How To Play Melody with Chords on Piano - Step by Step (2023)

On Piano & Step by Step

If you're at the point of learning how to play melody with chords on piano let me just say, that's awesome! You've done a lot to get to this point.

What we're going to go over on this page is:

  • playing a written melody with chords
  • playing a melody by ear with chords
  • where you'll play your chords
  • what to do to hear the melody well
  • the melody for chords course

Video Tutorial - Playing Melody With Chords

The Melody: Written or By Ear?

In this tutorial, we'll be talking about a melody that's already been created (although, you can easily create your own and do that instead).

The first question we need to answer is: will you use a written melody or play one by ear?

Both are good methods and you eventually want to learn both ways. It will make you very versatile in your playing ability.

If you're just starting out and for the purpose of this how to, let's choose one method to start with. Either a written melody or a melody by ear. Go with your strength here.

If you're not sure and are really a beginner, choose a very simple melody (like from a simple nursery rhyme), try it by ear or try it written, and choose to go with one method at a time.

Playing A Written Melody From A Lead Sheet

To play a written melody first you need to find one. One great place is to look for lead sheets.

A lead sheet has a written melody with the chords written above the melody line. It's generally written only in the treble clef.

How To Play Melody with Chords on Piano - Step by Step (2)Melody is written and chords go above the melody.

Here's a link to free lead sheets by Piano Song Download. You can use any of these to learn a song and practice playing a melody.

What you will do is play the melody in the right hand and the chord in the left hand.

Or you can play the melody and chord in the right hand and bass line in the left hand.

Below is a video I made specifically on playing lead sheets.

Playing Melody With Chords By Ear

When playing a melody by ear, the first step is to figure out what the melody is. I do recommend using a chord sheet for the song you're playing. If you find that first, you'll be able to figure your melody out in the same key as the chords.

Next, take some time here to learn how to play the melody by ear and move on to the chords once you feel like you know what you're doing.

(I have more on playing by ear here.)

Now you can play the melody in your right hand and the chords in the left hand.

If that goes well and is easy enough, you can play the chords and melody in the right hand and bass line in the left hand.

Note: There is More Detailed Help With This

I do have a mini course called Making Melody for Beautiful Piano Chords. This goes further in depth on all of these topics here plus gives you exercises and songs to practice.

You'll find it inside the Piano Chords Clubwhich you can join here.

How To Play Melody with Chords on Piano - Step by Step (3)

Where To Play Chords When Playing Melody

When it comes to the actual playing of the chords, there are a few different options for you.

(Video) How To Play Melodies With Chords

The first step in the chord playing process really is to play the chord in the left hand while playing the melody in the right hand.

The next step would be to try to play the melody and chords in the right hand. When you do this, you generally want to keep the melody as the top line. (More on this in a minute).

Now when the chords and melody are in the right hand, what does the left hand play? Left hand can play the bass line or root note of a chord.

Inversions Are Now Important & Helpful

Above, we've just said that the melody needs to be the top line.

What this means is you're going to need to shuffle the order of the chord notes to fall below the melody. Basically, you're going to need to play inversions.

Inversions are standard positions you can play and learn so you can easily play chords in a variety of spots. (I have some more chord inversion info here.)

How To Play Melody with Chords on Piano - Step by Step (4)

So if you're playing a melody note that is G and play a C chord, you can see that the root position of the chord is fine.

But if you need to play C, you need to put the E and G below that. You can use first inversion (for example).

This is how you put the melody on top.

How To Play Melody with Chords on Piano - Step by Step (5)

About Playing the Melody With Chords

The reason the melody needs to be played as the top line is because that's where we hear it best.

We also want it to stand out, to be the star. So you need to play it louder than everything else.

This can take some time and practice but that's what we're after.

Make This Simple with Making Melody for Beautiful Piano Chords Course

I've created a 5 part course called Making Melody for Beautiful Piano Chords.

In this course we go over:

  • knowing your key when playing melody
  • playing a written melody with exercises and songs
  • playing a melody by ear with exercises
  • using inversions with melody (plus exercises)
  • ways to bring out your melody
  • how to make your melody sound awesome
  • creating your own melodies from chord progressions

Each lesson (there are 5 total) has exercises for you to download and practice.

This melody course is inside the Piano Chords Club along with an Inversions Course to accompany this one. Click here to take a look or join.

Free Download:

Ultimate Chord Cheat Sheet

How To Play Melody with Chords on Piano - Step by Step (6)

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(Video) #175: How To Play Melody With Chords

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How do you play melodies with chords on piano? ›

Here are some tips to follow.
  1. Look at the notes of a measure (or phrase) and find a primary chord that roughly matches it.
  2. Play the melody in the right hand and chord in the left hand to make sure it sounds ok. ...
  3. Change to a new chord when you hear a clash (or when music instincts tell you to change)
Apr 8, 2020

How do you make a melody with chords? ›

Each time a chord is played, there are at least 3 notes that a melody can use and be guaranteed to sound good. By following the chords, and only using the notes within each chord as it plays, you've got an instant set of notes from which to devise a melody.

How do you get the melody on the piano? ›

Here are a few general practice tips for bringing out the melody:
  1. Play the RH part with two hands instead of one. ...
  2. Sing/hum the melody while you play. ...
  3. Practice playing just the melody line (using the fingering you would use if you were playing the harmony notes too). ...
  4. Keep the non-melody fingers as close to the keys.
Nov 16, 2010

Do you start with melody or chords first? ›

A melody-first songwriting process implies that the first step in our music composition is to compose a melody and once we have a significant of it done, we can start putting chords to it.

How does a melody move by steps? ›

Motion by step (or stepwise motion) is when a melody moves by consectective notes in the scale. Motion by step is when a melody moves by consectective notes in the scale. Motion by skip is when a melody moves by intervals of larger than a 2nd.

What is melody with chords called? ›

Homophonic music can also be called homophony. More informally, people who are describing homophonic music may mention chords, accompaniment, harmony or harmonies. Homophony has one clear melodic line; it's the line that naturally draws your attention. All other parts provide accompaniment or fill in the chords.

What are the 4 elements of melody? ›

Kliewer states, "The essential elements of any melody are duration, pitch, and quality (timbre), texture, and loudness. Though the same melody may be recognizable when played with a wide variety of timbres and dynamics, the latter may still be an "element of linear ordering."

Can you have chords in a melody? ›

Diatonic chords

Say your melody comprises the notes in a C major scale (C—D—E—F—G—A—B); each one of those notes is the tonic, or root note, of its own chord. These chords are called diatonic chords, and they play an integral part in assigning chords to a melodic note.

What are the basics of melody? ›

The two basic elements of music that define melody are pitch and rhythm. Melody is a succession of pitches in rhythm. The melody is usually the most memorable aspect of a song, the one the listener remembers and is able to perform.

What are the 3 types of melody? ›

But what gives the entire verse its musical unity is the elegant contrapuntal combination of three different kinds of melody: the obbligato in the upper part, the cantus firmus in the middle, and the walking bass. Mark DeVoto, musicologist and composer, is an expert in Alban Berg, also Ravel and Debussy.

What are the 5 basic properties of melody? ›

  • MELODY. A coherent succession of pitches. - ...
  • HARMONY. The relationship of pitches as they sound simultaneously. - ...
  • TIMBRE (pronounced TAM-ber) The character of a sound distinct from its pitch, length, or intensity; tone color. - ...
  • FORM.

How do you turn notes into chords? ›

To make a chord, you start on the first note of a scale and then move up it in thirds, meaning that you skip every alternating note. To get more notes for your chord, just keep adding thirds on top.

How do you make piano chords? ›

A chord is created when more than one note is played at once, and contains two, three, or more individual notes. On the piano, this means you push down more than one key at the same time. All piano chords contain a root note -- this is the note the chord is named after -- as well as one or more additional notes.

How do you make a good melody beat? ›

How to Write a Melody: 9 Tips for Writing Memorable Melodies
  1. Follow chords. ...
  2. Follow a scale. ...
  3. Write with a plan. ...
  4. Give your melodies a focal point. ...
  5. Write stepwise lines with a few leaps. ...
  6. Repeat phrases, but change them slightly. ...
  7. Experiment with counterpoint. ...
  8. Put down your instrument.
Nov 2, 2021

What is harmony vs melody? ›

The melody is like the backbone—it guides and supports the body of the song. A harmony differs from a melody in the way that it stacks multiple notes on top of one another to create a sound. So, instead of being a sequence of sounds, the harmony is a blend of sounds.

What are the six melodic directions? ›

Six sets of melodic contour.

Each of the six contours are (A) ascending-staying the same, (B) ascending–descending, (C) staying the same-ascending, (D) staying the same-descending, (E) descending–ascending, and (F) descending-staying the same.

What are the two movements of melody? ›

Many melodies are a mixture of conjunct and disjunct motion. A melody may show conjunct motion, with small changes in pitch from one note to the next, or disjunct motion, with large leaps. Many melodies are an interesting, fairly balanced mixture of conjunct and disjunct motion.

How many chords are in a melody? ›

When working with triads, there are 12 major and 12 minor chords to choose from. Of these 24, each note of your melody has six possible chords to which it can belong as either a root note, a third or a fifth.

What are the 4 main types of chords? ›

The 4 basic chord types are:
  • Major Chords. Major chords sound full, resolved and complete. ...
  • Minor Chords. Here's the good news. ...
  • Diminished Chords. Diminished chords will add a tense, dissonant sound to your music. ...
  • Augmented Chords.
Jan 3, 2018

What are the 7 chords in music? ›

6.2 Types of Seventh Chords

There are five qualities of seventh chords that appear in diatonic music: major seventh, dominant seventh, minor seventh, diminished seventh (also called fully-diminished), and half-diminished seventh.

Is the melody easy to remember? ›

Melody is the part of the song that everyone knows and remembers. Three parameters -melody, harmony, and rhythm - make music out of a collection of sounds and beat. Melodies are the easiest recognized aspect of music, and so easy to remember that even cockatiel can do it.

What is an example of a melody? ›

Anything that creates distinct music notes can create a melody. Melodies can be made up of the same, single note played multiple times, or multiple notes, usually within some sort of scale as discussed below. For example, when you sing or play "happy birthday" it's still the same melody.

What are three factors of creating a melody? ›

A melody is the combination of pitch, rhythm and Harmony.

How do you know what key a melody is in? ›

The easiest way to figure out the key of a song is by using its key signature. The number of sharps/flats in the key signature tell you the key of the song. A key signature with no sharps or flats is the key of C (or A minor). The table below summarizes the key signatures.

How many notes should a melody have? ›

Most of the time, you'll want your melody of choice to fall within the scale you're working in. Great melodies often highlight three or four notes that are the strongest within a particular scale.

How do you make melodies for beginners? ›

Here's how to do it:
  1. Play or sing a scale (go up and then down)
  2. Find three or four notes in the scale and play them in a random order.
  3. Repeat some of the notes with differing rhythm.
  4. Record your idea.
  5. Repeat this process until you have 3-5 melody ideas.
Jan 15, 2021

What is the first note of the melody? ›

… the notes C, E and G (scale degrees 1, 3 and 5) are stable tones. They don't “need” to move anywhere. The tonic – the first note of the scale – is the most stable tone, followed by scale degrees 3 and 5.

What is the best melody? ›

The Top 12 Melodies of ALL TIME
  • Georgia On My Mind – Ray Charles.
  • Killer Queen – Queen.
  • I Hate You, I Love You Again - Emily West.
  • My Heart Will Go On (written by James Horner and Will Jennings for Titanic) - Celine Dion.
  • ABC – The Jackson 5.
  • Break Every Chain - Paxton Ingram (The Voice)
Mar 22, 2017

What is the catchiest melody? ›

The Spice Girls released their first single, Wannabe, in 1996 but its legacy clearly lives on. Researchers at Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester, England, and the University of Amsterdam named it the catchiest song of all time in a test of how quickly people can name a tune.

What is the main melody of a song called? ›

We might consider melody to be the single most important element within a song. In everyday language, this is the element we call 'the tune'.

What makes a melody boring? ›

A melody without repetition or structure is similar to a story with no purpose or direction. There's no sense of where ideas start, begin, or relate to each other. Melodies can also become boring or redundant if you don't create variation. For example, repeating the same idea becomes predictable.

What makes a good piano melody? ›

There are THREE key characteristics of a melody that you need to know about before getting started: Rhythm, shape and harmony.

How do you know if a melody is good? ›

Great melodies tend to have a nice mix of steps and leaps. If you have too many steps the melody sounds static and emotionally flat; too many leaps and it sounds directionless and can be hard to sing. (The “Star-Spangled Banner” is a great example of too many leaps making a song hard to sing.

What are the 3 notes in a chord? ›

The major chord contains the 1st, 3rd, and 5th notes of a major scale. For example, below is a C major scale. The notes of a C major chord are the 1st (the root note), 3rd, and 5th notes, which are C (the root note), E and G. Notice that the octave (the 8th note) is also part of the chord.

What 3 notes make up a chord? ›

Chords are built off of a single note, called the root. In this lesson, we will discuss triads. They are created with a root, third, and fifth.

Is it OK to just play chords piano? ›

It's very possible to play the piano with just chords because chords, particularly, triads are like the building blocks of music and the major scale is like the foundation on which everything else is based and compared to. You can use them for chord progressions or play them as single notes.

What are the 12 major chords in piano? ›

There are 12 unique notes at the piano, which means we can build a major chord on each of those 12 notes - C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G, Ab, A, Bb, an B. There is also a secret formula that only the wisest of piano instructors know about that allows you to build major chords starting on any note!

What are the 4 most common piano chords? ›

The chord progression consists of four basic chords:
  • C major (chord symbol "C")
  • G major (chord symbol "G")
  • A minor (chord symbol "Am")
  • F major (chord symbol "F")

How do you use chord formulas? ›

Method 1: Formula + Major Scale

For example, the chord formula for major chords is 1-3-5. We take the first, third, and fifth note of the major scale to create this chord. So a C Major chord has the notes C-E-G. Some formulas modify one of the degrees with an accidental.

What are chord based melodies? ›

What is a Chord Melody? On guitar, a chord melody is an arrangement of a song that includes both the melody and the harmony (chords) simultaneously. Chord melodies are often used in formats where guitar is the sole harmonic instrument: for example, solo guitar, or guitar trio (guitar, bass, and drums).

Do melodies have to follow the chords? ›

Yes, generally speaking, melodies follow chords and vice versa. At the most basic level, you play the melodic note on the next strong beat as note 1, 3 or 5 of the basic triad chord played with that melodic note (because the general rule of thumb is that the basic chord should carry the notes in the melody).

What is the rule of melody to a song? ›

The two basic elements of music that define melody are pitch and rhythm. Melody is a succession of pitches in rhythm. The melody is usually the most memorable aspect of a song, the one the listener remembers and is able to perform.

What are the 3 chords in every song? ›

The I (tonic), IV (subdominant) and V (dominant) chords (primary triads) together encompass all seven tones of the tonic's major scale. These three chords are a simple means of covering many melodies without the use of passing notes. There are tens of thousands of songs written with I, IV and V chords.

What are the 3 most commonly used chords? ›

The I, IV, and V chords are the three most common and arguably the most important harmonic elements in the musical universe. Built off of the first, fourth, and fifth notes of any major or minor scale, these three chords form the basis for much of the music found in several genres.

How do I get a catchy melody? ›

How to Write a Melody: 9 Tips for Writing Memorable Melodies
  1. Follow chords. ...
  2. Follow a scale. ...
  3. Write with a plan. ...
  4. Give your melodies a focal point. ...
  5. Write stepwise lines with a few leaps. ...
  6. Repeat phrases, but change them slightly. ...
  7. Experiment with counterpoint. ...
  8. Put down your instrument.
Nov 2, 2021

How do you know what chord to use when harmonizing a melody? ›

A harmonization should include chords that underscore the design of the melody. For example, the tonal design of the melody is supported through the repeated use of V-I progressions. Cadences provide musical punctuation and are strategic places to reinforce the key.

What is the most important thing to remember when writing a melody? ›

Memorability in a melody is important. If your listeners remember your song's melody, then they'll want to hear it again. If it's too complicated, they won't remember it and won't even be capable of wanting to hear it again. The best melodies are simple, because simple is memorable.


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