Use APPOGGIATURAS To Write Emotional Melodies On Guitar

Use APPOGGIATURAS To Write Emotional Melodies On Guitar

Tommaso Zillio

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emotional note guitar

“How do I make my melodies more emotional?”

This sounds like a question with a long and complex answer, right?

Try asking this question on an online forum or on (gasp) a FaceBook group (*)… and you will get a lot of contradicting answers…

… including the classic answer: “you need experience, so go play your guitar for 20 years, and you will know how to write an emotional melody.”

… which is wrong on TWO different accounts:

  1. There are plenty of musicians with 20+ years of experience that still have no idea how to write a melody. It’s not something you learn just because time passes…

  2. … but if you know WHAT to do, it takes a much shorter time to make a difference. Not 20 years, but 20 minutes.

So in this video, I will share one of my absolute favorite tricks on melody writing with you.

And I show you the before-and-after so you can hear what difference it makes to use this little trick.

Just one word of warning before you watch it: this trick is done by 3 different small ‘pieces.’ If you use only one or two, then it does not work.

So it is essential that you watch the video from beginning to end and not skip over (if that’s a deal-breaker, so be it!)

Watch the video here:

(*) I trust it is clear that I propose this as a hypothetical experiment only. I don’t recommend you do that for real. I would not recommend this to my worst enemy. If you do it and end up pouring bleach into your eyes to forget what you’ve seen, I disclaim any responsibility. You’re on your own. Great knowing you. Bu-bye.

On that note, Sometimes I wonder what happened in the world in the past 5-10 years.

Before, if you wanted to learn something, you would ask someone who knew about it.

Now you go and ask a bunch of strangers on social media, and none of them has any idea about what you asked or how to help you… but they answer anyway. (Sigh).

If you want to leave behind the “social media suggestions” and get some professional guidance instead, then get the Complete Chord Mastery guitar course. As my students would tell you, there is no comparison.


Hello, internets, so nice to see you.

Today I’m going to talk to you about one of my favorite tricks to inject emotion into a melody. And it’s one of those tricks where you take the notes, and you just change one note, and it sounds great, okay?

There are only two problems with that. The first one is that to make this trick work; you have to respect three specific conditions.

So I’m going to go through those three conditions. Okay, but don’t stop this video after you see the first one because otherwise, you don’t get anything out of this. Okay? Just making sure.

The second thing is that the name of this little trick has been used for several different things. And so, the use of this name is controversial.

The name that this trick is called is “Appoggiatura.” First of all, let me remark once again how weird it is for me, an Italian, that everybody in the world uses the Italian language for those things.

First of all, because Appoggiatura is an old Italian word that means “to lean on,” so I don’t see why you cannot call this “leaning tone” as you’re going to see later, it will be much easier for everybody.

Also, because every time I go around and I say “Appoggiatura,” people don’t understand me, especially here in the English-speaking world.

And indeed, when I was discussing this with another musician, it was this big misunderstanding because they started talking about Appoggiatura, but they read it in a strange way; they read it in a very English way like “Ah-pou-ja-TU-ra.” Okay. And so, for a good five minutes into the conversation, I had no idea what they were saying. Because if you don’t read it in an Italian way, I don’t understand.

Anyway, so sorry for the rant. But I mean, you can call it a “leaning tone.” That’s great.

Now the problem again is that the term appoggiatura has been used by different music theory books or different traditions to mean completely different things. And so if there are some internet warriors among you already googling these terms, make sure to put the right amount of letters in every word; okay, it’s two B’s, two G’s.

If you go and Google all this, you’re going to find that appoggiatura refers to something completely different than what I’m going to explain to you today.

I tell you what; I don’t care. Google doesn’t have all the answers. And Wikipedia doesn’t have all the answers either.

This trick has been called appoggiatura at a certain point in the music history. Okay, and I’m going to use this name.

So and also the exact definition of appoggiatura changes from book to book. It’s maddening. I mean, I have like five different books open in front of me with five different definitions.

So I think we are never going to get a consensus on this. So what I’m going to show you today is “appoggiatura my way.” Okay? Take it for whatever it is.

The important point is that this trick works. And it sounds great.

Let’s say you have two chords; we need two chords for these tricks, okay, for instance, I could take a C and A G. Okay, I’m starting simple, but as you’re going to hear in a moment, this sounds great when we apply it in the right position.

But for the sake of explanation, again, simple chords C and G. When I play my C chord, I’m going to put the E note on top. And when I play my G chord, I’m going to put a G note on top. Okay, so those are my melody notes.

So the first important thing is that from the first chord to the second chord, the melody needs to go up. And that’s the first condition: from the first chord of the second chord, the melody needs to go up.

Then what we’re going to do? We’re going to take the second note here; rather than playing the second note here, you’re going to play the note just higher in the scale, which is the A note. Okay, and that’s the second condition, the note higher in the scale than the intended chord note.

And the third condition is, I’m going to play this A note exactly when the chord changes, and then I’m going to resolve it down to the original G note. So essentially, it sounds this way.

So again, recapping, one, the melody has to go up, two, we are not landing on the chord tone, we are lending on the note just higher than that chord note in a scale, and three, the landing is on exactly when the chord changes.

If you put together those three conditions, the thing works.

Now, you may think: “Tommaso, what we just played is not particularly inspirational” Okay, but that’s because that’s the simplest example that you can find.

Now, let’s try this thing. I’m going to take two different chords. I’m going to take an E chord and a C chord, okay. And on the E chord, I’m playing the B note as my melody note, so here it is. And then, on the C chord, I’m going to play the E note as my melody chord. And I’m going to apply an Appoggiatura here.

Okay, so now, on what scale are we? We are formally in the E major key, but the C chord is borrowed from minor. If you don’t know what that means, don’t worry, my point is the note; just higher than the E in the scale is the F sharp note.

So, I’m going to play the B note over the E chord. When I switch to the C chord, I’m going to play the F sharp note and resolve it down to the E note.

So I guess that sounds a little bit more inspirational than where we started from, right? The trick, again, is to choose the right two chords or the right moment in the melody to do this, and in this case, it is just the very beginning of the melody, and the two chords are pretty interesting together. Okay, so let’s take a different chord progression.

Let’s take a very easy chord progression like C am F G.

Super simple chord progression that you’ve heard so many times; okay, and let’s decide on a few melody notes, so on C, my melody note is E; on Am, my melody is A, and I need to go up.

Then on F, my melody note is C, and then G, my melody note is G, and I’m picking those completely at random right now; the only thing I’m taking care of is that every now and then, the melody goes up, and I’m going to apply the appoggiatura.

Which is a strictly better melody than what we had before just by adding two appoggiaturas here and there, it sounds already way more emotional, okay, which is not bad for the simplest and most common chord progression we can find, and a few notes taken at random.

Let’s change our notes for a moment and see if it works, even if we change our notes. On C, I’m going to play a melody note of G. On Am, the melody note is C, of course, higher. On F, I’m going to keep this melody note of C., And on G, I’m going to go up to a melody note of D. Okay, and I’m going to embellish it a little bit more with some other notes, maybe.

So again, these melodies tend to sound much better than just the first four melody notes I found. And yet it’s a melody I wrote in literally 10 seconds while recording this video; really, I didn’t prepare the examples before; I’m literally doing this in real-time.

Okay, now, of course, it’s not the best melody ever written. But my point here is that if you take these tricks, and you sit down, and you try this with your guitar, you’re going to write tons and tons of melodies; some of them are not going to be so great, but some of them are going to be, and then you select the best ones.

And then you can write your own songs. I mean, that’s what this is all about, no?

So, of course, the problem with all this is that you need to have a pretty good knowledge of chords and where to play those chords. Otherwise, you are left with recording first the chords and then improvise over the melody later.

I mean, you can still do that. I mean, it’s, it’s great. I mean, you can still write your own backing track or use a looper pedal, record those chords, and then play just the melody on top of it. Sure, that can work, but it’s not as convenient.

I prefer to have everything under my control in every single moment when I write songs so that they can play chords and melody at the same time.

And if you want to be able to do all that, I recommend you guys have a look at my course, Complete Chord Mastery, where I’m showing you how to visualize all the chords of the fretboard and then play Chords and Melody together, play chord melodies, do and do all these kinds of things that allow you to play everything at the same time.

That’s a course made specifically for guitar. Okay, so I’m not going to do long theory on the piano. I do all the theory in this course straight on the guitar, which is very convenient for us guitar players.

Anyway, no pressure. Okay, I don’t want to sound like an infomercial. I know I do sound like an infomercial, but I mean, check out the course and see if it works for you.

And if you have any questions, just send me an email, and I will answer to all your questions.

If you like these videos, smash that Like button, don’t forget to subscribe. And by all means, if you have questions, write them down in the comments, and I love reading your questions and making videos on that.

This is Tommaso Zillio of Until next time enjoy

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