Songwriting basics and tips 22: Some Tuneful Tricks …

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Bob Leslie is an Independent Scottish Songwriter, Singer, and Recording Artist

 

Ringing the changes …

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For a while now we’ve been looking at different types of scales as sources for more interesting melodic inspiration. 

However, we’ve mainly been examining the different chordal possibilities these offer, so, any tunes constructed on that basis will probably have been following the notes of the basic chord triads – the doh mi sohre fah lah etc. shapes you should now know pretty well.

Let’s now look at a few ways to include notes that don’t follow those basic triads – the notes that I once heard a somewhat set-in-his-ways folkie describe as “the wrong notes!”

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Get ’em into the enclosure …sheep.gif

The term enclosure in music refers to the practice of singing or playing over a chord, but, instead of immediately hitting one of the notes of the triad, you start one note below, or one above, then do the opposite, before resolving the dischord on the triad note.

Here’s an example – a basic wee reel that has an opening bar-and-a-half of C, but whose melody starts with an F then a D before settling on the note of the C chord; then, in the 2nd stanza, I superimpose a harmony that starts with A then F before settling on the G of the C chord.

The Enclosure Reel © Bob Leslie 2019:

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Add more voices to the choir … …

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Something else you can do to escape the basic triads is to use the extra notes of 4-voice chords in your melody – that is to say, triads with an added note.  Jazz does this all the time with augmented this, and diminished that, and 6ths7ths, and 9ths all over the place!

Here are some common 4-voice chords:

  • Dominant Seventh: 1 3 5 ♭7
    so C Dominant Seventh (usually just written as C7) would be C  E  G  Bb

  • Major Seventh: 1 3 5 7 
    so Cmaj7 would be C E G B

  • Sixth: 1 3 5 6
    so C6 would be C E G A

  • Minor Seventh: 1 ♭3 5 ♭7
    so Cm7 would be C  Eb  G  Bb

  • Minor Sixth: 1♭3 5 6
    so Cm6 would be C  Eb  G  A

Each one of those gives you an extra note for your melody.

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And once more, I ask:  whodunnit? …tec.gif

Smokey Robinson and the Miracles used lots of maj7 and m7 chords and harmonies in Oh, Baby, Baby

Love’s Andmoreagain is heavily-based on maj7 chords

Norah Jones also makes good use of the maj7 in Don’t Know Why

Somewhere from West Side Story hits a Dominant 7th note on the 2nd word of “There’s a place for us”

And Guinnevere by Crosby, Stills, and Nash is packed with melody based on all sorts of 4-voice chords

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Next time, we’ll look at how a bit of judicious “borrowing” can help shape a song!

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Bob Leslie – Scottish – Traditional – Songwriter

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