7 Crippling Mistakes To Avoid When Creating Your Own Chord/Melody Arrangements On Guitar - Part 2

by Simon Candy

In part 1 of this article lesson, I laid out for you 3 key mistakes guitar players make when creating chord/melody arrangements. In this article, part 2, I am going to present a further 4 critical mistakes made when attempting to play the chords and melody to a tune at the same time on one guitar.

By avoiding these common mistakes, playing and creating chord/melody arrangements becomes so much easier to do, even if you consider yourself to have only basic guitar playing skills.

In part 1 we covered the following mistakes:

1. Not Knowing The Chords And The Melody To The Tune, In Isolation, On An Intimate Level

2. Can’t See The Forest For The Trees. Trying To Include Everything In Your Arrangement

3. Only knowing open and bar chords, and having no idea how chords are constructed, so that you can use them effectively in your arrangements

Now let’s continue and take a look at mistakes 4 through to 7 that guitar players make when creating chord/melody arrangements:

4. Not Taking The Time To Work Out The Best Key/Range In Which To Create Your Arrangement

Guitar-Chord-Melody-Mistakes-2As a general rule, you want the melody of the tune you are arranging to fall on the top 2 or 3 strings of your guitar. If the melody falls on the lower 3 strings it will get in the way of the bass and chords that are harmonising it.

Depending on the tune, there will be a select group of keys that it will work best in. Don’t simply choose one by default just because it may be a key you are more familiar with.

One key may present better open chord shapes to work with than another. Perhaps you prefer the warmth of the melody in one key, or maybe the range of the melody (highest to lowest note) fits better on the guitar in one key verses another.

How To Avoid This Mistake:

• Take the time to work out which key suits the melody best regarding where it falls on the guitar before jumping into creating your arrangement. You’ll save yourself some headaches!

• Find the lowest note of the melody and the highest note of the melody and make sure they can all be played on the top 2/3 strings of the guitar within a suitable range/position. There can be a note or two that doesn’t fall on these strings, but the vast majority of the melody must. 

5. Not Having A Variety Of Creative Ways To Go About Harmonising/Expressing A Melody

Guitar-Chord-Melody-ExpressionThe whole point of creating chord/melody pieces is to develop ways of playing the chords and melody of a tune on the one guitar simultaneously, much like a pianist might go about arranging/playing a piece.

The above is most likely blatantly obvious to you, however with this being so much of the focus, the melody often gets overlooked regarding ways to express it. It becomes an afterthought and while everything may be technically in place, the melody itself can sound lifeless, and well, boring.

In addition to arranging the melody to be played in line with the chords of a piece, you need to also develop ways to express the melody that will add depth, emotion, and sophistication to your arrangement.

How To Avoid This Mistake:

• Adding an alternate bass/travis picking approach to your arrangements can result in a more rhythmic and syncopated melody line as a kind of flow on effect. Check out this article on the guitar style and techniques of Chet Atkins to learn all about travis picking.

• Playing a melody line using the harp harmonics technique for guitar will add a whole new dimension to your chord/melody piece, not to mention take the breathe away of anyone who hears you play them.

• Adding the droning of open strings to your melody when you are NOT in the open position, will bring another unique sound to your arrangement. Check out how to combine open strings with pentatonic scale to create amazing and unsiue sounds on your guitar

• Punctuating the space between the melody phrases of the tune with chords, as oppose to playing chord and melody at the exact same time, gives you more room/space to express the melody using legato, bends, slides.

• You can also add your own unique touch by varying the melody. Be careful though, you want to stay true to the melody if/when doing this.

6. Not Looking Into What Has Come Before You To Gain Insights, Ideas, And Inspiration For Your Chord/Melody Arrangements:

Guitar-Chord-Melody-Other-ArrangementsIt is common for guitar players to purposely avoid looking at what others have done before them, in an attempt to not end up being a clone of someone else with their chosen style/genre. This is flawed logic to say the least.

Looking at, learning, and analysing other musicians approaches to chord/melody playing will not kill your ability to create your own unique arrangements, but rather enhance it with all sorts of ideas you can use yourself, in your own way.

You will not find a guitar great out there who has not been influenced heavily by others that have come before them.

How To Avoid This Mistake:

• Learn a bunch of exisiting chord/melody arrangements from a variety of players to discover different approaches each has taken.

• You will discover so many cool ways you can go about arranging/harmonising a melody and be more inspired and on fire with your guitar playing than ever!

7. Beginning At The End, And Not The Beginning

Guitar-Chord-Melody-BeginningCreating a chord/melody arrangement of a tune by trying to do everything at once, that is starting with the finished product, does not work. The same is true when learning exisiting chord/melody arrangements on your guitar.

This is because a completed chord/melody arrangement can look very complicated. However, if you know how to break an arrangement down, it reveals its structure and simplicity, and will also give you a great insight into how to build your own arrangements.

How To Avoid This Mistake:

• Divide your arrangement into 3 parts (bass, harmony, melody) and develop each part in isolation before putting them together to create awesome acoustic instrumental arrangements of songs on your guitar

So there you have it! In total, 7 crippling mistakes you can now avoid when creating your chord/melody arrangements on guitar.

To summarise:

1. Not Knowing The Chords And The Melody To The Tune, In Isolation, On An Intimate Level

2. Can’t See The Forest For The Trees. Trying To Include Everything In Your Arrangement

3. Only knowing open and bar chords, and having no idea how chords are constructed

4. Not taking the time to work out the best key/range in which to create your arrangement

5. Not having a variety of creative ways to go about harmonising/expressing a melody

6. Not looking to what has come before you to gain insights, ideas, and inspiration for your chord/melody arrangements

7. Beginning at the end and not the beginning

Check out the 5 easy steps to creating your own chord melody arrangements on guitar ebook/audio, to see and hear concepts and approaches covered in this article, applied to an actual song.