#1
This is a rather broad topic, and I don't usually like asking for help when the question can't be clearly defined, but what I'm looking for is resources, tips, advice, or whatever you might be able to offer me that will help me start opening my mind and ear up to playing beautiful chord melodies.

I've been wanting to improve on this for a while now, but it was this video that really put me over the top:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pIhl807hXKA

It's not the best example of "chord-melody" playing, imo, but the main point is using economized motion and fretting to create those wonderfully articulated melodies while fretting a chord -- or a series of chords.

My uncle, who plays steel guitar for Tim McGraw, is an ace at it; of course, he's also been playing for 30 years and has studied a variety of styles, including jazz. He tried to introduce me to the concept a little, but in the end I find myself still struggling to put it into practice.

Any advice is appreciated. Thanks.
#2
One of the most important things is to learn how to play a chord in multiple places on the neck, as that allows you to put different notes at the top of your chord to use for the melody. For example:

E string Gmaj7 inversions:
3rd    root     1st      2nd
--------------------------------------
--0------3------7-------8----------------
--0------4------7------11------------------
--0------4------5-------9----------------
--------------------------------------
--2------3------7------10------------------


A string Gmaj7 inversions:
1st    2nd      3rd    root
--2------------------------------------
--3------7------8------12------------------
--0------4------7------11------------------
---------5------9------12-------------------
--2------5------9------10------------------
--------------------------------------


D string Gmaj7 inversions:
3rd     root      1st     2nd
---3------7------10-----14--------------------
---3------7------8------12-----------------
---4------7------11-----12-------------------
---4------5------9------12-----------------
--------------------------------------
--------------------------------------


E string Gm7 inversions:
root    1st      2nd       3rd
--------------------------------------
--3------6------8--------11----------------
--3------7------10-------12------------------
--3------5------8--------12----------------
--------------------------------------
--3------6------10-------13------------------


A string Gm7 inversions:
1st      2nd     3rd     root
------------------------10------------
---3------6------8------11-----------------
---0------3------7------10-----------------
---3------5------8-----------------------
---1------5------8------10-----------------
--------------------------------------


D string Gm7 inversions:
3rd      root    1st    2nd
---3------6-----10-----13--------------------
---3------6-----8------11------------------
---3------7-----10-----12--------------------
---3------5-----8------12------------------
--------------------------------------
--------------------------------------


E string G7 inversions:
3rd     root     1st    2nd
--------------------------------------
---0------3------6------8-----------------
---0------4------7------10-----------------
---0------3------5------9-----------------
--------------------------------------
---1------3------7------10-----------------


A string G7 inversions:
1st     2nd     3rd     root
--------------------------------------
---3------6------8------8-----------------
---0------4------7------10-----------------
---3------5------9------9-----------------
---2------5------8------10-----------------
--------------------------------------


D string G7 inversions:
3rd      root     1st    2nd
---3------7------10-----13-------------------
---3------6------8------12-----------------
---4------7------10-----12-------------------
---3------5------9------12-----------------
--------------------------------------
--------------------------------------


E string Gm7b5 inversions:
root     1st    2nd     3rd
--------------------------------------
---2------6------8------11-----------------
---3------6------10-----12-------------------
---3------5------8------11-----------------
--------------------------------------
---3------6------9------13-----------------


A string Gm7b5 inversions:
1st     2nd     3rd     root
--------------------------------------
---2------6------8------11-----------------
---0------3------6------10-----------------
---3------5------8------11-----------------
---1------4------8------10-----------------
--------------------------------------


D string Gm7b5 inversions:
3rd     root      1st      2nd
---3------6------9------13-----------------
---2------6------8------11-----------------
---3------6------10-----12-------------------
---3------5------8------11-----------------
--------------------------------------
--------------------------------------


Those are some various chord types that start at the end of the neck and work their way up, using different notes on top each time. These are jazz examples, and I really only posted them because I just had them sitting around on my computer, but they should illustrate the type of work you'll have to put in to be able to see how to harmonize your melodies without going in completely blind each time.

The second thing you'll need to do is become comfortable with chord construction and the way each chord in a key functions. You should be able to find the I, ii, iii, IV, V, vi, and vii* of a key in several places on the neck without too much trouble, and also be able to see the relationships that they have with one another. For example, you should know that the IV chord in a key is always a string above the I, the vi chord is always 3 frets below the I, etc.

Ah, and you'll also want to be able to see your major and minor scales all over the neck, preferably in small enough boxes as to allow you to easily find reference points on any string, not just the E and A strings. There are several methods of learning this, and I'm not going to claim to know the best one. Just find something that works and internalize it.

Other than those few tips, I think it's really just a matter of getting your hands dirty. Try playing a couple of very simple songs in solo style, seeing what things work and what things don't. And remember, it's okay to play a few melody notes in a row without a chord underneath every one, so long as you bring back the support every couple of beats.
#3
Thank you, your input helps a lot. Fortunately for me, I've spent a lot of time learning where the octaves fall on the scales, and have learned to navigate the entire fretboard in this way -- in fact, I've been doing my best to eliminate the notion of a scale altogether, having started to work accidentals/chromatics into my playing. Furthermore, I've become much better at instantly picking out an interval I wish to play, and that should come in handy (with both inversions and chord constructions).

I'll have to play through all of the chords and inversions you posted. In the past two months, I've nearly doubled my knowledge/experience on guitar (or so it feels), and I've learned a lot of new chords -- but this is exactly what I needed. It is important for me to quickly, easily, and naturally know where all of the chords (or most of) for a given note can be found and played on the neck, and the examples you provided should help me further that.

Thanks a lot, man. It's only a first step, but I also know that it's a process. There's no real "chord melody" exercise, from what I can tell; it's something that develops as you learn how to utilize the notes available in each grouping of notes near the chord's root. Beyond that, I think playing a simple 4-5 note melody and harmonizing it is about the only way to "exercise" chordal melodies, so far as I can tell.
Last edited by freakstylez at Jul 5, 2011,
#4
^ pretty much, yeah. Like all things related to music, the best practice involves playing actual songs and training your ear. Knowing various inversions and scale shapes only helps you to translate what you hear quicker instead of having to stop and think about where to find things. You're going to find that some inversions are more applicable than others, and that some can be tweaked more to your liking, depending on each individual situation. The only other thing I'd recommend is to familiarize yourself with those inversions and maybe just play through a few songs (not even as a chord-melody) with each type of inversion each time. After that, it's all just about doing your thing and arranging some tunes.