Confused by Melody Paths and Finger Placement

Hey Everyone,

I’m loving IFR so far but am struggling to understand the melody paths and how the harmony flows across the chords. Are the paths chosen randomly or is there a similar note flowing between each chord?

Also, I’m not sure how to go about learning the finger placement for the chords. I’m not sure how to become efficient in that area.

Thanks for any help!

Welcome to the forum @jppiano

I think that others, perhaps especially @ImproviseForReal (David Reed) could answer your question better than I, but it might be useful for anyone answering to have an idea how far ‘so far’ is?
Are you at the ‘7 worlds’ stage, or have you spent time there and moved on to ‘Pure Harmony Essentials’, or even to the ‘Pure Harmony Advanced’ level of the book?

Generally speaking IFR doesn’t get into detailing technique on specific instruments.
I realise that you seem to already have piano skills, but even so have you seen the series of IFR videos ’ Piano for Non-Pianists’?

I’m confident someone else will be along soon with further responses.

Hi @jppiano and welcome to the forum.

I see melody paths as a way to explore chord progressions. The melody path is a route through a chord progression, helping to visualise the chords, chord notes and other notes in relationship to eachother in the progression.

I think of melody paths like different ways to drive from my home to the supermarket. There are several ways, but each has its own feel, and some I like and some I don’t. Some are faster, some more scenic.

Try just going from one chord tone to the next at first. Listen carefully. Do you like that path? After playing around with the chord tones for a while, add in some non-chord tones. What do you like?

I think the whole point is to get comfortable with the sounds as they move from one to the next, and then you’ll naturally pick out the sounds you like going together. I think’s its really about you personally. Not about what someone else says is correct according to them.

Hi @jppiano, welcome to the forum! The Melody Paths exercise is just a way to help you notice these beautiful voices inside the chords themselves. That doesn’t make these the “right notes” to play. It’s just about awareness. As you sing and play that exercise, you are discovering the melodic possibilities of those chord notes. These aren’t the only notes available to you, but it’s an important part of our learning for many reasons.

One reason why it’s so helpful to become aware of each of these sounds is help you make sense of the music you hear in your daily life. Melodies don’t exist in a vacuum. They are always accompanied by a chord in the background, even if that chord is only imagined or implied. So when you hear a melody note (for example, note 6), you’re not just hearing just note 6. What you’re actually hearing is the unique sensation produced by note 6 over that particular chord. For example, maybe it’s note 6 in the 4 chord. That is an absolutely unique sensation that we discover through Melody Paths and the other IFR creative exercises. Melody Paths gives us an opportunity to discover and appreciate all of these beautiful sounds, while we are also strengthening our sense of tonal orientation. Then one day when you’re listening to a song, you will suddenly realize that you just recognized a particular sensation as clear as day. That sensation was note 6 in the 4 chord, exactly as you have played and sung so many times yourself.

Another reason why we practice Melody Paths is to enrich our own musical imagination. When we have more clarity about these beautiful chord notes calling out to us, we are more liberated as improvisers. We have more lucid ideas. We can be more playful. We can be more bold in our use of tension and dissonance, because the whole time we know exactly how to relax that tension into a pleasing resolution if we want to.

But the one question that I would encourage you NOT to worry about is that question of “why this Melody Path and not that other one?” There is no logic to those choices other than our own desire to show you the Melody Paths that we think you will recognize most easily and that will serve you most effectively to develop the sense of tonal orientation that I was talking about. But EVERY possible combination of chord notes should absolutely be explored! Make your own Melody Paths! Invent your own creative exercises, and come up with ways to get the sounds of those chord notes even more deeply into your subconscious mind.

We do a lot of this work in the following IFR products and courses:

IFR Jam Tracks Level 2: Pure Harmony Essentials
IFR Jam Tracks Level 3: Pure Harmony Advanced
Sing the Numbers 3: Melody Paths
Recognizing Chords by Ear (video course)

On your question about piano fingering, you might enjoy taking our upcoming workshop IFR Deep Foundations which begins in September. In this workshop we will have different IFR instructors for the different instrument families, and there will be a dedicated space for piano lessons and piano discussion. So that’s the perfect place to begin learning a foundational piano technique to accompany your IFR practice.

We haven’t yet opened up the enrollment in this course to the general public, but we’ll begin taking sign-ups on August 10. (The workshop itself runs from September 16 through December 9.) If you want to make sure you receive our invitation to join this course, you can sign up right now for our IFR Newsletter. Here’s the link:

You can also just check back to our website anytime after August 10 and you’ll see our announcements about this workshop. I hope it’s just what you are looking for.

And any other questions you have, please keep coming back to this forum to share them with the group. Thanks and welcome to our community! - David

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Ooh, this sounds interesting. I’ll be keeping an eye out for this one!