How To Write Melodies When There Are No Chords [Guitar Riffs]

Tommaso Zillio

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melody writing riff

Most musicians know how to write a melody over a chord progression. It’s explained in most music theory books after all.

Ok, it’s not explained very clearly in most music theory books, but if you know where to look the information is there somewhere.

(If you don’t know how to write a melody over a chord progression, then just reply to this email, let me now, and I’ll do a video - or ten - about it!)

But if you are a modern musician, very often you are not writing your melodies over a chord progression. You are writing them over a riff.

Few musicians know how to write a melody over a riff.

“Why?”

Because it’s not something that is explained in music theory books.

“And why it’s not explained?”

Because it’s not something that Bach or Beethoven or Brahms used to do.

“And why they didn’t?”

(This article starts to sound like a conversation with my 9 year old daughter… “why?”)

Because classical music works by chord progressions, not by riffs.

And despite my unbounded admiration for the “3 big B’s” (Bach/Beethoven/Brahms)… writing in riffs is what modern musicians do.

Blues, Rock, Metal, Pop, Country, Rap… there’s a lot of riff-based music in these styles.

So here’s how you write a melody over a riff - even if you never did it before:

Does not end here of course!

For instance, let’s get a tip on melody writing from Mozart and Cory Henry (keyboard for Snarky Puppy):

So why should we study harmony if melody is where it’s at?

Because a thorough knowledge of harmony on your guitar fretboard makes your life much easier even when you want to write a melody.

If you have no idea where to start, the fretboard scares you, or you think harmony is super complicated… then let me change you mind.

Try the Complete Chord Mastery guitar course and see how easy it is to learn harmony directly on your guitar fretboard.


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