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Chord Connections
By Kole (Kyle Hicks) - 11/23/2007 - 04:01 PM EST

This article will focus on the movement of chords within a progression and the possible ways to phrase your melodies based off of this movement.  This is not the only method for improvising or creating melodies, but it is one of many that can be practiced and will help “Improve your Improv”.

Let’s get straight to it.  Some people hold the belief that knowing the chord progression of the music you are about to improvise over, is a bit like cheating and it ruins the point of improvising or “jamming” (especially if you have time to practice over it before the performance).  I’m not here to argue if that claim is correct or not, but I will show you a method for improving your improvisational and compositional skills, which will ultimately give you the knowledge to feel more secure and make your leads easier to “come out from within.”

First off, let’s start with the most basic chord progression to have ever existed… the 1 4 5.  We will also start out in a key familiar with most people, A Major.  The following progression would look like so:  A Major, D Major, and E Major. 

The first step to understanding and utilizing “Chord Connections,” is to break down the chords into the individual pitches that make them up.  When we do so, we get the following pitches: A Major A C# E, D Major D F# A, and E Major E G# B. 

The second step to this process is to choose a note from each chord which will be your melody’s “base” or “foundation” as you change sonorities throughout the progression.  There are a few different ways that you can go about this.  One of the ways you could go about it is by having your melodic foundation be the root note of every changing chord (A, D, E), thus giving your solo a “solid” feel to it.  Now, this doesn’t mean that your solo has to be boring.  You can have each one of these pitches in a different octave and the material you play between each chord change could be a unique improvisational lick or run. 

Another interesting way you could decide on your melodic “foundation” pitches, is by choosing notes that are common or closely related (Half Step) between all of the chords in the progression.  For example, A Major and D Major share the pitch “A” so you can use “A” over both chords in your melodic improvisations (even though one “A” is the root of a chord and the other “A” is the fifth).  Now once you get to the E Major chord, all you have to do is descend down by half step to a “G#” (leading tone) and your melodic “foundation” pitches are set.

Click Here to view the example.

These aren’t the only possibilities available to you and from this point forward you can be as creative as you want with the melodies that you make.  Think of this as an exercise (just like practicing a lick) but with the building blocks out in front of you.  It is then your job to reassemble these individual building blocks (pitches) in a way that truly expresses your musical intentions and emotions.  The best part about this technique is that it increases your compositional skills as much as your improvisational ones!  Until next time, take care and keep improvising fellow artists!

Copyright © 2007 Kole (Kyle Hicks). All rights reserved.


Kole has just finished two years studying music composition and classical guitar at Indiana University, and is currently attending Musicians Institute.  He has also studied with guitar virtuoso and HolyHell Guitarist, Tom Hess, and world renowned vocalist, Jaime Vendera.  His debut album “Exile” will be released in the fourth quarter of 2007.

Kole has also just finished a great new instructional Jam Tracks CD titled “Improve your Improv.”  This product is perfect for aspiring lead guitarists or anyone who needs backing tracks to practice over.

If you would like to find out more information about Kole, his music, articles, or lessons feel free to visit his site at

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