Putting Chords to Melody

When writing a song you need to be able to find chords that fit the melody in a complementary way.  Here is a simple way to figure out what chords to use.


Video Summary

I got a question about having a melody and wanting to put chords to it. How do you do it?

Let’s say you’re in the key of C. The first thing to know what chords are in the key of C. Create all the chords that are naturally there, we call those diatonic chords. For C, the chords are:

  • C
  • D miner
  • E miner
  • F
  • G
  • A minor
  • B diminished
  • Back to C

You must know that first. Then, as you have a melody in a song you’re writing, it’s important to play a chord that incorporates the note you want to play chords with. If you are wanting to play a chord with an F, you go through the chords to see what sounds best with your song. The D minor or the F are the best options here, so you play both to see what sound you want.

Go through the rest of the melody, finding chords with the other notes you want to emphasize with chords. This will help you find your options, then choose the best fit for the tone you want to achieve with the song. Each will tell a different type of story and have its own feeling.

To recap, find the chords that use or sounds best with the note you’re playing in the melody. As you go through the song, you’ll find the right feeling and story you want to tell.

Please leave your comments below and add to the conversation!

12 Comments on “Putting Chords to Melody”

  1. much blessings going forward Wade! This is for sure a question and a challenge that has been much on my songwriter mind lately. Love to see more content in this direction!

    ~cheers from boston

  2. This is an excellent way of explaining how to find the correct melodies that match a chord. There is a more difficult way that I have been exposed to but this is the simplest and easiest to learn. I love the way you break things down.

  3. Your teachings are always so easy to follow for beginners like me. Very understandable. Keep up the good work.
    Thanks so much. God bless.

  4. Hey Fifi,
    Volume seemed fine on my computer. Make sure that the volume is all the way up on the video as well as the computer. You might try plugging in headphones if you need to.


  5. Wade, thanks for the easy to follow instructions. Since I am a senior citizen who has had
    the desire to learn to play chord music this is easy for me. I learned the old way of playing
    by book many years ago, but granny’s eyes are not good as they use to be.

  6. Hi Wade,

    Hope all is well with you and your family. I Len reverse to your lesson, I have a simple and short song that I have been playing for a while in church and I would love to enrich my playing. It’s called, “The More I Seek You, By Kari Jobe.” I sing and play it in the key of C Major. I want to learn how to play the transition melodies that fall between every two chords. Are there any rules or tricks to learning how to do the transition melodies?

    Blessings, Miriam Tierno

  7. To spontaneously add chords to any melody, I find the “basic” chord to play with the next melodic note on the upcoming down beat by playing the root note of the chord at note interval 1, 3 or 5 BELOW (+1 octave) the melodic note. In essence, I have a 1 in 3 chance of picking the correct root note for my next chord. At the same time, I know 100% that just about every song ends where the root note is the same as the final melodic note at note interval 1 (+1 or more octaves).

    ​I increase my chances of identifying the right root note out of these three options (at note interval 1, 3 or 5 below the melodic note) by “hearing” the song in my head (my memory of the song recordings that I’ve listened to in the past). I can usually tell if the root and melodic note on the next downbeat are or are not the same notes at note interval 1. When I can tell in my head that they are different, then I now have narrowed the next root note down to just the root note at note intervals 3 or 5 BELOW the melodic note, giving me a 50/50 chance of correctly identifying the right root note/chord.

    ​This method (“playing by sight” as opposed to “playing by ear”) of visually identifying which melodic note is coming up on the next down beat (by watching your right hand play the melody on the piano) and mirroring the root note to follow the melodic notes on the down beats (at note intervals 1, 3, or 5 below the melodic note) enables me to spontaneously add basic chords to any song (including improvised melodies) while playing a song in ANY key (and without actually knowing in advance what key I’ve randomly chosen and used to play song). Just start playing the melody on the right hand starting on any note on the keyboard, and play spontaneously by letting the root notes mirror whatever melodic notes I am playing on the right hand! 🙂

    ​Add basic chords by playing the root note with your left hand pinky, and while you hold your left hand in a fixed claw-like position, you can spontaneously play or roll the notes at note intervals 5, 8 and 10 above the root note to add basic chords to the song melody.

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