Chord-melody is a style of arranging music that was originally developed for Jazz guitarists. Melodies of songs and other tunes are harmonized in a way that gives the impression of polyphony without changing the rhythm of the piece. Therefore, these arrangements can be played solo or with other musicians or instruments or accompanied by voices. Hence, melodic or rhythmical variations which are frequent in true solo arrangements are not used. Harmonic variations are achieved by using different voicings of a chord.


James Hill: Chord-Melody Crash Course (Part 1) (2016)

James Hill: Chord-Melody Crash Course (Part 2) (2016)

Guido Heistek: How to Make A Chord Melody on Ukulele (2016)

Michael Lynch: Chord Melody Improv Video Tutorial by Ukulele Mike Lynch (2016)


The outstanding characteristic of this style of arrangement is the use of chords that will usually be arpeggiated only at the end of a phrase to avoid breaking the rhythm. Often, the chord will be played only partially; in particular, its root note can be skipped (if it is not part of the melody); thus, chords are of realized as double or triple stops.

Historically, jazz guitarists used to play with picks and thus could not play chords with more than two notes.

On a guitar, the melody is mostly played on the highest two treble strings, making the lower strings available for the notes of the chords to be added. On an ukulele, however, it is necessary to also use the third string for notes below the 1st and 2nd strings (i.e., in C6 e, in D6 f-sharp); in this case, properly spoken, only the 4th string can be used for harmonization.

In the early age of the ukulele, melodies were usually fully harmonized, i.e., each melody note was extended to a chord. Today, off-beat notes are often left as single notes. But this depends on the preferences of the musician.

Bass lines

Independently from the rhythm of the melody, notes of the chord applied to this part of the melody are played on-beat (in four-four time: on 1 and 3; three-four time: on 1). This results in a second voice which is interlaced with the melody without being identical. In this way, long notes and breaks in the melody can be bridged.

Basso ostinato

The root note of the chord is played.

Alternate bass

The root note and the fifth (i.e., the root note of the dominant = the 2nd note of the 2nd inversion) of the chord are played in turn.

(In classical composition, it was forbidden to used consecutive fifths to avoid that the melody changes accidentally into the key of the dominant. Therefore, the fifth may only occur alternating with the root note or its eighth.)

Third bass

Instead of the fifth, the major third (the lowest note of the first inversion) and the root note of the chord alternate. This is, however, a consecutive dominant; accordingly, with a major root chord, a minor chord is expected, which will not always fit the melody.


  • Eric Cutshall: Ukulele Chord Melody Solos: Tips and Tricks for Arranging Songs on the Ukulele. Mel Bay Publications 2013 (ISBN: 978145841853)
  • Jerry Moore: Chord Melody Method for Uke. Mel Bay Publications 2012 (ISBN: 9781619110229)