Bill Frisell (guitarist) almost talking about Chord Melody

While tracking down music by Bill Frisell (having been introduced to him by @niborsilliw 's mention of him on this Forum) I came across this video in which Bill talks about his approach to developing an arrangement. For anyone familiar with the @ImproviseForReal ‘Chord Melody’ approach, what Bill has to say will certainly strike a chord (sorry, I couldn’t resist the pun). He starts with the melody, then adds in the bass, then…

His approach isn’t exactly like the Chord Melody,‘Singer, Choir & Bass’ but is certainly along similar lines.

The first two and a half minutes are Bill & his trio playing a tune. Then he starts talking about his approach. See what you think?


Thanks for posting this. It’s from an instructional video he did many years… and many guitars ago. Still it’s all there… in how he talks and how he plays.


I get what ypu mean,
and what he’s saying

just as IFR is learning, telling us :+1::hugs:

to here this video, it inspires.

thanks for sharing this video​:+1::blush:


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Excellent, thanks for posting.

This, for me, is the goal. To have a melody in your head and to be able to play it as a single line, then embellish it with a bass player and choir. The melody can be a song/melody you know, or have just heard, or maybe something you’ve written.

So, with my new P4 tuning, I’m starting with a melody line, and so far just sticking with adding bass notes. Fun stuff.

Sounds like a great approach. I will try it.

One of the things that has come up is on which strings to play the melody. Some sources have suggested to limit the melody to strings 5 and 6. This brings up the subject of playing across the strings or up and down… horizontally or vertically.

I’ve been thinking of playing horizontally as some sort of badge of honor :wink: but I was messing around yesterday with playing only on one string. Interesting.

Frisell seems to be using both… and he does seem to love open strings. Which we are going to have a harder time using with P4.

My approach, at the moment, is to play the melody on the top 2 strings, and the bass on the bottom 2, and see where it takes me. I’ve drawn little pictures of each chord/harmonic environment, 7 of them, it helps me visualise where the bass/root notes and chord notes are. I’m using the standard Autumn Leaves as a song I enjoy, and taking a deep dive into it, starting with the melody and chords. It seems like a good one to explore as it uses all 7 chords (with the exception of a 3D).

On the point of open strings, I think the only difference with P4 tuning is that we have 2 different notes to use for the top strings. But haven’t tried this yet!

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Yes. I was aware of the DVD, which is still available, as it had come up on an amazon search while I was looking for CDs. I was surprised when the title also appeared in the youtube suggestions, but I guess I shouldn’t have been.

That Klein, with its body end string tuning system, is an interesting (& I believe very expensive) item. Nowadays he seems to favour a Telecaster fitted with a Bigsby tremelo system (however I’ve yet to spot him actually using the tremelo, & in a video where he was using a Stratocaster it’s tremelo bar has been unscrewed & removed).

That’s what I thought too. If you have a fundamental approach that works, I guess there’s no reason to change the fundamentals, just work on the application of it. :slight_smile: