Becoming more "melodic"

Discussion in 'Tab, Tips, Theory and Technique' started by Axegrinder77, Dec 6, 2019.

  1. Axegrinder77

    Axegrinder77 Tele-Meister

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    So I have an idea...

    First the background:

    I find myself more of a rhythm player. No necessarily by choice, but rather that i'm just not very melodic. I suppose it's partially from spending many of my playing years strumming chords to accompany my own vocals. I have classical training and took jazz lessons 20 years ago, which I found confusing and didn't lead me really anywhere.

    Fast forward... I'd like to develop my lead playing. I think i'm a better guitarist than singer, but I digress.

    My idea, is to start looping songs or using vocalist backing track (karaoke), and *play* the vocal melody on my guitar. Songs i'm familiar with. I'll suck at it at first I think... which will underline my issue. How can I be considered a musician if I can't play simple melodies?

    My hope is that the learning curve is relatively quick. I'll start to gain confidence, adding in tasteful bends and slides etc. Am I missing something, or is the a great way to become a melodic lead player?

    Thanks for reading. I'd be interested to know if anyone else has used this approach.

    Axe
     
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  2. RoarDog

    RoarDog Tele-Meister

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    I did this exact method emulating vocals on tracks like Georgia on my mind, Amazing Grace, some Ben Harper stuff etc. The one caveat is that I would focus on one string linear like playing to force myself "out of the box" so to speak.
     
  3. naveed211

    naveed211 Tele-Meister

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    Learn melodic guitar solos. Start easy, something like Smells Like Teen Spirit (or insert easy solo from band you like), something where it follows the vocal melody kind of like the idea you have.

    Then you can move on to more challenging ones. I think Boston licks are often really melodic, as example. Depends what music you like but you get what I mean.
     
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  4. naveed211

    naveed211 Tele-Meister

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    Also, what really unlocked it for me was I finally learned pentatonic scales. After some theory early on, I pretty much winged it for years so I didn’t learn a lot of scales. Still haven’t, but pentatonic scales in major keys can make for some melodic solos. So much stuff can be played with them. Pretty sure Sweet Child of Mine is just noodling around a pentatonic shape.

    Then you can just move the shape around to any key and rip.
     
  5. kbold

    kbold Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

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    Melodies are based around the diatonic scale (mostly), so if you're playing around the pentatonic scale a lot, perhaps expand these to the major and minor scales.

    Then look at the different modes, and how they relate to the chord being played.
    Examples: Over a G7 you would normally play Mixolydian scale (as G7 is a chord built from the C scale, not the G scale).
    Or over an Em6 chord you would play E Dorian scale (since the m6 chord is built from the Dorian mode).

    A less technical way to play melodies would be to play the notes of the chord being played, with the chord note as the root note (bass note).

    Your idea of playing "karaoke style" over a loop sounds a good idea, but learning your modes will give you the "why" of what you're playing.
     
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  6. twangjeff

    twangjeff Tele-Afflicted

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    The answer to this question, and the answer to almost any question, is chord tones.
     
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  7. Peegoo

    Peegoo Tele-Holic

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    Playing melodically, for me, comes from hearing an interval in my head (the next note I want) and getting my finger to go to that spot on the fretboard.

    I am getting better at this and I practice it almost every day with familiar melodies that are burned into my brain. These melodies are often theme songs from TV shows, such as The Flintstones and Gilligan's Island. Some of these melodies are quite complicated/sophisticated and include modulation (Hawaii Five-O, Mission Impossible, and My Three Sons are good examples).

    All this helps me when I'm playing with others and I need to be creative and come up with fills or breaks. I can hear the chord and--if the planets align--my fingers go where I hear them needing to go. It is all a really fun adventure.
     
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  8. Axegrinder77

    Axegrinder77 Tele-Meister

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    Ya I notice a nice difference when I play a note (or heck, a series of them) on purpose, rather than by accident from relying on muscle memory and/or scale patterns.
     
  9. davidge1

    davidge1 Friend of Leo's

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    If you want to play melodically, you need to be able to switch scales as the chords of the song change, and do it seamlessly so it doesn't sound like you're jumping around. You're composing a little song within the song. In the same way that the writer of the song is using notes that correspond to each chord in the song, the guitar player has to do the same. It's not as hard as it might sound, but it takes more time to learn then just using one pentatonic scale over all the chords of the song.

    I'd advise you study the CAGED system, which will show you how to play within the chords of the song.
     
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  10. Mark the Moose

    Mark the Moose Tele-Holic

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    Playing lots of existing melody lines, playing lots of scales, playing lots of chord progressions...these build syntax and facility. Then, loop a progression and be willing to sound bad!
     
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  11. Harry Styron

    Harry Styron Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

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    It's pretty easy to pick out simple melodies like "Row, Row, Row Your Boat," but it is also good to learn to play complex melodies by ear (which often have notes outside the major or minor scale).

    I've sometimes found that my ear simplifies a melody; when I read the notes and play the melody as written, I find that I've overlooked nuances of rhythm (for example, thinking there were two quarter notes that were actually written as a dotted quarter and an eighth note) and also have not noticed some chromatic movement and leaps that make the melody more interesting, by building drama, creating a climax, and drawing in the listener.

    I highly recommend learning to read melodies from sheet music, such as out of a good fake book of jazz or Broadway standards, so that you can refine your ear to hear what skilled composers actually wrote. You can see instances of chord tones landing on accented beats and passing tones on unaccented beats, as well as seeing how the chords and melody fit together. You'll also improve your reading skills. Ironically, playing notes from written music is a good form of ear-training.
     
  12. RoarDog

    RoarDog Tele-Meister

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    Maybe I'm a dummy but I tend to think in terms of parent scale i.e.
    I don't think in modes... E phrygian I think C, A Dorian I think G etc. My phasing and chord tones will reflect the tonality but I try to keep things simple as possible. I do agree with the previous poster that the CAGED method of learning diatonic chords and scales is good (it's how I learned) but there's other methods. More recently I've been taking a chord/scale approach by pairing chords with the most convenient/efficient scale pattern for each chord.
     
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  13. schmee

    schmee Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

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    You sir are right on the money. Melody ain't scales. Scales teach you to play notes in an order that is mostly never a melody. They are of limited use really except to make a note that isn't a non fit over chords. That's much different than making the right note that is sweet or holds tension etc. It's surprising how hard just playing a melody is. But it's superb learning.. I try to get myself to do it more, but keep regressing.
     
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  14. BigDaddyLH

    BigDaddyLH Tele Axpert Ad Free Member

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    For melodies, here's a simple idea: 1-2-3

     
  15. dkmw

    dkmw Friend of Leo's

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    Thanks, that's a great lesson. I've been playing blues in Bb a lot lately. So I could jump right in:)
     
  16. matrix

    matrix Tele-Meister

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    Two things that helped me:
    1. Study composition. Sounds intellectual, but some time reading or in a Udemy course can give you a good mental framework about the elements that make up melody, and how it relates to harmony. Understanding the "rules" of melody gives you the groundwork to craft your own. Perversely, I found that knowing the "rules" specifically of melody got me out of a thicket of overly complicated theory. The book "Why you love music" by John Powell has a wonderfully straight-forward explanation of what makes melody tick.

    2. I found Andy Timmons' course on Truefire "Melodic Muse" to be tremendously liberating. Still working on it, but it has already made me a much more melodic player.
     
  17. LKB3rd

    LKB3rd Friend of Leo's

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    Yes I have played the melodies of songs a lot, and you can use them as starting points for solo's by embellishing on them.
    Another thing you can try is to imagine melodies in your head, or try ones you haven't played before that you know, and try to play them in real time. It's like humming a tune, except you play it instead of hum it.
    Keep at it, expect so slide around when you miss your target at first, be patient, and you should be able to do it pretty well eventually.
    Figuring melodies out by ear without a reference will help too. Ones that you are familiar with, your favorites, that you can "hear " in your head easily work well.
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2019
  18. Bob Womack

    Bob Womack Tele-Afflicted

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    When I started down this road I realized that one of my tendencies would be to seek out easy to play melodies. Bucking that, I decided to approach melodies played on instruments in different tunings from that of the guitar. The first one to come to mine was the violin, because it is tuned in fourths rather than fifths. That has been a wild ride. Basically, it forces you to give up your "planted" and position and become more agile. One of the first tunes I took up was the main theme from Alexander Borodin's Polovetsian Dances (later adapted to the Broadway tune, Stranger in Paradise").



    It begins at 1:19 in this performance and actually starts on the double reeds and works its way to the strings. It reappears at 741. It was actually written for choir but the little Slavic melodic ornamentation adds a real challenge that makes it fun to learn.

    From there I branched out to other instruments that required technique adaptation to allow something of their nuances to be rendered on the guitar such as, of all things, tunes for the uilleann pipes, a development of the bagpipes that allows some really interesting articulation that a guitar can't exactly reproduce but attempting to emulate them really stretches you as well.



    Bob
     
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  19. clayville

    clayville TDPRI Member

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    I'm mostly a self-taught blues and pentatonics guy, but the single thing that has helped my solos and my thinking become more melodic is years of listening to horn players doing Standards from the 1930s onward.

    They're almost always familiar melodies to my ear at their core, and it's always helpful for me to pay attention to how horn players adapt and then return to the melody as the arc of the song progresses. The generally limited instrumentation and production makes it easy to focus on the soloist and hear how it all works (even if I'm no "Charlie Parker of Guitar" as a player).
     
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  20. tfarny

    tfarny Friend of Leo's

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    To get back to it, I agree that learning the vocal melody is a great way to expand beyond just playing the chords. Then once you know the melody, learning CAGED and so on helps you to understand how the notes works together in and out of the changes.
    But you can go a long way just by soloing the vocal line and adding some flourishes here and there.
     
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