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In this article we will explain some ways to create a melody and to make harmonies using different intervals and also gain a general understanding of how to use this knowledge. We will have to understand first of all what an interval is, how many there are and how they sound.  We will then pick a scale, harmonize it and build the chords found in the scale (triads & 7th chords). Finally, we will write a chord progression and follow some simple steps in order to create a simple melody and then expand it into what we want it to sound like. The 1st part will focus on how the intervals sound against a chord progression. Let’s start.



An interval is the distance in between 2 notes. We get the intervals value (name) by finding the distance between the note that we are playing and the Root note or another reference note. But how do we know what interval is it? The easiest way would be on a piano. If we take one octave, the easiest is from C-C, we have 13 keys, 8 white and 5 black. If we want to figure out what interval a note is we will count how many keys we have to press in order to reach the Root note. In our case the Root note is C. Now we need to mention that every key is a semitone far from the previous or the next key. So we are going to count in terms of semitones (i.e. E-F) or tones (i.e. C-D) the distance between the two notes. So lets say we want to find out what is E in relation to C, what type of interval. If you look on the piano the E note is 4 semitones (2 Tones) away from C.  Now if we look at the image below we will see that this is a Major 3rd. The 3rd is one of the most important interval because it identifies if a chord or a scale is Major or Minor. If you are not familiar with the piano, on the guitar you can find all these intervals in a similar way. 24 frets = 2 octaves from the open string till the 24th fret. On the guitar every fret is a semitone away from the previous or the next fret. So for the same example we would have the C note on the 3rd fret on the 5th string (A string) and the E on the same string would be on the 7th fret. Again we can see that we went up 4 frets from C in order to find E, same thing that we did with the piano. Finding intervals on one string is easier for in beginning because you can count frets (semitones) in order to find out the interval. When you compare to other strings it might get a bit confusing if you are not very familiar with the intervals. So these are the easiest ways to identify intervals.


Intervals of Major and Minor scale

In order to extract a Major or Minor scale from any Root note we will have to know 2 formulas based on Tones and Semitones:

So if we follow the formulas we will see that on the extraction we have the following intervals within one octave and the extensions on the next octave. Something to be mentioned here is that the extensions are 9th, 11th and 13th. 9th is the 2nd degree but on the second octave, 11th is the 4th degree in the second octave and 13th is the 6th degree in the second octave:

The reason we don’t count the 3rd, 5th and 7th as 10th 12th and 14th accordingly is because they will already exist in the chord within the 1st octave in most of the cases. If we find those notes in the 2nd octave of the chord, they will create repeated chordal notes (Duplicate Voicings).


Creating a melody

There are no certain rules to be followed in order to come up with a melody if you haven’t come up with a chord progression, but if you have a chord progression already then there are some easy ways to start creating one. Both ways works vice-versa. You might have the melody and want to put a chord progression behind it. So lets have a look. Before we start anything we have to make sure we know well the notes that are found in the scale we want to use! This is crucial for finding our way around it. The example that we are going use is the E minor scale which contains the notes E – F# – G – A – B – C – D – E.

E minor is the relative scale of G Major.

So if we harmonize the Em scale into 3 note chords (stack 3rd on top of 3rd), we will end up with the following chords:

Em – F#dim – G – Am –Bm – C – D

And if we want to use 4note chords (7ths), we get the following chords:

Em7 – F#m7b5 – G Maj7 –Am7 – Bm7 – Cmaj7 – D7

The chord progression we are going to use is:

Em | C | D | Bm

Now we have to make sure we know the notes of each chord so

Em = E – G – B

C =   C – E – G

D =   D – F# – A

Bm = B – D – F#


If we want to add the 7ths we will have the following chords:

Em7 | C Maj7 | D7 | Bm7

In order to get the 7ths we will have to add D on Em, B on C, C on D and A on Bm.

All these chords exist in the E minor scale:

The first thing that we should do is play all the notes of the chord against the homonymous chord so we can hear how they sound within the octave or one or 2 octaves higher (play them as whole notes so you can see how they would sound against the chord and then as quarter notes to see how they would sound on every beat of your backing track).


Progression: Em  |  C  |  D  |  Bm  |


Roots -  E  |  C  |  D  |  B  |

3rds - G  |  E  |  F#  |  D  |

5ths - |  B  |  G  |  A  |  F#  |

8ves - E  |  C  |  D  |  B  |


Now as a starting point we are having a look at the chord progression and trying to identify if we have any notes in common from the chord we are on to the next one.

In this case on Em and C we have 2 common notes, G and E. on Em E is the Root and G is the M3rd and on C major E is the M3rd and G is the P5th. From C to D we don’t have any notes in common. From D to Bm we have again 2 notes, D and F#. On D, D is Root and F# M3rd and on Bm D is the m3rd and F# is the P5th. So the easiest starting point would be to play for two bars each of the common notes and see what effect they have (sound wise) against the change of the chord. This is the simplest and easiest way of doing this. So we’ll need to have a look how many combinations we have:

1.     E – D

2.     E – F#

3.     G – D

4.     G – F#

Now we have an idea of what these chord notes sound like against the chord progression. Let's not stop there and try to change one note per bar

1.     E – G – D – F#

2.     E – G – F# – D

3.     G – E – D – F#

4.     G – E – F# – D


So now we have all the combinations that we can come up with by using common chord notes.

On the next step we will combine the first 2 approaches in order to create a melody for the chord progression, which is going to be based only on chordal notes.


Creating a harmony

Now that we have a melody, we can make it more effective by creating a harmony. Harmonies can be following a fixed sequence of intervals and time values (Sequence of 3rds, 5ths, 8ves played exactly like the original time wise.)

Example in 3rds

Example in 5ths

Example in 8ves


Or we can create another melody on top of our melody, which is descending or ascending in different time values in order to create a wider effect. (Counterpoint).

So let’s make a second melody and try to blend it together with the first one and see what they sound like.


A different approach is to create a harmony that is played the same as the melody but with mixed intervals.


Using extensions

Another approach to the melody is using chord extensions. For example we can add to our melody the 9th, 11th and 13th. In order to do that we have to go back to step 2 and play every extension on top of each chord so we can see how it sounds against the chord. Some of them work and some of them don’t work as a staying note, but they work as passing notes:





As we can see some of them work quite well and some of them don’t. By knowing all that now we can decide which extensions we want to input into our melody in order to make it stronger and more effective.

In Part II we are going to explain targeting some notes and how to get there from another note and also how a chord progression can change the sound of a previously created melody.

Thanks for reading, I hope it was helpful.

See you next time



Download Chord Progression PDF

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Related articles

Introduction to intervals and chromatic scale

Triads and 4 note chords