Workshop - When the Melody Ends on the Tonic

This workshop was originally published in the Winter 2017 issue of the Fingerstyle Guitar Journal. To receive fingerstyle guitar interviews, workshops, reviews, and more automatically each quarter subscribe to the Fingerstyle Guitar Journal

Walter Rodrigues Jr. image small.PNG

Songs that end with a melody note on the tonic of the key are very common. If a Major 7th chord is played against the tonic, it can create an unpleasant cluster, most of the time. The following examples are some ideas that you can use in such case. I chose two well-known Jazz standards as examples: “How High the Moon” and “Misty.” The first one ends with the melody note “G,” which is the key of the song, and “Misty” with the final melody note Eb which is also the key of the song. The examples are general ideas, and you should always let your ears be the judge in order to pick the right choices within the context of each song. Note that the last chord on “How High the Moon” has its bass root on the 6th string (G note), while “Misty” has its bass root on the 5th string (Eb note), that way you can adapt all the examples to several other songs in different keys by moving up and down the fingerboard. The measures preceding the final ending note are the same in all the examples for both songs as they are the actual closing melody lines.

How High the Moon

Example 1

The last two measures outline the tonic by starting on the bVII chord and moving up chromatically to the I chord while maintaining the tonic as the highest note. The chords are: F13add9, F#13(b9), G13.


Example 2

This is a very common cadence in Jazz. The final melody tonic note is outlined by the following progression: bII maj7 to a I chord. The chords are: Abmaj7 sus2 add13, G add9.


Example 3

The cadence here outlines the final melody note with a IVm, b7 dom, I. The chords are: Cm9, F13 add9, G 6/9.


Example 4

This example shows a widely used cadency in Jazz to outline the tonic of a key. The bass moves down chromatically while the highest note remains the same. The progression starts in the 4th bar with a bV half dim: Dbm7(b5), IVm: Cm7, I/III: G/B, biii dim7 (substituted by a m6 chord): Bbm6 (no5), iim7: Am7, bIImaj7: Abmaj7, I: G add9.


Example 5

The progression here is a bVI, bII, I. The chords are: Ebmaj7 sus2, Abmaj7 sus2 add13, G add9.


Example 6

This is an example of a harmonic movement that can be played at the end of a cadency and works as a “finale” ending. It starts in the 4thbar on the I chord: G, then goes to a IV/I: C/G, IVm/I: Cm/G, resolving back to the I chord: G.



Example 1

This example illustrates a bVI, V7, I cadence. The chords are: Bmaj9 (enharmonic for Cb), Bb9sus4, Eb


Example 2

This is a similar type of cadency as in Ex.4 (How High the Moon). The progression is bV m7(b5), IVm7, IIIm(#5), bIII dom, iim7, bIImaj13, I. The chords are: Am7(b5), Abm7, Gm7(#5), Gb13, Fm7, Emaj13, Eb6.


Example 3

Similar as in Ex.3 (How High the Moon), except the last chord is a simple major triad. The cadence outlines the final melody note with a iv , bVII, I. The chords are Abm7, Db9, Eb.


Example 4

Similar progression as above with a slightly different voicing, the chords are: Abm6, Db9, Eb sus2


Example 5

The cadency here is: bII, I. The chords are Emaj7 sus2, Eb sus2.


Example 6

This is a not so common cadence where the bass note moves down chromatically, ending on the V. The progression is: IV/III, iv/iii, I/V (The chords are: Ab/C, Abm/Cb Eb/Bb).