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I just started learning how to play piano and only know how to play it note after note. So when I play a song I just play it by memorizing the notes, but not knowing what the chord is or understand playing a chord very much, which also doesn't help when I go to a chord website. For example they have:

chord

What I understand was that in order to play the first sentence: "Up on Melancholy Hill, there's a plastic tree" exactly or similar to what it sounded like in the actual song, I had to play a sequence of note which is: "F# A G F# E F# D B B A D E"

But I don't understand how do all of the chord given on the site come together. As in they tell you that they are these certain chords (D, A, etc..) but not exactly how to use them for the melody, or is it not for the melody as these are called "chord websites", then how do you use it?

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First match the melody to the words. Then you can apply the chords. From the word "Up" through the word "plastic" one plays a D chord (or some variant thereof). The bass line and strum patterns are up to the player. Next from "tree" through "with" one plays an A chord (or variant). Continue to the end of the song changing chords on the note associated with the syllable which has the new chord name above. The last word "dream" starts with a G chord and then switches to an A chord somewhere; I assume there's a long note associated so I would switch on a bar line.

This is a bare-bones set of notes for a song. It's rather common (I've used it) but one has to had the rhythm and bass line also one has to know the melody.

  • But why is it that the D chord i have to play but during the melody, i play other notes which are not in the chord as well? – Matias Tresch Jul 15 '18 at 16:35
  • Strum patterns? It's a piano question. – Tim Jul 15 '18 at 17:33
  • Perhaps just accompaniment patterns would be more inclusive. I think of all of them as strum patterns. – ttw Jul 15 '18 at 21:43
  • Melodies need not necessarily consist of only chord tones. There are several obvious ones: passing tones between chord tones, neighbor tones above or below chord tones, combinations of these into turns or mordents, more complicated things like a cambiata, etc. – ttw Jul 15 '18 at 21:48
  • @ttw is there anyway of learning or a name for these things? I want to learn about chord and how they are used to make melodies but what got me confused was that there are notes that aren't in the chord but they sound really good. TLDR: wanting to learn combination of notes to make good sounding and consistent (the use of chord) melodies (specificly vocal) – Matias Tresch Jul 16 '18 at 3:49
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Well, the chords don't tell you how to play them, they just tell you which notes to play. Then, you can apply any arrangement you like. The most basic one, for D chord, for example, could be: D octave on the left hand (whole note); D F# A chord on the right (4 quarter notes). So, knowing the rhythm of the song, if you played this, switching to A at the right time, and sang along, it should work.

Answering you question more directly: the website won't tell you how to use them, but certainly they are meant to be played along with the melody.

You seem a bit skeptical about this, because the melody contains so many notes outside the chords, right? Well, this is very common. The melody would be very poor if it only contained chord notes. But either way, it's not a strange melody for a D chord. It keeps coming back to D, F# or A, which are the chord notes. The G, for example, is a transition from A to F#. The E resolves to F#, and the B resolves to A. So it all makes sense and sounds good along with a D major chord.

In the future you can come up with nice arrangements and rhythm patterns to play along with the melody, maybe even add some notes do the chords, or play secondary melodies or whatever goes better with the given melody. Even though the chords don't tell you "how to use them for the melody", you will know how. Just practice.

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There are two different skills/knowledge sets at work here: music theory and accompanying (often abbreviated, at least in jazz music, to 'comping)

Music theory describes how/why music "works" (sounds good). It explains the difference between major chords, minor chords, augmented chords, and any number of a couple hundred different types of chords. It teaches the composer how to resolve one chord into another in a way that's satisfying. It's one of the ways in which music creates tension and offers release.

'Comping, on the other hand, specifically relates to harmony instruments like bass (guitar), guitar, and/or piano/keyboard. Obviously people can play melody on harmony instruments, but the main purpose of playing a harmony instrument is that it gives you the flexibility to do both (in other words, nobody would go to see a brilliant piano soloist who's only playing one note at a time).

To be a successful musician, you really need both. Music theory gives you the "what", 'comping gives you the "how".

My advice? Start taking lessons from a reputable piano teacher. This is THE single thing that will most help any budding musician.

If you're determined to go it alone, then I'd suggest picking up a book on accompanying. I know that Mark Levine's The Jazz Piano Book has a whole chapter devoted to 'comping, but not having it in front of me, I don't know how much jazz theory one needs to know.

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