Lets say I play a 1-6-4-5 progression, but instead I only use the root notes, or maybe a combination of root notes and some random scale notes or even if I use broken chords, whats the term called?

closed as unclear what you're asking by Tim, Dave, Matthew Read Oct 8 '16 at 8:45

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    As written this question seems vague. If you are trying to solve a specify problem or address this type of question with respect to a specific piece, please add that additional context. – Dave Oct 7 '16 at 12:24

OK, what you are playing, because there is only one note at a time, is a melody (regardless of whether it is in the bass or treble), and the kind of texture that consists of a single line or voice is called monophony.

It is kind of futile to say that the line consists of only root notes - a single voice can suggest a harmonisation, sometimes quite strongly, but it cannot define one. That's because the definition of harmony is two or more notes playing simultaneously. It is also entirely possible to accompany any given melody in more than one way. Thus, lacking a harmonisation, defining the harmonic function of each note can be more than a little ambiguous.


It's called a song.

In all seriousness, it's probably still a 1-6-4-5 progression. You might have added some extensions (add9, dominant 7, maj7 etc), but it would probably still be considered the same basic progression.

To be pedantic, it could be possible that you've changed the progression. For example, in C, your proposed progression is C, Am, F, G. The bass notes are C, A, F, G. If, over the A, you decide to play C and F (random scale notes), your progression has changed to C, F/A, F, G. Technically another progression.

  • What if i only play the root notes of the chords, what is the term for that? is it still a chord progression even tho only the root notes are being played? or does it somehow become the melody or even bassline? – Janice Cee Oct 7 '16 at 11:17
  • Assuming there are no notes that are lower, it takes on the mantle of 'bassline'. – Tim Oct 7 '16 at 11:45
  • Would it still be considered as that, if i played the "bassline" on higher notes, the treble clef? – Janice Cee Oct 7 '16 at 12:16
  • @Janice It would have the same role as a bass line. It's defining the base or root of the harmony. – endorph Oct 7 '16 at 20:54

The question is a little unclear still because there is no context. If you are playing something by yourself on an instrument that only plays one note at a time, then playing the roots of a progression with other notes sounds like you are playing a melody where the notes of the melody are mainly the roots of the chord progression you had in mind. However, if your melody does not include the third of the tonic then the key of the melody would be a little ambiguous.

But if you are playing with other musicians then the other people would be playing other notes in the chord so the chords and the key would be well defined for your mostly-chord-root melody.

If you are playing these chord roots in a systematic way, with the other notes following a similar pattern after every chord change then it sounds like you're are playing an exercise or etude in order to practice changing chords.

  • so playing only the root notes of a chord progression, is referred to as a melody? Also when there is an orchestra, lets say there is a c major triad, does the low pitch instrument play the c and a middle pitched instrument play the e, and does the higher pitch instrument play the g- thus seperating the chord by splitting it between 3 timbre voices? – Janice Cee Oct 7 '16 at 21:14
  • Playing only the root notes of a chord is not referred to as a melody. I guess the answer to that question is that there is no specific term, that I know of, for only playing the root notes of a chord. The melody can play only roots, the bass line can play only roots, a harmony line can play only roots. If you want someone to play only roots then you have to say play only the roots. – jomki Oct 7 '16 at 23:19
  • Your other question is a matter of orchestration and/or voicing. When an orchestra plays a c major triad, normally the low instruments play the c, not always. The middle and high pitches play any of the other notes of the chord depending on how the composer wants it to sound. – jomki Oct 7 '16 at 23:33

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