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How to Learn New Chords and Create Your Own Chord Melodies by Shawn Persinger


When I was less experienced player and I wanted to add some new chords to my playing I would learn twelve new chords, find a use for one of them and forget the other eleven until the next time I wanted more chords. While at least I was learning one fresh harmonic idea I knew there must be a better way to memorize and incorporate additional chords into my everyday use. That’s when I came up with the idea of arranging chord melody variations to Frere Jacques. This ubiquitous nursery rhyme lends itself quite well to chord melody for several reasons.

1. It uses six of the seven notes of the major scale (and I’ll show you how to incorporate that seventh note in as well),

2. It moves in stepwise motion through the scale and

3. It is repetitive.

Note: To download the sheet music simply: 1. Click on the image, 2. Right click the image once it becomes bigger, 3. Click “Save image as…” That’s it!



Example 1 shows the most basic chord melody using only triads with the root in the bass and on top. Note that the second chord in the last measure of all the examples have a substituted viidim chord for what should be the V chord, this allows us to use all seven notes in the key.

Examples 2 – 4 are three variations using nothing but diatonic 7th chords in G with various voicings (note: The chords in example 4 could also be considered GMaj7, Am7, etc. but I chose to name them with the bass note functioning as the root: Bm6 and GMaj7/B are the same chord).

In example 5 I have transposed the melody into the key of C and reharmonized the chords to start on a G7.

There are almost an infinite number of variations you can perform on these chords. Modifying one or two notes in each chord or reharmonization using all 12 keys or altering the voicings, are just a few of the options. The real purpose here is to get you putting your new chords into practical application as you learn them.


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Thank you for reading.