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How To Play The Chords And Melody Of A Song On One Guitar At The Same Time

In this video lesson, you learn my 3 step process for creating chord/melody arrangements on guitar.

A chord/melody arrangement is when you play all parts of a song on one guitar, much like you might on a piano.

Many people struggle with this because they try and learn everything at once, also known as starting at the end and not at the beginning.

You must know both the chords and the melody of the tune you want to arrange, intimately.

From here, you then need to break down each layer of the tune and understand the role of each part before putting them together.

Here are the 3 steps I walk you through in the video tutorial:

Step 1: Bass And Melody  

Adding the root notes of each chord, not the chord itself to the melody, is a great starting point and a great arrangement in and of itself.

This is where you begin developing the ability to play all parts of a song on one guitar.

Step 2: The Harmony  

In this step, you add the full chord to the arrangement by filling the space between the bass and the melody parts. This will bring more texture to the sound and is the harmony component to the arrangement.

Step 3: Arpeggiation

To fill things out and add interest to the arrangement, the third step involves arpeggiating the chords. This is when you play the notes of a chord separately rather than together. Typically, you will do this between the phrases of the melody where there is space to do so.

Each step above will yield a very complete arrangement in and of itself. Combining them creates a fuller more developed arrangement.

Watch the video below to learn more:

Fingerstyle Guitar Arrangement

I’ve Been Working On The Railroad: Chords And Melody

Here are the basic chords and melody to the tune “I’ve Been Working On The Railroad”:


Step 1: Bass And Melody

Here the tune is arranged using the root notes of each chord for the accompaniment:


Step 2: Chords And Melody

In this arrangement, we fill the space between the bass and melody from the previous arrangement creating the chord:


Step 3: Arpeggiation

Now you can fill things out a little more by arpeggiating the chords in the pockets that exist between the phrases of the melody:


Learn more ways to create fingerpicking arrangements on guitar

About the author: Simon Candy is an acoustic guitar instructor from Melbourne, Australia.  He specialises in a number of styles including blues, jazz, rock, and fingerpicking. In addition, Simon conducts masterclasses internationally, on various aspects of acoustic guitar playing and offers online tuition for acoustic guitar