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Melody and Chords who's who's ??

Discussion in 'Music Theory [DB]' started by Doley50, Oct 24, 2005.

  1. Doley50


    Sep 4, 2005
    I was always under the impression that the Melody was the Song and Chords were a way to harmonize with the melody. You could use more or less depending on the feeling you want to get out of the song. I recently played with a musican friend of mine and and he told me that there were more cords to the song then I was playing. I liked it better
    the way I was use to hearing it with less chords to me it left allot of room for inprovising while still leaving the song very sparce.

    My concern is this. Is this just an Artisic diffence or is there some theroy that concerns it self with what can be left out and what can't.
    as far as chords go?

    The Song: Wayfaring Stranger

    The chords Gm-Cm-Dm
    compared to Gm-Cm-Dm-Ab-Eb

    What your take on this?

  2. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Not sure what you're asking. Are you asking if Wayfaring Stranger has more chords than what you've been playing or if you're allowed to leave out chords? There's really no hard and fast rule. I've heard bands rewrite the chord changes completely when they do someone else's song. And I've heard them stick exactly to the original chords as well.
  3. I can't offer any comments on matters of artistry but Wayfaring Stranger does contain 5 chords rather than three. This is strictly opinion but leaving out chords (or adding too many as well) takes away from the tune.
  4. I may be wrong, but if I remember correctly from my undergraduate degree in music theory, changing the chords and/or leaving chords out (or slightly altering the melody) would be called an "Arrangement". So, if you like to play the melody for Wayfaring Stranger over less or even different chords, it then becomes YOUR arrangement of that piece and IMHO falls into the category of artistic differences/preferences. I've always understood this to be acceptable, especially when you present the piece as being altered as in "Now we'd like to play Doley50's arrangement of Wayfaring Stranger..."

    Shelly : )
  5. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    This reminded me of the sleeve notes to Miles Davis' Complete "In a Silent Way" ...

    So, apparently Joe Zawinul came to the sessions with the title tune written out with lots of chords - but then at the sessions, Miles said that John Mclaughlin should play the melody on guitar - then when it didn't work, Miles told him to leave out all the chords and just play the melody over an E string drone...

    And that's the version that appeared on the record and became famous as the original version!! :)

    Of course, Joe Zawinul could rightfully play that tune with all his "extra" chords, as he did with Weather Report and say that's the original version....after all he wrote it!! ;)
  6. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    You can present a song, arrange a song, whatever -- any freaking way you want. Want to present "Wayfaring Stranger" as a 13-bar blues using some kind of Albanian minor scale, with the key changing every 5 bars? Go right ahead. It's not wrong. It's just really weird-sounding and probably totally unlikeable by anyone except the deaf.

    In country music however, especially at the grassroots folk level, there usually isn't a lot of tolerance for freeform re-arranging like that. There are fewer and fewer people who were taught certain songs at their GrandPappy's knee. Most people hear and internalize songs based on recordings they've heard. So if your version of a tune doesn't match up with another person's version, they think you've got it wrong. What's most likely occurring is you or the other guy have heard different versions of tunes.

    I've noticed that "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" gets played differently by a lot of people I've played it with -- the differences can be substantial. Some people are coming from Hank's version, a few have only heard The Cowboy Junkies doing it, etc etc. The song's been covered by 100's of artists...

    I just All-Music Guided "Wayfaring Stranger" and have 3 pages of hits -- 100's of covers of the tune. Is there a particular recording you're thinking of that gets it done in 3 chords? How about the 5-chord version? Can your colleague name a recording he's thinking of?

    That's the long story of why you're likely having a difference here. To get on with things, can your colleague demonstrate why he prefers his 5-chord version over your 3? Does the melody and its movement require a different chord than the one you're playing and thinking of? That's an area where you could indeed find something that might be considered "wrong" -- a harmony that's just too salty for country music could be generated (or not) depending on how you harmonize that melody.

    Controversy-starting statement of the day: I wish Zawinul would have had his way with "In A Silent Way". As it stands in that recording, a more boring piece of music I have seldom heard in my life....
  7. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I really like it that way - it sounds peaceful and how you would expect something titled like that to sound! :)

    Zawinul has done at least one version of his on Weather Report albums - I think I've got one live and one studio cut?
  8. True, but is it Wayfaring Stranger? At some point doesn't it become a different thing entirely?
  9. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    Steve, my take on that whole thing by now is "sure, whatever works for you." Different tune, different name? Same name, different tune? Whatever works for you, it doesn't excite me one way or t'other. What's more interesting to me are the musical qualities of it and how folks dig it (or not -- like my weird example version of "Wayfaring".)

    But I guess I am bringing in a value perspective more common in the jazz world, the "free thing", modern music -- not so common in roots and traditional music.
  10. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Isn't that a good thing!!??

    Isn't this how the best musicians have always made music their own - not just in Jazz, but groups like the Stones or Led Zeppelin taking elements of Blues, for example and creating something new?

    Isn't that what we call 'creativity'....;)
  11. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Devo's version of the Stones' "Satisfaction" is about as different from the original as any cover version ever performed. But it's still "Satisfaction." The Pet Shop Boys disco version of "Always On My Mind" is still the same "Always On My Mind" that Elvis and Willie Nelson recorded, just gayer. If you're in a cover band, then maybe you wouldn't want to change songs too drastically, but geez, who cares if it becomes another thing entirely? Maybe that's a good thing.
  12. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Yes it's like the argument about cloning - so I think a society of perfect clones would be very cold and soul-less - we like people's little imperfections and idiosyncracies...:)
  13. ToR-Tu-Ra


    Oct 15, 2005
    Mexico City
    I think this may be a matter of differences in the way we all hear and feel a same tune. maybe your bandmate hears the song internally with those chords and is playing something acording to them and you're hearing and playing it different. So, your playing may not be supporting his playing and the other way around. I think you should bring this up with him, tell him why you like it with fewer chords and listening to what he has to say on why he likes it with more chords, reach an agreement. Otherwise, it will be like each one is playing a different tune at the same time. IMHO
  14. I don't mean to suggest it is a bad thing to play around with melodies or progressions. As an example, a few days ago I was listening to Sirius' classic jazz channel and heard a redition of All Blues--I can't remember who the group was. As each soloist took his turn they quoted parts of the old spiritual Down By the Riverside. I thought it was pretty cool how it all fit together. But if they had just abandoned All Blues and started playing Down by the Riverside, would they still be playing All Blues?

    I sometimes play with a group of ultra-traditionalist bluegrass musicians ("Bill Monroe played it in Bb and 150 bpm and if Bill Monroe played it in Bb and 150 bpm then it must be played it in Bb and 150 bpm"). While I do enjoy playing with them, I also sometimes feel like we are playing in straightjackets. On some tunes, changing velocity, key, rhythm, etc. would add interest for the players (or at least the bass player) and perhaps even the listeners. But I do believe that basic melody and progression should remain pretty close to the original.

    Another group I once played with were somewhat more progressive or maybe adventurous would be the word. We played bluegrass versions of several classic rock tunes--certainly a very different feel from the originals but still very recognizable.

    Again, I don't mean to imply that change is bad--just that enough of it results in a different product.

    My apologies to Doley for taking this thread off on a tangent.
  15. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Well that's just down to titles - you could call it a medley if you wanted to...?

    I've heard Jazz soloists quoting dozens of other tunes wholeseale in solos on another starting point...

    Or there's the case like Joni Mitchell's "Harry's House" on "Hissing of SummerLawns" where the narrator/singer drifts off dreamily into the past and starts singing the Jazz standard "CentrePiece" and the whole band goes with it - then comes back to the original tune. In that case the piece is labelled as : Harry's House/CenterPiece..

    But either way it's just how you name it - nothing wrong with doing it!
  16. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    Nobody's really referred to those changes mentioned in the first post here.

    If the tune is in Dm -- the key I would call -- then that Ab/Eb isn't exactly what ya call standard. It's tough to talk about without hearing a performance, but at this point I'd bet that little cadence is in there for some kind of colour. Is it a major feature of the arrangement?

    I've got a real cheap, cheap, cheap ancient old bluegrass tunebook and "Wayfaring" is in there. "Arranged by Jesse Williams." Yeah right. Him and Slim Martin. Anyway, no sign of that colourful cadence. Jesse's got an F major in there (the major key associated with D minor and vicey versey.)

    The call is more a question of aesthetics than it is right or wrong.
  17. Akami

    Akami Four on the floor

    Mar 6, 2005
    You and your friend are both right. You have your approach and he has his. The only thing he's mistaken about is when he starts telling someone else how they should hear the song, unless of course he's the band leader, which makes him right.

    My take on lyrics and melody is that they tell the story, which is what a song is, to me. The chords, drums, bass and whatever else there might be are the backdrop for your story-telling stage and how you want to decorate them is a personal choice determined on how you want to convey the story/song you're telling.

    A little more sparse, a little busier, it's all a personal choice and the only thing that needs to be kept in mind is whether the point of the song is being conveyed.

    That's my two-bits and I'm stickin' to it!
  18. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    We've been talking in terms of art here, but from a legal point of view you bet your bippy there's a notion of "when it's a different song". Chord changes are not copyrightable, melodies are. I suppose the legal concept is that a given melody can be harmonized seventeen ways to Sunday but the melody is the melody is the melody.

    If he was still around, I'm sure George Harrison could give some pointers on the topic.
  19. If you play the melody on it's own it will still be wayfaring stranger.

    If you play three or five chords without the melody it could be anything (almost).
  20. Doley50


    Sep 4, 2005
    Thanks for your insight on this topic.
    I talked this over with the banjo player in question and it seems.
    There was really no need for my concern. He agreed it could be played
    either way. He just liked it better the other way. What I like about this
    whole subject is that I've been able to dig deeper into music theory.

    " Wayfaring Stranger " Gmin

    The Melody note is a G = I like to play the Root Gmin chord over that.
    Were as another way to play it is instead of the Gmin Chord playing
    the Eb maj chord the VI chord.
    What's interesting to me is Gmin = G Bb D and Ed maj =Eb G Bb
    they share two notes the G and the Bb.

    The two Different Harmony's that sound are they
    G= Melody G Harmony = Octave / Strongly Consonant = the Melody
    note is jumps an Octave during this part of the song.
    as opposed to.
    G= Melody Eb Harmony = Maj 6th / Consonant.

    I'm trying to get a better grip on harmony and theory in general.

    I don't want to claim Artistic difference because I want to learn more
    and understand why something works and something don't.

    Thanks for your help and taking the time to comment on what my seem
    like an anal topic.