Chord Soloists - I Need Your Input

Phletch

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After what has been far too long getting into it, I've taken the plunge into chord soloing. It happened purely by accident, and the song is probably the last one anybody might consider doing - John Sebastian's "Welcome Back Kotter" TV theme song. I figured out the chords pretty quick smart and was just strumming whilst singing, and the beauty of the melody just sort of led me to chord voicings that just handed this idea to me.

My question is, when you guys are voicing your chords around the melody, do you play some single notes between the chords to connect them - like say, playing melody notes that go by rather quickly, then landing on a chord on the beat - or do you feel the urge to voice a chord for every note in the melody? Right now I've got ways to do both, and there are some situations where changing chords is a bit cumbersome (I know, just practice!) for each note. I just feel like not using a chord for each note is "cheating." I know it all comes down to what sounds best to you and that there are no rules. I'm just looking for some insight from you guys who are experienced in this.

Cheers

UPDATE: Well, I finally got around to working on it and recording it, so here it is. Not perfect and certainly nothing "advanced," but I'm happy with my first outing in arranging/playing a chord solo. Extraneous noise is a real bitch, so I'll continually work on minimizing that. Any critique, comments, etc. welcome because I'm enjoying the process and want to improve. Thanks for all the advice thus far. :)

[SOUNDCLOUD]http://soundcloud.com/kiwijoe-1/welcome-back-kotter-tv-theme-cover[/SOUNDCLOUD]
 
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Jim Soloway

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It does't just come down to what sounds best to you but also what you can get your hands around (there are some things that no amount of practice will allow me to use a chord for every note), what best establishes the mood you're after and what allows both the harmony and melody to be work without feeling crowded out. In the end there are no rules other than finding a way to say what your trying to say musically in a way that can be understood.
 
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friend33

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^^^^

Chord melody is largely about artistry and making those choices, IMO.
 

james russell

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I have a few pieces in which I play a chord for every note of the melody, but it depends on the piece and what you want to hear. Sometimes a chord for every note can be too dense, and breaking it up with single notes, or two-note mini chords can give a piece more flow. Like Jim said, it's a combination of mechanics plus your vision of the arrangement. Welcome to a very deep world which I find endlessly fascinating, and satisfying.
 

friend33

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Just to expand/expound, the way I hear that particular song in my own head would lend itself best to a mixed approach rather than lockstep chords for each note.

If you are just getting into it, it could be a good exercise to try chording the whole thing, but exercises typically lack musical depth of expression.
 

derekd

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Bob Conti's method teaches one chord per melody note. I prefer to use Jody Fisher's approach and learn the melody in a few places on the neck then figure out the chords for the tune for each of those positions. They will vary some based on what you can grab, like Jim says. You can play it as thick or thin as you wish. Each way gives a different feel.

This way, when you play the tune, you mix it up each time rather than playing a stock arrangement. Half the fun for me is to figure out how different I can play the thing each time through. Chord melody is a deep subject and when you throw in reharm, walking basslines and soloing, you have a fairly big pool to swim in. Good luck.
 

markbosko

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I would recommend Randy Vincent's books on "drop 2" chords and "three note" chords. They will give you a great vocabulary for comping and chord melodies. XLNT books.
 

JonR

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I know it sounds obvious (and not very helpful) but a mixture is usually best. Harmonising every single melody note with a different chord would very quickly get tiring to listen to - unless the melody was lots of long notes, and the tune was slow.

Sometimes just the melody on its own is enough (no bass or chords or anything); sometimes with just a bass (chord roots, or line); sometimes chord guide tones (3-7, no bass); etc.

For more variety, a nice tip from classical pieces is to try putting the melody in the bass, with a few passing chord voicings above it.
 
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For my solo arrangement of "Rock With You" (M. Jackson), I play a chord once in a while, but I'm really thinking more bass line + melody than connecting chords. I think always playing a chord on every melody note would not let the arrangement "breathe" in a way that I like. For the bass line I'm not trying to reproduce Bobby Watson's bass part as recorded in the studio, but I try to make it "breathe".

I started creating this arrangement and practicing it before I got Adam Rafferty's instructional DVD for playing Stevie Wonder tunes as solo guitar arrangements. I also later heard Ben Lacy's performances of "Hey Nineteen" (Steely Dan), "I Wanna Be Your Lover" (Prince), etc. What these guys have in common is that they will choose groove over trying to fill out an arrangement with as many notes as possible - quite often relatively spare/implied harmony combined with great groove can often be very effective.
 

stark

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Listen to some Lenny Breau or Ted Greene to get an idea of how it's done. You need to work out your own system, and it takes years.
 

markbosko

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If you have a basic foundation (vocabulary) of voicings, listening will be so much easier. You will recognize what they are doing.
 

Phletch

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Thanks, everybody for your advice and input. I've got something worked out, taking the combined single notes plus chords approach which does sound better and less dense. When I get it polished I'll record it and post it here.
 

Phletch

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I got a recording done and posted it in the OP. Nothing fancy, but I think it's at least listenable. Critique, comments, etc., let me know. Cheers.
 

deeohgee

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Nice arrangement. I like that you left some space for melody and embellishments, it give the tune some breathing space if that makes sense.
 

Phletch

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Nice arrangement. I like that you left some space for melody and embellishments, it give the tune some breathing space if that makes sense.
Thanks, mate. It's how I heard it in my head, so I'm just happy I was able to get it out the way I heard it. This is relatively new territory for me.
 

derekd

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Sounds lovely.

I would challenge you to deviate the next time through the progression by either playing it on a different place on the neck, add more walking basslines or inserting more improvisation with the melody while thinning out the chords.

I would have never thought of that tune for CM, but it is the kind of song where people will notice and not be able to recall. I got that sort of reaction all the time to the Flintstones theme. Good luck!
 

Phletch

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Thanks man. I'm definitely going to explore other voicings and substituting some single note runs. And walking bass lines. That's going to be the big challenge, but I'm up for it because I'm finding a lot of fun in the challenge.

I chose this song as a result of a list of great TV themes I was reading, and when I came across this one and listened to it again after many years the harmonies just jumped out at me. The first "verse" of this arrangement came pretty easily, then I was feeling froggy and added the A13 in place of the A7, which sort of inspired me to "swing it" and then it was on to go further.
 

derekd

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Thanks man. I'm definitely going to explore other voicings and substituting some single note runs. And walking bass lines. That's going to be the big challenge, but I'm up for it because I'm finding a lot of fun in the challenge.

I chose this song as a result of a list of great TV themes I was reading, and when I came across this one and listened to it again after many years the harmonies just jumped out at me. The first "verse" of this arrangement came pretty easily, then I was feeling froggy and added the A13 in place of the A7, which sort of inspired me to "swing it" and then it was on to go further.
Yeah, it works great, and it is the publics unconscious. They will know it, but won't be able to recall the name. That will bug them enough someone will ask.

That's one of the reasons I always had The Flintstones in my set list. That, and it is my favorite rhythm changes tune.

Keep up the good work.
 




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