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In music theory there is a process for going to the next chord that involves playing a note just before the next chord that resolves to a chord tone of the upcoming chord.

However this messes up my melodies and I have found that I have to build my melodies around this for it to sound good

So 2 questions:

  1. How do you put this theory into practice ?

  2. Is it really necessary to use this theory? I get that the word 'necessary' makes this a bad question for music. As a song can break any 'rule' and still sound good. So a better question would be how frequently is this used in songs? Is this used commonly, occasionally or rarely?

  • Can you provide an example melody, and how you try to change it to "comply" with this "rule"? – piiperi Reinstate Monica May 31 at 13:51
  • I don't see what the original problem was. Were you playing some kind of approach tone like it was required for every chord change? – Michael Curtis Jun 1 at 15:14
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A few pointers:

  • Using a chord tone as the first note on the next chord will almost always sound good.

  • Who says that you have to play a previous different note to resolve on that? You may do that, of course, but it's by no means mandatory.

  • Doing what you describe sounds like a good exercise for learning "target notes" on chord changes, but it's by no means a general rule in composition or improvisation.

  • If you analyze songs melodies, you'll find many instances of chord tones resolving a previous note, but you'll also find instances of melodic tension going on over several chords without resolving, chord tones starting a new line without being the resolution of previous notes, and so on.

  • Bottom line, you are describing a useful exercise for learning the ins and outs of a chord progression, but once you start composing or improvising on it, that's just one of many, many tools and concepts that you can use.

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To double your options, it's also common to approach the root of the next chord from a semitone above, especially in jazz, but it works in all sorts of music. Unexpected, maybe, but it gets the job done, and could well fit into the rest of that previous bar. Give it a try!

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Your question relates to the concept of approach tones, where you precede a target "land tone" with an approach tone such as its leading tone half step below.

This happens all the time in the melodies of improvised solos and it happens, but less, in tune melodies (in jazz, this kind of melody is often called "head"). I suggest you pick a few classic standards (such as Cole Porter's or George and Ira Gershwin's) from the Real Book and have a look for yourself. The melodies there are often very simple, therefore useful to see how it's done.

So much for approach tones, I'll now move on to creating a melody that's consonant with the chords (which I think you're after). The considerations below are still connected to previous through the concept of land tone.

I feel that there's a concept more powerful than the approach tones one, which relates to the "voice leading" that takes place between the chord tones as one chord changes to the one that follows. I used quotes to highlight it's probably a good idea to use the term as a keyword for research.

The most important thing to watch here is the chord tones that "move" a half tone up or down. The most evident example of this I can offer is the chord G7 resolving on to the chord C, where the voice leading is the tone B "becoming" or "turning into" the tone C, and the tone F "becoming" the tone E.

Your melody following the chords by emphasizing voice leading is no requirement, but doing so makes your melody stick to the context created by the harmony, strongly. So much so that, if the chords change fast enough, your melody can use strong dissonance "against" chords and still get away with sounding "in".

You can create a melody that sounds very "inside" the harmony by choosing the targets of voice leading as land tones (among the existing chord tones). Approaching them just like the preceeding chord does (i.e. replicate the voice leading) is optional, you can achieve good consonance approaching your target in different ways.

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