How does one know what chords to play?
Type this into your browser: Amazing Grace - chords
You should get several web sites with lyrics & chords. Some of the sites will let you change the key to whatever key you want, others won't. You may not find every song you want, but there are thousands of songs available in this way. Try doing what others suggested above, and if something sounds wrong, let your browser find it for you. Over time, your ears will get good at telling you when it's right. This will help you until then.
This page came up in my browser: http://www.bing.com/search?q=Amazing++Grace+-+chords&pc=MOZI&form=MOZLBR
Patty, if the song is in a major key, you can usually find the basic chords fitting into the I, the IV and the V chords of the key. For instance, if you are in the key of D major, your song can usually fit into D (I), G (IV) and A (V) chords. For the most part your I chord will be your "home" chord, as it is called the Tonic. Your IV chord tends to want to move to the V chord, and your V chord tends to want to move you home to I again. This is just a general rule of thumb and there will always be exceptions to this rule. In your melody, find out the strong beats of each measure, perhaps beat one. See if you can find a chord that shares a tone of the melody on the first beat of each measure. For instance, if your melody has the note "A" on beat one of a particular measure, you will notice that this note is in both the I chord (D) and the V chord, (A). Try each of those chords and see which one seems to sound most appropriate to your ear. Then do the same with beat one of the next measure and so on. Keep changing the chords around until you like what it sounds like.
Once you have arranged your song using those 3 chords, you may actually be happy with it, but you can also try substituting some other chords here and there. For instance, for some of your I chords (D) you may want to try some vi chords (b minor), for some of your IV chords you may want to try substituting a ii chord (e minor) and for some of your V chords you may try substituting a iii chord (f# minor). You will have to keep trying and changing things until it sounds good to your ear... that's the way arranging is! Once you have your chords done to your liking you can also try to arrange for a second dulcimer, playing a harmony part.
Thanks Robin, Rob, Mary and Dusty!!! I understand about sounding right to the ear. Many times when I've hit the wrong note on the melody I know that it's wrong right away. Good to know my ear still works okay. Mary I"m glad you are back. I missed you! Dusty, thank you so much!!! Learning those three chords and especially the chord shapes will help tremendously!!! I've learned a lot more about music since joining this site than I ever have. You all are great
Patty, each in our own way, everyone here is saying the same thing, though it might be hard to see that at first.
Let's start with just the main three chords, I-IV-V, or in the key of D, the chords of D, G, and A. Each chord is made up of three notes: the 1st, 3rd, and 5th notes of the major scale.
D chord: D-F#-A
G chord: G-B-D
A chord: A-C#-E
Within those three chords are all the notes of the D major scale: D-E-F#-G-A-B-C#-D.
So the basic idea is that when you play a melody note, you want to play a chord that has that note in it. You may note that (unless you play the autoharp) you do not want to change chords for every single note, so in general, you look at the notes in each measure and see which chord is going to cover the majority of them. Sometimes you will have a choice, and then you will want to rely on your ear. And there are some other basic prinicples. In general, songs end on the tonic, or key tone, meaning in this case D. And very often they will go to the V chord (in this case A) before resolving to that D.
Before you try to figure out the chords for more complicated songs that include minor chords and diminished chords and all that fancy stuff, start out with 3-chord songs. In fact I would bet 70 percent of folk tunes only have three chords. As I've said elsewhere, I encourage people to sing or whistle or hum the melody of songs they know well while they just strum chords until their fingers are used to strumming chords and, in your case, you are getting the hang out of guessing what chord to play.
And you can also do this without looking at music and without thinking about all those notes I mention above. As you play a melody on your dulcimer, stop on an important melody note. Whatever chord you play is going to have that note in it. One reason for learning those chord shapes is because you will know right away what your options are. But you can also do this by trial and error. While you play a melody note, try to find another note on another string that sounds good with it. Do that on the third string, and you're all set! You don't even have to worry about what chord that is! I did that for a long while, not really worrying about what chords I was playing but just trying different chord shapes on different parts of the fretboard until I found one that worked. Eventually I learned the fretboard better and can name those chords, but who cares? The important thing is find chords that sound good.
Dusty T., Northern California
As a musician, you have to keep one foot back in the past and one foot forward into the future.
-- Dizzy Gillespie
I start with playing the tune againstthe open strings- and when it sounds a little 'harsh' I know a different harmony note or notes on the open stringscould be needed (chords). In the key of D those chords are going to be D, G, A or possibly Bm. So it is not difficult to try them all against that phrase of the melody and see what works!
I saw an interesting discussion on chords in the Beginner's group. A big thank you to Dusty for giving us instruction! I have a question that maybe many have been asking. Sometimes I run across some music that I would like to play but I'm not sure how to figure out the chords. I can figure out the melody. I can read notes on the staff. It sometimes takes me a bit but I get there eventually . My question is how do you figure out the chords for each measure? Also, if you only have the melody how does one figure out the chords? Sorry if these are dumb questions.
updated by @patty-from-virginia: 10/06/16 11:24:46PM