Tip #4 – Crafting Melody with Chord Inversions

In chord voice-leading, the bass note has the most flexibility on how/where to move. While there are some strong suggestions to keep bass motion at intervals small – like under a perfect-fourth – there is certainly more leeway for a bass not in a chord to make large intervallic leaps… as opposed to inner voices and melody, which should move stepwise.

Now, what if these roles were reversed? Given, jumpy upper voices in a chord can sound a bit out of place; however, having the bass line be crafted like a melody can yield cool results of a smooth transition from one chord to another.

Take a chord progression for example:

After deciding on a progression, my next piece of advice is to find common tones between the chords as well as adjected notes by at most a minor third (though M3 and P4 can work, too). Make a note of all the possibilities. From there, write a melody within the harmonic rhythm that is smooth and overall stepwise in motion. Then, let those be the root positions and/or inversions of the chords you previously chosen.

Rest is there for you from there on out on how to play around with the upper voices and melody, but now you have a melodic line in the bass that can be used as a motif a basis for variation.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read! Feel free to comment, share, and subscribe for more daily tips below! Till next time.

Author: Bryan M. Waring

Bryan Waring is a graduate of USM's School of Music with a B.M. in Performance – Composition and is now attending Belmont University for a M.M. in Commercial Media – Composition & Arranging. During his time at USM, he studied violin with Dino Liva and composition with Dr. Daniel Sonenberg, as well as has premiered several pieces during the semiannual Composer's Ensemble concert series. In 2017, Bryan was a writer for the original musical theater work of "Molded By The Flow," directed by Paul Dresher and Rinde Eckert. Outside of school, Bryan has been involved with writing music for videogame developers at Portland's CI2 Lab, collaborating with the King Tide Party, and studying with Larry Groupé (Straw Dogs) in San Diego. Now living in Nashville. Along with composing, Bryan teaches music to children, receiving the Master Teacher Award for his work at ESF Camps; and does audio engineering for live ensembles. Besides talents in music, Bryan is a team-player in any competitive work environment; equipped with skills in leadership, organization, mathematics, creativity, communication, and managing. On the side, Bryan has worked as a model for several skilled artists in the New England area. Among his other accomplishments include obtaining the rank of Eagle Scout in April 2013 with a project of building a side parking area with guide rails for Webb Mountain Park in Monroe, CT.

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