly the same thing with regard to your advice! Nice website by the way too (when not playing or teaching guitar I do a bit of contract IT work).

I'll try your tension - non tension combination ideas with my students (with your permission of course!). It's always tricky getting them started, so another approach would be fantastic.
#19
Passing tones are used a lot in bebop, basically a passing tone will be chromatic tone below or above the chord tone or a diatonic scale note above or below the chord tone or any mixture of the two here are example targeting the 3rd note of the C chord which is the note E

F -> E
Eb -> E
D -> Eb -> E (double chromaic movement below)
G# -> F -> E (double chromaic movement above)
Eb -> F -> E (chromatic above then below )

and so on and so on
#20
Quote by jayx124
Passing tones are used a lot in bebop, basically a passing tone will be chromatic tone below or above the chord tone or a diatonic scale note above or below the chord tone or any mixture of the two here are example targeting the 3rd note of the C chord which is the note E

F -> E
Eb -> E
D -> Eb -> E (double chromaic movement below)
G# -> F -> E (double chromaic movement above)
Eb -> F -> E (chromatic above then below )

and so on and so on
You're thinking of chromatic approach tones. Passing tones have to go between two chord tones, for example A B C# (over an A major chord).

You can have chromatic passing tones though, like in bebop scales and in the blues scale. A chromatic passing tone goes in between two chord tones a major second apart. For example, if you're playing the bebop dominant scale over a dominant chord, you have 1 2 3 4 5 6 b7 7 (1) (chord tones underlined, chromatic passing tone in bold).

Technically, the b5 in the blues scale is only a chromatic passing tone over the V7 chord, but in contemporary music, the definition doesn't have to be as strict.
Only play what you hear. If you don’t hear anything, don’t play anything.
-Chick Corea
Last edited by food1010 at Apr 7, 2011,