Introduction to Chapter 12: Using Harmony to accompany a melody.

Now let’s look at how chords can be used in a song. Chords are usually used to accompany a melody, to give the melody more context and emotional detail. For me to explain this, you’ll need to understand chord symbols. Chord symbols are written above the melody or lyrics of a song so musicians who are reading the music know which chords to play. The symbols are simple. For a C major chord, the symbol is simply the capital letter C. For a C minor chord, the symbol is Cm.

In this book, I often try to write things so they can be applied in all keys, and that’s why I use numbers to refer to notes in a scale. For chords, I will use roman numerals instead of numbers, and numbers will be used for the melody. For example “I” will be the one-chord in a major scale, and “IIm” is the symbol for two-chord. These chord symbols will be written above the melody of a song, and the position of the chord symbol tells you when to start playing that chord. You continue playing that chord for all of the following notes in the melody until you see a new chord symbol. Even though the chords are written above the melody, chords are typically played in a lower octave than the melody.