Hello, sorry for a beginner's question!

In the broad area of ‘popular music’ on the radio or otherwise, are the notes of the melody usually in the chords underneath them? Or are they at all?

For example, if the melody goes by the notes C - E - D - Ab - D (example), would the chord progression underneath it be sure to have some, if not all, those notes inside a particular chord?

Hope this makes sense.
Yes, usually the chords fit the melody which means the melody will have chord tones. But not all melody notes are roots, thirds or fifths. They can also be sixths, sevenths, ninths... whatever. If you want to figure out chords, I would suggest figuring out the bass notes first (they are most of the time root notes and sometimes thirds or fifths). Then figure out the chord quality.

Figuring out the key also helps. And I would suggest learning about chord functions (the Roman numerals). They help you with understanding chord progressions. Once you understand them, C-F-G-C and E-A-B-E will no longer be different progressions. You'll notice that they are both I-IV-V-I progressions. They both sound the same. They are the same progression in different keys.
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.


Bach Stradivarius 37G
Charvel So Cal
Fender Dimension Bass
Hartke HyDrive 210c
Ibanez BL70
Laney VC30
Tokai TB48
Yamaha FG720S-12
Yamaha P115
It is common that they are, but is also very common that they are not, in popular music. This is because the chords tend to be more basic, like a straight major or minor chord, and so the melody might build extensions. So, the guitar might play a m7, and the melody would be a 9 on top. So, the chord song-wise would technically be an m9, but you'd play an m7, and sing the 9.

They are however, almost always in the key scale, unless a chord tone isn't, and if that is the case, it is very likely that this note will be part of the melody.

In some other types of music, like jazz, the melody is often played on the same instrument along with the progression, so the chords will tend to be more full, and in these situations, the melody will always be in the chords.
Last edited by fingrpikingood at Jan 7, 2015,
Not just in pop music, but in most music in general. When harmonizing a melody, you often want the melody and the chords to be in some sort of sync.

How complex that sync is, however, is another story.

There are also non-chord tones, and learning how they operate is an interesting area of study in itself.
"There are two styles of music. Good music and bad music." -Duke Ellington

"If you really think about it, the guitar is a pointless instrument." - Robert Fripp
Quote by yorkey

For example, if the melody goes by the notes C - E - D - Ab - D (example), would the chord progression underneath it be sure to have some, if not all, those notes inside a particular chord?

Kind of.

What usually happens is that the STRESSED syllables are on chord tones. The unstressed syllables may or may not.

But sometimes you get a stressed syllable that's not a chord tone. What's really happening here, however, is that you're just creating a new chord! e.g., if we're in the key of C, and the guitar is playing a G major chord, and I sing an F note ... then between the guitar and the vocal we're creating a G7 chord.

(The vocal turning a V into a V7 is the most common application of this, by far. It creates a very urgent, unstable sound ... which usually comes back to the I at the top of the next bar. Practice singing that, and you'll recognize it as something you've heard in a dozen different songs).