How to find the right chords for the melody note.

by Janet Hudgins
(Vancouver, Canada)

I want to be able to play (piano) without music so I need to know which chords to play with the melody. (I read and play
jazz standards, some classical). Are they based on the key it's
written in or the melody note regardless of the key? (I've tried II V
I, D G C, etc but can't get good results). Appreciate your help.

Comments for How to find the right chords for the melody note.

Average Rating starstarstarstarstar

Click here to add your own comments


by: Maria

The answer to your question is generally, YES!
The chords written with roman numerals are based on the key signature of the piece.

So, the II, V and I chords in a key of C major are as you wrote D, G, and C major.

If you're in a key of G major, the II, V, and I are instead A, D and G major.


In a piece of music, regardless of the key signature, the melody and harmony may take a detour and doodle around in another key! :)

That's when you also need to look at the melody and find for example any suspicious flats or sharps (accidentals) that don't belong in the key signature, or that the melody seems to center around another "home base" (tonic).

You can often find the chords that fit a melody by picking up notes from the melody on more emphasized beats, let's say you have a melody that goes G A B C D, you could pick out G, B, D and make a chord that fits there.

So, first of all, base your chords on the key signature, and then check where the melody takes "detours" and adjust the chords either to that temporary key signature (in music theory you'd write those chords in parenthesis) or simply pick notes from the melody that form chords.

I have written these two pages that may help you:

How to Add a Chord Sequence to a Melody
Roman Numerals Chords

I hope this helped!
Happy chording!

Click here to add your own comments

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Beginner Music Theory Questions & Answers.