How to Play Melody with Chords

On Piano & Step by Step


If you're at the point of learning how to play melody with chords on piano let me just say, that's awesome! You've done a lot to get to this point. 

What we're going to go over on this page is:

  • playing a written melody with chords
  • playing a melody by ear with chords
  • where you'll play your chords
  • what to do to hear the melody well
  • the melody for chords course

Video Tutorial - Playing Melody With Chords

The Melody: Written or By Ear?

In this tutorial, we'll be talking about a melody that's already been created (although, you can easily create your own and do that instead).

The first question we need to answer is: will you use a written melody or play one by ear?

Both are good methods and you eventually want to learn both ways. It will make you very versatile in your playing ability. 

If you're just starting out and for the purpose of this how to, let's choose one method to start with. Either a written melody or a melody by ear. Go with your strength here.

If you're not sure and are really a beginner, choose a very simple melody (like from a simple nursery rhyme), try it by ear or try it written, and choose to go with one method at a time. 

Playing A Written Melody From A Lead Sheet

To play a written melody first you need to find one. One great place is to look for lead sheets. 

A lead sheet has a written melody with the chords written above the melody line. It's generally written only in the treble clef. 

Lead Sheet Example with Melody and ChordsMelody is written and chords go above the melody.

Here's a link to free lead sheets by Piano Song Download. You can use any of these to learn a song and practice playing a melody. 

What you will do is play the melody in the right hand and the chord in the left hand. 

Or you can play the melody and chord in the right hand and bass line in the left hand. 

Below is a video I made specifically on playing lead sheets. 


Playing Melody With Chords By Ear

When playing a melody by ear, the first step is to figure out what the melody is. I do recommend using a chord sheet for the song you're playing. If you find that first, you'll be able to figure your melody out in the same key as the chords.

Next, take some time here to learn how to play the melody by ear and move on to the chords once you feel like you know what you're doing. 

(I have more on playing by ear here.)

Now you can play the melody in your right hand and the chords in the left hand. 

If that goes well and is easy enough, you can play the chords and melody in the right hand and bass line in the left hand. 

Note: There is More Detailed Help With This

I do have a mini course called Making Melody for Beautiful Piano Chords. This goes further in depth on all of these topics here plus gives you exercises and songs to practice. 

You'll find it inside the Piano Chords Club ($29/month) which you can join here

Piano Chords CLub

Where To Play Chords When Playing Melody

When it comes to the actual playing of the chords, there are a few different options for you. 

The first step in the chord playing process really is to play the chord in the left hand while playing the melody in the right hand. 

The next step would be to try to play the melody and chords in the right hand. When you do this, you generally want to keep the melody as the top line. (More on this in a minute).

Now when the chords and melody are in the right hand, what does the left hand play? Left hand can play the bass line or root note of a chord.

Inversions Are Now Important & Helpful

Above, we've just said that the melody needs to be the top line. 

What this means is you're going to need to shuffle the order of the chord notes to fall below the melody. Basically, you're going to need to play inversions. 

Inversions are standard positions you can play and learn so you can easily play chords in a variety of spots. (I have some more chord inversion info here.)

So if you're playing a melody note that is G and play a C chord, you can see that the root position of the chord is fine. 

But if you need to play C, you need to put the E and G below that. You can use first inversion (for example). 

This is how you put the melody on top. 

About Playing the Melody With Chords

The reason the melody needs to be played as the top line is because that's where we hear it best. 

We also want it to stand out, to be the star. So you need to play it louder than everything else.

This can take some time and practice but that's what we're after. 

Make This Simple with Making Melody for Beautiful Piano Chords Course

I've created a 5 part course called Making Melody for Beautiful Piano Chords

In this course we go over:

  • knowing your key when playing melody
  • playing a written melody with exercises and songs
  • playing a melody by ear with exercises
  • using inversions with melody (plus exercises)
  • ways to bring out your melody
  • how to make your melody sound awesome
  • creating your own melodies from chord progressions

Each lesson (there are 5 total) has exercises for you to download and practice. 

This melody course is inside the Piano Chords Club along with an Inversions Course to accompany this one. Click here to take a look or join

Free Download:

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