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Recently I started writing songs and I started to wonder:

Let's say I sing middle C (while playing open C chord on guitar) for a bar and then go to singing E, third higher in pitch. Should I follow that by a chord that also sounds higher on guitar to match the E note I sing? I'm a little confused because when I play E minor chord it sounds LOWER than C chord and especially lower than E note I'm singing now.

Would it be better to match singing note with a chord that also sounds as high (or as low) as this note or maybe I should follow the structure of harmony with my singing (going higher and lower as chords sound higher and lower)? Or, third option, maybe it'd be better to just ignore the fact that E minor sounds lower than C and go along with singing E higher in pitch?

That's the problem in short.

singing 1 bar: C -> E (higher in pitch)

playing 1 bar: C -> E (lower in pitch)

Isn't it weird that even though harmony went down in pitch I sing higher in pitch at the same time?

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Should I follow that by a chord that also sounds higher on guitar to match the E note I sing?

Not necessarily, no. It might sound more interesting for the two parts to move in opposite directions.

I'm a little confused because when I play E minor chord it sounds LOWER than C chord and especially lower than E note I'm singing now

The Lowest E in the most common E minor chord shape is E2. This is lower than the lowest C in the most common C chord shape, which is C3. So this is as expected.

Would it be better to match singing note with a chord that also sounds as high (or as low) as this note or maybe I should follow the structure of harmony with my singing (going higher and lower as chords sound higher and lower)? Or, third option, maybe it'd be better to just ignore the fact that E minor sounds lower than C and go along with singing E higher in pitch?

It sounds like you're trying to play a new chord with every new note you sing. This isn't usual in most styles of music.

I would recommend learning some existing songs (learning the correct melody and the correct chord progression) in the style you are interested in, and then start to learn something about the music theory for that style of music.

For many styles of music, it's common to have a chord progression that mostly fits into one key, and a melody that also mostly fits that same key - but for the chords and the melody to move quite differently, and to change at different times.

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    Thank you for your answer, topo morto! It cleared up things a bit to me :) – Duplex Jun 22 at 21:57
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I think it's due to the voicings you use with the guitar chords. You're probably using open C followed by open Em. A couple of notes (both C) happen to drop by a semitone going to Em, so yes, it will sound lower. If you were to play different chord shapes for each, you could feel that the opposite effect is happening.

In answer to the question, when you sing a C note, obviously, a C chord will sound good under it. But - that's not the only chord that might fit. Basically, any chord with a c note will also be a contender. F, Fm, Am, D7, Co are a few that spring to mind. There's also the idea that the note's hanged, so the chord has to too. Not true. The note may be E. So now, the best fit chords could be Em, Am, Fmaj7, D9, or even stay on that humble C, as it contains the sung E note. It will also be dependent on what else is in that second bar. That's where the clues lie as to what chord fits best. say there's another C, that narrows the choce down to maybe C or Am. If it's anything else, try other chords (starting with those diatonic) and hear which is the best fit.

  • Thank you for the answer. Let's say I want (for some reason) to higher in pitch in that movement from C to E in singing. Beside staying on the C in chords, what other chord would fit? Barre E minor chord on 9 fret comes to my mind and E minor chord played on four strings (high E - 3 fret, B - 5 fret, G - 4 fret and D - 5 fret). – Duplex Jun 22 at 22:21
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On guitar, the simplest chord shapes for E or E minor use the open bottom string - E - as the root. To get a C root, we can only go higher. That is why, using the 'easiest' chord shapes, the C chord may feel higher than the E chord.

(Other shapes and positions are available. It's perfectly possible to play a C chord in a low position then shift up the neck to play an E chord that sounds higher in all respects.)

If a song starts on the note C and the chord C major, and the next note is E, you COULD move to an Em chord. But you could also stay on the C chord. The notes of the C major chord are C, E, G. E fits in!

It sounds like you're taking a 'Theory-out' approach to writing a song. I strongly suggest you don't try to work from rules, rather that you study and play lots of existing songs to get a feel of what works. You can formulate this knowledge into rules later if you like.

  • Yeah, nothing beats practice I guess :) Thanks for help! – Duplex Jun 22 at 22:01
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I'm not sure if you want follow the bass line or the back voices or invent a melody:

It depends of the style:

In classic, Jazz and Pop the you may keep on this rules:

bass: you can choose the pitch you like - most comfortable to your voice (priority: the counter-point to the tune).

back-voicing: keep the common tones or go to the next step up or down (preferably counter movement to the melody or bass line.

Gospel songs: parallels (even fifth parallel) are usual creating a typical effect.

In European Folk Music parallels of thirds and sixths are usual, in English and American Folk Songs and Pop Songs (Beatles) parallel fourth with the tune are also usual.

try this out:

Isn't it weird that even though harmony went down in pitch I sing higher in pitch at the same time?

summary:

in almost all styles it is even better to lead the voice in opposition to the bassline respectively the chords.

  • I feel like I got what you mean. Great examples, thank you for taking time to help me! – Duplex Jun 22 at 22:05

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